Your communication style is ruining your relationships

Here’s the problem with all of our relationships – with our spouses or significant others, with family, with friends, and with co-workers: None of us are born knowing how to communicate. In fact, we all kinda stink at it.

As most of us have heard, we all view the world through a different lens. The problem is, we hear everything through different filters too. That means, for example, when your better half says the house is a mess and needs to be cleaned up, he or she may not necessarily be griping at you. Maybe they’re just thinking out loud. But, if you’re always expecting the worse from them, then you’re always going to expect them to be nagging on you, when it’s possibly not the case at all.

Another scenario we may all be familiar with is a conversation between Tom and Ann:

Tom: “Where’s the checkbook?”

Ann: “I don’t know. Why are you always blaming me for everything?

Tom: “Why are you getting so upset? I just asked a simple question.”

Probably sounds a lot like a conversation you’ve had, right? The thing is, it’s not really a “simple” question or conversation. Think about your own relationship. You know that if you’re being asked “Where’s the checkbook?”, or “Why are you acting angry?”, there’s always more to it than the simple question.

The problem is that you’re each reinforcing the other’s communication style

There are a lot of things that could be going on in Tom and Ann’s conversation that we don’t know about. Ann was responding to a number of cues that Tom gave her. She may have felt like Tom’s tone was harsh or blaming. Maybe they’ve had a long-standing argument about where the dang checkbook is. Her response to Tom’s question is fueled by her own interpretation of what she thinks the question means.

If Ann thinks Tom is always overly controlling or blaming, and then hears what she interprets to be a controlling tone, or sees a particular look on his face, she’ll assume he’s doing what he “always” does and treat her poorly.

But Ann’s not the only one to blame here. Maybe Tom also has some negative beliefs about Ann. He likely thinks she’s unorganized or too sensitive, or easily provoked. So, because he’s probably unaware of his tone, he’ll be surprised by Ann’s angry response. This is filtered through his beliefs about her, and he’ll respond accordingly.

Both are trapped in this negative cycle of reinforcing each other’s beliefs by the way they interact with each other. It doesn’t matter how many times Tom has asked Ann about the checkbook, every time she’s probably going to respond poorly. She’ll get upset. And then he’ll get upset.

What happens next? You can probably guess. They’ll either both shut down and refuse to even look at the other person, or one of them will get mad and stomp out.

Why do these simple questions have to be so hard?

And so starts another cycle of the same never-ending argument. If you’re anything like Tom and Ann, these arguments are probably on auto-pilot by now, and all it takes is one person to say the wrong thing, and we’re off to the races. You can probably, at this point, list everything that’s going to be said during the argument and how it’s ultimately going to end. And yet we still keep doing it.

Stopping the negative cycle

To put a stop to this negative cycle, you’ve got to first understand a really important point about the situation you’re in:

It really only takes one person to change a relationship.

Wait, what?

That’s right – the other person could do absolutely nothing and you can still create positive, healthy change in the way you communicate in your relationship. Of course, it’s always nice when both people want to move the relationship forward, but even so, you have the ability and responsibility to make this change happen in your relationship.

Think back to Tom and Ann. What if Tom had reconsidered the way he asked that question? What if Ann had taken a moment to think about what Tom was really asking? Even a split-second of thought and consideration may have made that conversation turn out really differently.

Either Tom or Ann’s change in perception of the other person could’ve taken the conversation in a completely different direction. 

How to put it into practice

Changing the negative cycle in your relationship isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Really, it’s a simple mindset change. Next time you and the person you care about begin to have a conversation that usually leads to an argument, simply consider what what you’re hearing versus what they’re really saying. 

Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they are being a jerk, but just maybe they’re looking to move the conversation forward, rather than allowing it to continue getting stuck.

Dr. Zakk Gammon is a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor at the Practice Administrator of Revive Christian Counseling.

Zakk works with couples who are tired of feeling stuck, and are ready to make a real, lasting change in their relationship.

Zakk can be reached at (270) 926-6957 or by email at zakk@revivecounseling.org.

CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT.

Loving Your Spouse in a Way That Makes Sense: Improving Communication in Your Relationship

Remember when you were dating, how easy it was to go out to dinner or just spend the evening hanging out together? Fast forward a couples years into marriage and things are very different. The things that your spouse used to find cute are now driving them crazy. And the things you used to do for them don’t seem to be enough anymore.

Perhaps it’s because you’re loving them in the way that you want to feel love, but maybe it’s not the way they want to receive that love. Maybe it doesn’t make any sense to them. 

Think of it like this: you’re speaking to your partner in Spanish, but they’re speaking to you in German. In reality, both of you should be speaking Italian and you get in this endless loop of trying to understand the other person, and then getting frustrated when they don’t get it. 

Watch this video and see what small changes you can make to have a big impact.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwrBUrmax94&feature=youtu.be

Dr. Zakk Gammon works with couples who are looking to make changes in their relationship by learning better communication skills to create a rock-solid foundation. Schedule your appointment with him here.

The simple way to rebuild trust in your relationship

One of the most frequent questions we receive at Revive Christian Counseling is from clients who are looking to rebuild what’s left of a damaged relationship. Whether you’re married and have cheated on your spouse, or you’ve done something really hurtful to a friend, the question we’re asked most often is “How do I get them to trust me again?”

The answer is really simple, but it’s probably not the answer that you want.

Rebuilding trust in your broken relationship

The simple truth of the matter there’s nothing you can say or do to instantly make the other person feel better. As you’ve certainly already discovered, there’s no “magic wand” you can wave to suddenly make everything okay. It’s not as simple as just moving on and forgetting the situation happened.

RELATED: Christian Counseling for Affairs

The only way to rebuild trust in your relationship is by being trustworthy

That means you’re going to have to do some things you probably don’t want to do. You’re going to have to be completely honest and open about what you’re doing, what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. If you’ve cheated or come clean about a sex or pornography addiction to your spouse, you’re also going to have to do some work to reassure them it’s not going to happen again.

RELATED: Rebuilding Trust in Your Broken Relationship

The best way to begin rebuilding this trust is to use some type of accountability software. At Revive Christian Counseling, we recommend Accountable2You(We get no monetary earnings by you using this software; it is simply the one we think works the best.) Accountable2You and other similar accountability apps allow you to setup trusted contacts who’ll receive alerts if you visit inappropriate websites, or send or receive inappropriate text messages or emails.

Many choose to ask their pastor or a trusted friend or mentor to receive those alerts. Some choose to list their spouse as another contact. While there’s nothing wrong with your spouse receiving those alerts, it isn’t a good idea to expect them to be the only person to hold you accountable. They’re already going through a lot of emotions and challenges as they navigate their feelings around what’s happened, and so it’s a bit unfair to add that to their plate as well. Additionally, it forces them to have to be even more vigilant about your actions and who you’re talking to or what sites you’re visiting.

Accept responsibility

When working to rebuild trust in your relationship, it’s important to remember that you have to take responsibility for your actions. No, that doesn’t mean you have to live with immense guilt or shame, but it does mean you have to let the other person know that you’re accepting the blame for what’s happened, and that you’re going to do what it takes to get the relationship back on track.

Back up your words with actions

Now that you’ve accepted responsibility and you’ve come clean about what’s happened, it’s not enough to just say you’re sorry. You’re going to have to do some work to prove that you’re willing to do what needs to be done to rebuild the trust. To do so, remember to be humble, gracious and kind in regard to what they’re going through. Remember to over communicate your thoughts and actions so there’s never any doubt about what’s going on in your mind or what you’re doing. If the betrayal has to do with an inappropriate relationship or with pornography, consider seeking counseling for affairs or counseling for pornography addiction.

Be patient

If you’ve hurt someone else, they’re going to need time to process and understand what they’re feeling. Even if you’ve committed to never hurting them again, they’re still going to feel the hurt and pain caused by your actions. It’s important to remember that while these actions are in your past, it’s very much in the other person’s present as they work to navigate their emotions. Allow them to experience the anger, disbelief, sadness and hurt as they figure out how to begin healing.

Struggling to rebuild trust in your relationship? Give us a call, message us on Facebook, or schedule your appointment right here to begin getting back on track. It’s time to get your life back.

20 Small Things to Make a Huge Difference in Your Marriage

Let’s be honest. Marriage can be hard. Anyone who says marriage is easy has either never been married, or they’ve only been married for about five minutes. Over time, we tend to develop habits in our relationship. Some are good, and some aren’t so great. Whether you’re in a season where the bad’s outweighing the good, or you’re just looking for ways to continually improve your relationship, these 20 small tips can make a huge impact.

Use these tips to improve your marriage, and watch how the relationship changes.

1. Greet the other person with love at the end of the day.

Work sucked. The people sucked. The whole day sucked. You know, every day is supposed to be a gift, but today was probably socks. But when you walk in the door at home, you have the opportunity to hit the reset button, to shift your focus and to recenter on the relationships that matter most. There will be days when you have literally nothing left to give, but those should be few and far between. If you’re constantly expending all your energy on work relationships and you have nothing when you get home, your doing your most important relationships a disservice.

Show your spouse love by greeting them with a kiss, a hug or just a simple smile when you get home. Talk about the things that bothered you during the day, but also take time to enjoy being with the other person.

2. Offer a kind word.

Nothing makes someone feel better after a long day than saying something nice about them. Remind them of why you love them, or something you like about them. Tell them they look nice. Let them know how you thought about them during the day.

3. Give thanks.

It doesn’t have to be huge. Maybe he loaded the dishwasher when he got home. Maybe she started working on homework with the kids. It’s the small things that go a long way. Let the other person know that you noticed, and that you appreciate what they’re doing. A simple “thank you” really makes a big difference.

4. Speak the truth.

Don’t just tell the other person what they want to hear. But also, don’t just tell them everything’s fine when it’s not. Build trust in your relationship by being willing to discuss the hard stuff. It may not be easy, but it will make the relationship stronger.

5. Look for the positives.

Spread positivity in your relationship. Did your spouse have a crappy day? How can you make their day better? What’s something simple you can say to make them laugh or to bring a little sunshine to an otherwise cloudy day?

6. Shrug off the small things.

Yes, it’s true. Your spouse was raised by savages. Those savages never taught them how to squeeze toothpaste from a tube the proper way. Nobody ever explained to them how to put a new roll of toilet paper on the roll. It’s probably physically impossible for them to put their dirty socks in the hamper, or park the car in a straight line in the garage. But it’s important to remember, in the grand scheme of things, those things don’t really matter. Use separate tubes of toothpaste. Put the roll of TP out yourself. Pick up the socks. Put reflective tape on the garage floor so they know how to pull the car in. Seriously – It. Will. Be. Okay.

When we choose to not sweat the small stuff, we’re telling our spouse we are overlooking those small things they do because we love them. And while they may suck at doing those little things around the house, they still love you with their whole heart.

Plus, there are areas you probably suck, too.

7. Snuggle together.

When’s the last time you curled up on the couch or spooned at bedtime? If you’re having a hard time remembering, maybe it’s time to try again. Your spouse will appreciate the attention

8. Serve together.

What’s something you and your spouse both enjoy doing? How to your talents compliment each other? In what ways can you use those gifts in your church or faith community? Despite what the children’s pastor at your church may tell you, not everybody is called to kids’ ministry. And that’s okay. But what other opportunities are there? Can you join the hospitality team? Serve in a soup kitchen? Mentor a hurting family? How can you use the gifts God has given you to find joy and purpose with your spouse?

9. Pray for each other.

Seriously. Stop what you’re doing and pray for your spouse. Even if you’re mad at them, or frustrated with them, or just completely and totally done dealing with them at the moment – pray for them to have a better day. Pray they have a day they enjoy that is satisfying and fulfilling. Pray they feel your love and God’s love. Pray they feel joy.

10. Listen carefully.

Are they telling you about a situation from work? Maybe they got into a disagreement with a friend. Maybe they had the best dang day in the history of ever. Whatever it is, really listen. Look them in the eye. Don’t listen for the sake of responding. Listen to understand them deeper. Ask follow-up questions.

11. Apologize and ask for grace.

Sometimes they suck. Sometimes we suck. Sometimes it all sucks. Maybe you said or did something that was hurtful or spiteful. Ask for their forgiveness and how you can make the situation better.

12. Kiss.

Don’t just say “love you” when you walk out the door mindlessly. Kiss them goodbye. Kiss them hello. Kiss them just because.

13. Laugh at their stupid jokes.

Yes, their jokes are dumb. They think they’re funny. You know they’re not. They probably feel the same way about you. Find the joy anyway. Laugh at the silliness. See Number 5.

14. Give a gracious answer.

Don’t be harsh. Not everything is serious. And even if it’s a serious topic, remember to show grace. For people who are constantly looking for grace from other people, we’re certainly pretty bad at extending it to others.

15. Spend time with just each other.

After you put the kids to bed, spend some time with just each other. Enjoy each other’s company. Talk about your hopes, dreams and plans. Talk about the future and what you want it to look like. Talk about favorite memories of the past. Building intimacy can start with this simple step.

16. Smile at each other.

A warm smile goes a long way. Stop scowling at the other person because it’s 6:00am and you hate people this early.

17. Forgive fully.

As stated previously, we all suck. We all fall short in marriage. Sometimes we say and do things that shouldn’t have been said or done. Those things can’t be changed, but your reactions can. They screwed up, and it hurt. But you don’t have to continue living in that hurt.

RELATED: Four Ways to Help You Forgive Someone

18. Act ridiculous with each other.

When’s the last time you just let your guard down around the other person? Sing an awful rendition of your favorite song. Dance around the living room. Look at funny videos on YouTube and giggle like 16-year-old girls together. Let your hair down.

19. Build each other up.

Tell the other person all the reasons why you love them, and why you fell in love with them. Write it down on a list. Send them an email. Leave it on sticky notes throughout the house. Give the other person a compliment that lets them know you really notice those things.

20. Decide you’re going to love each other.

Not every day is a walk in the park. Life isn’t always paradise. When you’re married to someone else, disagreements will undoubtedly come up. And that’s okay. But it’s also important to remember when you’re in the middle of a conflict, that you are going to continue loving that person even though they’re not really winning at this marriage thing right now.

Marriage isn’t a stagnant relationship. It’s always growing, always changing, and always evolving. Begin looking for small ways to make huge impacts in your relationship.

P.S. – If you haven’t already, download your copy of our FREE resource, 10 Communication Tips to Improve Your Relationship in Just One Week! Download your copy here.

Need some help getting your relationship on track? Call us, message us on Facebook, or schedule your appointment right here. It’s time to get your life back.

Helping Children After a Messy Divorce

A messy divorce doesn’t need to transition into a messy post-divorce family situation. Whether you’ve ripped up the custody papers or had a public screaming match, it’s never too late to change.

Children are affected by divorce. It’s the truth, but it doesn’t have to be as negative as it sounds. There are positives to take away and getting through a tough time teaches children a lesson. It will teach them about obstacles and life in general while shaping their character like tackling any issue can. As the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Of course that doesn’t mean they won’t need support. Structure and stability during life challenges such as divorce are imperative and a topic I covered in my last post. There, I highlighted the importance of communication and stability between co-parents and working on an amicable shared custody parenting setup. This time I’m going to focus more on what you can do to help your children through this and I’ll be making the assumption that due to a messy divorce, an ideal parenting partnership maybe be impossible or at the least untenable.

Reassure

A “bad” divorce often means your children have been exposed to conflict and at a minimum bad energy between you and your ex-partner. It may be obvious to them you don’t love each other anymore but you have to reassure them that you both love still love them, the same as before, unconditionally. That aspect of your family will never change.

Additionally you need to reassure them that it’s okay to love their other parent; they need that regardless of your feelings. Depending just how badly your relationship with your ex husband or wife has deteriorated, your children may even feel guilty for loving or spending time with the other parent. Don’t encourage this; it will only leave them feeling confused. You need to absolve them of guilt at every possible opportunity and reiterate that no one is going anywhere; they still have two parents and always will do. Remember to not only refrain from alienating your children from their
other parent but help them with feelings of alienation from society. A divorce can feel like a broken, damaged family. Your children must recognize it’s not a reflection of them.

Reassure them that it’s okay to have feelings. Normalize their reactions and try to understand them, legitimize their feelings by agreeing and empathizing. Acknowledge their right to be angry or upset, never deny them that. Encourage conversation, answer their questions with honesty whenever possible and hopefully they will do the same. This can give you a window into just how much they are affected and the level of support they need. Sometimes it’s healthy to shield your children from too much information until they’re of appropriate age. Unfortunately after a conflict-filled divorce, that age may have prematurely arrived and they may be aware of more than you expect. It’s not always easy to be honest, especially if you don’t have all the answers, but just be prepared for some difficult questions.

Minimize Blame

A step toward minimizing any guilt or confusion your children may be feeling is to also minimize blame. Save that for therapy sessions! When I said a messy divorce doesn’t necessarily need to develop into a messy parenting or family situation part of the reason is that you leave that baggage there, in the past. There’s no need to let that person, or what happened, continue affecting you or your children’s lives; if that happens, everyone has lost.

While being careful not to badmouth your ex, it’s important you make clear to your children that you’ll never be getting back to together. This is a new stage of your life and there’s no space for false hope, clarity is everything. With a new life come new opportunities. Establish a new routine, go on a vacation, buy a new pet or just create something fun and different – a different meal, game or trip for example. Now that you’ve separated it gives you freedom to create the family dynamic you want or have always wanted. You will have special time and activities with your children that are just yours
and yours alone, relish and enjoy this!

Don’t forget about yourself

You’re an example – the biggest role model your children have. It can be easy to forget about how you may feel when you’re so concerned about your children but if you let yourself completely fall apart, that’s not going to help you or them. They need the love and support of someone who has it together as best they can. They need healthy parents.

You’re bound to feel pressure from all angles, and that’s why you shouldn’t shy away from help. That includes everything from a shoulder to cry on, support groups and online forums to consulting a parenting expert, therapist or attending counseling sessions. When someone’s life is changed irrevocably, it’s a big transition and you need to accept the support for your temporary mental well being. Once you speak to people going through similar situations you’ll realize you’re not alone; you’ll get perspective and have support from people who can help you get on with your new life
with your children.

This post was written for Revive Christian Counseling by Krishan Smith, Senior Editor of Custody X Change, a custody software specialist company.

 STRUGGLING AFTER A MESSY DIVORCE? Let’s work to get you back on track and find peace in life again. Call us, send us a message on Facebook, or schedule your appointment right here. It’s time to get your life back.

14 Ways to Accept Criticism Without Being Defensive

I see it all the time – couples who want to improve their relationship by sharing things their spouse could do better. Heck, even outside of marriages – things like relationships with your best friend, or perhaps dealing with your boss at work – there are times in life when you receive criticism, and many times, it’s not fun.

After all, who likes to hear a list of negative things about themselves, especially when those points are true?

However, it’s important to be able to take and hear critical feedback without without getting defensive. People who can accept criticism at face value are able to make positive changes, and take their relationship or situation to the next level.

If you tend to get defensive in your marriage, your job or with friends and family members, you may have trouble growing and making healthy, long-lasting changes. These tips can help change your perspective on accepting criticism.

1. Actively Listen

Active listening means that you’re really hearing the feedback rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. It’s really the most important thing you can do when you’re receiving criticism. Give the conversation your full attention, concentrate, respond and make sure you can remember the main points.

You want to shut off the part of your brain that starts coming up with answers and pushback to what’s being said. Your defense is really beside the point right now. What does matter is being able to listen actively to what the person is saying and process it without the situation turning into a debate.

2. Ask Questions

It’s important to ask questions to fully understand where you have room for improvement. This might (and probably will) feel unnatural, but it’s one of the most important things you can do when receiving criticism. It’s hard enough to receive said feedback – it’s a whole other level to start asking questions about it so that you can get more information about where you can improve.

When you start asking questions, have an eye toward understanding the feedback. The point to your questions is not to find a flaw in the criticism, but rather to fully digest it. Remember that most of the time, the person is giving you feedback to see positive changes.

3. Understand Why Feedback is Important

Others can see flaws in you that you typically can’t see, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s true, people tend to be their own worst critics. The problem is that you’re too critical where you shouldn’t be, and you may have blind spots to areas where you need feedback the most.

This feedback from others is important because it’s more objective than what you’re going to give yourself. Don’t see feedback or constructive criticism as a reason to be upset. Rather, see it as an opportunity to improve.

4. Take Note

If you struggle with shutting out feedback, write it down so you can remember it. Feedback in your relationships is only as good as what you can remember. If you are in a situation and your spouse, friend or boss is telling you something they’re concerned about, take time to write it down after the conversation is over.

Of course, make your own notes alongside what you’ve been told, figuring out ways to improve what was discussed.

5. Follow Up

Just like taking notes doesn’t sound super fun, following up on the conversation sounds about as much fun as getting a root canal. It’s so much easier to ignore the conversation and pretend like it didn’t happen. If you follow up on the conversation, you’re going to have to revisit the same uncomfortable issues. And when you have the follow up meeting, that’s the time for you to not make counter arguments, but rather discuss and ask what changes the other person is seeing.

Focusing on the positive changes instead of arguing the point shows you’re serious about hearing the other person out and understanding their concerns. Even before you’ve started making progress and positive changes, you’re showing that you take the other person seriously and that it’s important to you.

6. Understand the Other Person’s Point of View

Obviously, getting this type of feedback is unpleasant. But it’s equally important to realize the other person is likely uncomfortable as well.

Especially if the situation is about an uncomfortable topic, like a common disagreement, or something really personal, the person providing the feedback isn’t likely having a lot of fun either.

Be sensitive to the fact that the other person isn’t comfortable; that may make you less anxious and more receptive.

7. Get in front of it

Don’t be afraid to ask for honest and frank feedback from your spouse, friends, family, boss or co-workers. The more you hear it, the more comfortable you’ll be hearing it when it’s totally unsolicited. That’ll make you more capable of hearing the negative feedback and improving your performance rather than getting defensive and rejecting what’s being said to you.

Asking for critical feedback also provides you with more opportunities to become better.

8. Surround Yourself with Frank People

Being around friends or co-workers who aren’t afraid to give feedback on the fly will help you to become more comfortable hearing it. You’ll also be more skilled at giving critical feedback yourself when necessary.

People who aren’t afraid to give feedback to their loved ones, friends and co-workers tend to have great relationship skills – something else that can rub off on you.

9. Understand the Difference Between Effort and Results

Feedback and concerns typically aren’t intended to point out that you weren’t trying hard enough. But it does mean there are things you could change to make life a whole lot easier or better.

This is part of not having to answer back when you’re being confronted with potentially uncomfortable criticism. Your job is to take it in, not fight back.

Being aware that your efforts aren’t being called into question helps you to prevent yourself from becoming negative and resentful.

10. Don’t Ignore the Positive

When your better half, best friend or other person in your life is talking to you about yourself, hopefully there’s some good in there too. Don’t forget that.

The positive stuff may give you a way to make the improvements and changes the other person is hoping to see. What’s more, it’s going to make it easier for you to have the rest of the conversation.

Remember, getting criticism doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, but you may be doing something that’s hard to live with.

11. Listen to Intent as Well as Words

Let’s face it, not everybody is good at these conversations. Maybe your husband sucks at communicating. Maybe your wife looks angry while you’re talking. Perhaps your best friend stutters all over him or herself when trying to explain the situation. However, just because it’s inartful doesn’t mean what they’re saying is unimportant.

Sometimes, you have to listen for the ideas behind the words. That can be difficult if you’re confronted with somebody who doesn’t give feedback all that well.

Still, listening to what they’re trying to tell you and ignoring the actual words they’re using will help you to receive feedback better and perform better as a result.

12. Do as They Say, Not as They Do

So maybe your better half tells you that you need to stop yelling so much, even though every time you get into an argument they yell at you. Does that make their feedback any less valid? Absolutely not.

If a person with 10 DUI convictions tells you not to drive drunk, it’s still good advice. Just as you shouldn’t make getting feedback personal, you also shouldn’t make it personal in the other direction.

Good advice from a badly behaved person is still good advice. Lead by example and follow the advice. Don’t be surprised if they start following you.

13. Explain how the Feedback Helped You

Going back over the critical feedback will help you to acclimate yourself to hearing it. Expressing how it helped you will help the person who gave you the feedback better understand how they helped.

This will make hearing critical feedback much smoother in the future as you and the other person make communication easier.

14. Say Thank You

It can be humbling, to say the least, when somebody tells you something you don’t want to hear. This is even more true when you say “thank you” at the end of the conversation.

This lets the other person know you’re taking them seriously and you’re open to these conversations in the future. Opening that door gives you opportunities to grow and become better, without becoming defensive or standoffish.

Obviously, this doesn’t solve every problem. If you have a particularly difficult marriage, friendship, work environment or relationship with family, many times the things you hear may not be constructive, and is instead used as a way to try to control, guilt, or manipulate you. It’s important to learn to discern and understand the difference.

 STRUGGLING WITH NEGATIVITY, FRUSTRATION OR RESENTMENT? Let’s get you back on track. Give us a call, message us on Facebook or schedule your appointment right here. It’s time to get your life back.

Providing Stability for Your Children Post-Divorce

Keeping things stable: it’s no easy task, but an imperative one. Stability runs parallel with consistency, and if you take the time to sit down and discuss things with your ex-partner, you can set some ground rules in order to maintain consistency.  Your children need you now more than ever. Spending prolonged time with the other parent so soon after a divorce may be less than ideal for you, but it is definitely necessary for your children. Being on the same page as your ex and having a discussion will help avoid potential disagreements further down the line or at least slightly negate their effects on stability.

Points to Keep in Mind

Divorce affects children of all ages; this is a time when they need maximum support and understanding. Coping with divorce can better prepare them for further obstacles in later life; they will develop into more capable and tolerant adults.

Organizing regular time with both parents and sticking to similar rules for each household will help create a stable environment for your children. Structure in terms of a set custody schedule is vital in this preliminary stage. While you and your children are adjusting to the new state of affairs, it’s better to minimize schedule changes.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, fighting in front of your children creates a much more tense and pressure filled environment. It also makes the objective of stability that much further to reach. If you’re anticipating heated disagreements and conflicts in parenting style it may be best to consider mediation. This way you can get an objective point of view. Either way, you have to get in the mind-set of compromise. Accept your differences, at least in the short term, all in the name of providing that stability.

As is the case with any adult going through divorce, children also have mixed emotions and may feel hurt or angry about the situation. This needs to be tackled properly in order to prevent behavioral problems further down the line. Speak with them and don’t always take their word that they’re okay. Look out for disruptions in their sleep or changed attitudes in school to indicate that they’re being affected.

You should consider their stability at school. If possible it is better to avoid changing schools for your children so that they have familiar routines and structures in their school life parallel to their home life. The same friends and teachers can help preserve consistency, the same goes for relatives; try not to cut any of their relatives out of their lives.

Dealing with bad behavior

It goes without saying that this aspect of parenting will become more challenging post-divorce. You’ve got a lot on your mind and it can feel like you’re trying to juggle too many balls at once. All the previous points to keep in mind in addition to providing stability will hopefully go some way to keeping behavior in check. Putting your children in a difficult or uncomfortable position (for example caught between both parents) will result in them being more likely to act out.

If the other parent has sole custody and you spend less time than you’d like with your child it can be tempting to over indulge and spoil them to compensate for the limited time. This is not a good idea for several reasons. Of course you should make the most of the time you get together but monetary compensations are no replacement for quality time and it can influence your child’s behavior negatively. They can begin to expect too much without having to abide by rules, furthermore acting towards them out of pity or guilt could further compound their feelings of self-doubt in regards to them handling this new situation.

Be careful how you treat your child post-divorce, frequently emotion is expressed through actions and gearing all your efforts towards maintaining stability and a positive family relationship will go a long way to combating bad behavior. If behavioral problems do not cease to persist don’t be afraid to seek professional help in the form of a child therapist or behavioral expert. Sometimes it will be easier for your child to speak to someone removed from/not personally involved in the situation. Above all, be understanding. Sometimes adults aren’t constantly mature enough to handle divorce well so you can’t expect children to be!

This post was written for Revive Christian Counseling by Krishan Smith of Custody X Change, a custody calendar software program.

 STRUGGLING THROUGH SEPARATION OR DIVORCE? Let’s work together and help find solutions. Call us, message us on Facebook, or schedule your appointment here. Appointments are available in Owensboro and Online. It’s time to get your life back.

How to deal with your crazy family during the holidays

Let’s face it; a lot of us have at least one person in our family who we see only once or twice a year, and there’s a good reason for that.  Maybe it’s because they’re a little bit quirky, or they have a lifestyle you don’t understand.  Maybe it’s because you just don’t have a lot in common with the other person.  Or, perhaps, it’s because you just genuinely don’t like the other person.  No matter the reason, it’s probably safe to say these people in your family drive you crazy. 

Whatever the case may be, there are ways for you to get through the gathering without losing your patience (or maybe your sanity).  The easiest way to do this is to remember two things.

  1. Love God and love people, as Christ commanded
  2. Remember that loving people doesn’t mean you have to have a close relationship with them or condone their actions

Jesus made these points clear when speaking to the disciples:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”  – Mark 12:30-31

Christ wants us to love and care for one another.  He wants us to be the shining light in an otherwise dark and broken world.  He wants us to have compassion for others in their situations and struggles, and he wants us to earnestly pray for them.

However, Christ is not commanding us to allow these individuals to have negative impacts on us.  It is okay to set and keep boundaries with others to keep our spiritual life protected.  It is okay to say no.  It’s okay to keep your distance if necessary.  It is okay for you to only say a few words to a family member you need to keep a boundary with and then walk away.  It’s also okay to remind them of these boundaries when they’re crossed.

RELATED: How to set appropriate boundaries with people to finally get some peace

This can be a difficult task, but during these potentially tense moments with family members, it’s important to remember where your approval comes from:

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”  – Psalm 16:5-9

Seeking forgiveness in your family.

When seeking forgiveness for others, their response may not be what you want or expect.

Perhaps your situation is the opposite.  Perhaps you’re the family member trying to make amends to relationships you’ve damaged and you’re hoping this holiday season you’ll be able to solidify those relationships.  This act is encouraged and commendable, but it can also be painful, and sometimes uncomfortable.  Remember, when you’re seeking forgiveness and reconciliation from others, they may not react in the way you want them to.  It’s important to remember to have grace and understanding with others.  Taken into consideration Max Lucado’s words in Just Like Jesus:

“The world has never known a heart so pure, a character so flawless.  His spiritual hearing was so keep he never missed a heavenly whisper.  His mercy so abundant he never missed a chance to forgive… Jesus is the ultimate model for every person… God urges you to fix your eyes upon Jesus.  Heaven invites you to set the lens of your heart of the Savior and make him the object of your life.”

How can you be just like Jesus to your family this season?

STRUGGLING WITH DIFFICULT FAMILY MEMBERS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON? Call us, message us on Facebook, or schedule your appointment right here. You don’t have to continue feeling this way. It’s time to get your life back.

Intimacy in Marriage: It’s Not as Hard as You Think

How many times in your marriage have you thought, “I just wish we could be more intimate,”? It’s a great idea. Getting there proves to be the challenge. The thing is, intimacy in marriage isn’t as hard as you think. It’s really about changing your perspective, and understanding your spouse’s point of view, too.

The first (and perhaps most important) thing to remember, is that intimacy doesn’t always mean sex. In fact, do you know what the actual definition of intimacy is? The Oxford Dictionary defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship; closeness”. In this particular definition, it has nothing to do with sex, but rather the building of a relationship. It’s important for you to define what intimacy means for your marriage. And it’s equally important to realize your partner may a different definition for intimacy than your own.

Ask a large number of people what they believe intimacy means, and you’ll get a large variety of answers. A lot of them will probably say intimacy is deep emotional sharing and  deep, satisfying conversation. Others automatically equate intimacy as good sex. Ironically, these two types of people are often married to each other. So what ends up happening is one partner will say, “We’d have better sex if we were more intimate,” and the other will say, “We’d be more intimate if we had better sex.” Sound familiar?

It’s important for you to define what intimacy means for your marriage.

So, if intimacy ins’t just about sex, then what the heck is it? While there are several more than could ever be mentioned here, let’s focus on some of the ones most often discussed (or most often overlooked).

  1. Parenting intimacy – develops through the relationship of parenting your children together
  2. Spiritual intimacy – develops as a result of serving and worshipping together
  3. Recreational intimacy – develops through shared interests
  4. Esthetic intimacy – develops through physical attraction with your spouse
  5. Crisis intimacy – develops as a result of experiencing hard times together
  6. Emotional intimacy – develops as a result deep connection, via shared experiences, feelings, emotions, etc.
  7. Sexual intimacy – develops as you deepen your sexual relationship with your spouse

One thing I hope you notice here from each of these examples is that intimacy develops over time. It’s not immediate. It’s kind of like learning to drive for the first time. You have a general idea of how a car works, but if you’ve never been behind the wheel, it’s unlikely you’re going to instantly know how to drive perfectly. Intimacy is really no different. It takes practice, and learning what works for you and your partner, and being willing to meet the other person’s needs in addition to your own.

From the examples above, in what ways are you failing to connect with your spouse? If you sole focus is sex or a deep emotional connection, there are areas where you may not be connecting at all. This is in no way saying you’ve having to be just like your spouse, or enjoy exactly the same things. In fact, some of the most successful marriages involve couples who are very different or have separate interests in addition to their shared interests. The point is to find the common ground where it exists, and to use those connections to grow closer to your partner.

Consider the closeness that Paul teaches about in Ephesians. He shares what’s supposed to happen in marriage when we find intimacy with our spouse:

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” – Ephesians 5:31

Again, it’s not talking just about sex, but deep emotional, spiritual, physical and practical connections as well.

Drs. David Olsen and Douglas Stephens said it best: “The best road to deep intimacy doesn’t come through a series of clever techniques. It comes from staying on the long-term path of self-definition or differentiation. Only a self that is defined can provide genuine caring, empathy and healing.”

How can you improve intimacy in your own marriage?

 STRUGGLING WITH INTIMACY IN YOUR MARRIAGE? Call me, message me on Facebook, or schedule an appointment here. We’ll work together to get your marriage on the right track. Appointments are available in Owensboro, Henderson and Online. It’s time to get your life back.

Ten Traits of Successful Relationships

Not all relationships are meant to last forever. That can be a hard pill to swallow. But look at your friends. Do you think every person you’re friends with right now will still be as close five, ten, or fifteen years from now? Probably not, and that’s okay. People come and go out of your life constantly. As seasons change, perceptions change. Interests change. People change. It’s all a part of life.

But what about your relationship with your better half? If one of you change, are you just going to move on? How to have a successful relationship really depends on how much work you’re willing to put into it. The following traits have been found in many healthy, happy couples:

1. Being your partner’s best friend

Couples who are also friends have a lot of staying power. You’re not just in love with each other, but you sincerely like each other, too. You like doing things together, and

how to have a successful relationship

looking for new ways to have fun and exciting times together.

2. Having a sense of humor

When couples can laugh together, they also generally defuse any conflicts that may arise. Such things as silly nicknames can show how much they really care about each other. Couples who can laugh at themselves typically have a lasting potential.

3. Communication

Although it’s pretty obvious, a lot of couples have trouble with this one. If you can both express your feelings and feel safe about doing so, situations are usually dealt with pretty easily when they come up, rather than being swept under the rug only to resurface later.

4. Sharing chores

Couples who divide up household chores and/or parenting duties in a fair and agreed upon fashion typically don’t resent

each other. Each partner participates and contributes to their relationship.

5. Sexual intimacy

Partners who are having their sexual needs met feel cared for by each other. While there’s no right or wrong number of times to have sex, there may be a need to negotiate so no one feels neglected.

6. Affection

Couples who enjoy a lot of physical contact seem to be incredibly happy. This affection doesn’t always have to lead to having sex. It’s just a way of letting your partner know how much you love him or her. This can be a kiss, hug, or any other type of affection that’s genuine.

7. No criticism, defensiveness, or contempt

Any of these, whether only one or a combination of them of them, can tear a relationship apart. Don’t let them become a part of yours.

8. Having appropriate friends

Couples who socialize with other couples while also maintaining their own separate friendships have a better balance in their relationships. They honor themselves as individuals even though they’re in relationships. When you’re happy with yourself, you’re most likely happy in your relationship.

9. Being reliable

Most couples want to feel they can depend on their partners. If they do what they say they’ll do, this creates a feeling of comfort in knowing their words mean something.

10. Future vision

Couples who set goals for their relationships and know where they see themselves in the future are happiest, because they’re acting as a real team. They’re less likely to be disrupted by changes in the future.

When couples really work on how to have a successful relationship, and try to maintain these traits within them, they have a much better chance of making it in the long term. Which of these traits do you think you could work on in your relationship?

 STRUGGLING IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP? Schedule an appointment online, get in touch with me, or message me on Facebook. Appointments are available in Owensboro, Hartford, and online. Let’s talk about how you can improve your relationship. It’s time to get your life back.
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