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4 Really Good and Really Bad Ways to Communicate With Your Spouse

Good communication is a skill. No one is naturally perfect at it. What can make matters worse is when two less than perfect people come together in a relationship and fail at communicating with one another. It is one of the most frustrating things out there. One person is frustrated about this and the other person thinks they are saying that and then you get into an argument over this and that and keep shouting past each other.

Not only can you be on different pages, but when one person gets frustrated, the other person can get defensive. It’s like both of you are saying “Say hello to my wall. It is here to keep you out and me from getting any closer to you than I have to.” The wall can manifest in withdrawing or shouting at the other person. When bad communication is present, there is little to no chance at making a significant connection.

Dr. John and Julie Gottman have done a lot of research discovering what makes marriages work and what doesn’t. When it comes to communication they say that there are four patterns of communication (The 4 Horseman) that can indicate the end of a relationship. These four ways of communicating are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.

Criticism – Criticism is easy to spot when you hear words like “always” or “never” during conflict. An example of criticism would be “You always forget to clean up after yourself. You never take responsibility for anything around the house.”

Defensiveness – Defensiveness is the tendency to avoid blame for any part in a conflict. An example of defensiveness would be “I was too busy to get to that today, why you didn’t just do it?” You push all of the blame onto someone or something else.

Contempt – Contempt is an attack on your partner’s sense of self. Each horseman is damaging to your partner, but contempt can be one of the most painful forms of bad conflict processing. An example of contempt during conflict is “You are such a worthless person. I can’t believe I’m married to you.” Contempt is incredibly harsh and can produce a lot of destruction within a marriage.

Stonewalling – Stonewalling is the easiest to spot because it involves few words, if any. When your partner is stonewalling they stop speaking and sometimes leave the room to avoid conflict. This signals that they have become hopeless about resolving conflict or feel too overwhelmed to handle conflict. The more that stonewalling surfaces in a relationship, the more it damages the marriage.

If you’re human you have probably used a couple of these in the past or maybe even today. No one grows up in a household where conflict is managed in a perfectly healthy way, so we bring those conflict strategies into our friendships and marriages. It is okay to mess up, but let’s get to work on using healthy conflict strategies. Here are a few alternatives to The 4 Horseman that allow healthy communication and encourage a healthy marriage as well.

Have a Gentle Posture – Instead of telling your partner what they always or never do, try to focus on the reason what they have done has upset you. In the process use more “I” statements than “You” statements. An example of having a gentle posture would be “Whenever I ask for help cleaning around the house and don’t get it, I feel burdened and stressed. Would you mind helping me clean up?”

Take Responsibility – Instead of placing blame on others or something else, take responsibility for your wrongdoing. An example might be “I completely forgot to do that. I apologize and will take care of it.”

Show Care and Respect – Using contempt within a marriage is the one of the worst things that can happen to your relationship with your partner. Instead of attacking and breaking down your partner, make it a priority to compliment and elevate them. An example of showing care and respect would be, “I really admire how much effort you put into spending time with the kids. You are a really great mom/dad”

Take a break, then come back – Stonewalling is giving up on the conflict and avoiding any sort of resolution. When you get frustrated or upset, take a break until you have calmed down. Once you have calmed down, go back to your partner and try to find a resolution or compromise. This signals that you do care and you do want to work through your disagreement.

When you reach a roadblock in communication with your partner, it can become very straining on your relationship. Instead of communicating in a hurtful way, try some of these healthy alternatives to The 4 Horseman out. If you continue to struggle with issues within your marriage, it might be helpful to reach out to a local therapist. Some therapists have years of specialization in marriage work and might be able to help. Sometimes working through conflict can seem impossible, but there is hope.

When It Feels Like No One Knows You

Some of us, to some extent, have felt like no one really knows us. Maybe it is persistent, or it comes in intense waves. It could come after losing someone important to you or when you sit down alone surrounded by yourself. Regardless, when it surfaces, it is painful, better yet, excruciating. Maybe you have tons of friends and a wonderful family, but it still seems like no one really knows you. You are not alone. Other people feel the same way, and there is hope. There is a great depiction of this feeling in the show Mad Men.

The scene happens when Don breaks down after losing Anna. If you aren’t familiar with the show, Don Draper is the main character who plays a brilliant adman on Madison Avenue in the 1960s. He remains distant and shows very little emotional vulnerability throughout the show. He continues to shove people away that care for him and keep them at arm’s length.

Anna plays the wife who was married to the man that Don steals the identity of before the show takes place. She allows him to take the identity of her dead husband, knowing that he didn’t want to go back to war and wanted to start over from a past of being raised poor and brought up in a brothel. Through Anna’s kindness and support, Don is able to start over. Don doesn’t share this with anyone for several seasons of the show, so Anna is one of the only people that knows about that part of Don’s life.

The scene takes place in Don’s office when he receives a phone call while with arguably one of the closest people he knows post identity swap. During the phone call, the person on the phone tells him that Anna has died from cancer. It takes him a few moments, but after the phone call, he breaks into tears. You see the pain, grief, agony, and loneliness sweep across his face. He realizes that he has lost someone who knew of his past and loved him regardless. He knew that she hadn’t been drawn to him because of his current prosperity and status; rather, she supported him before he had accomplished anything. He hadn’t lost everything, but it felt like it. After being asked what was wrong, Don says, “Someone very important to me died…The only person in the world who really knew me.”

You may not have lost someone, but maybe you are acquainted with that feeling. Sometimes it doesn’t seem obvious as to why you feel that way. You might have plenty of friends and great family members but still feel alone and unknown. After a while it can build, and the usual conversations and relationships may not seem like enough. You want more and don’t know where to find it or how to get it. Other times it is obvious why you feel that way. Maybe you don’t have many people to talk to, and you feel forgotten.

The antidote to this feeling is genuine deep connection. Tim Keller, a public speaker and retired NYC-based pastor, describes this well:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is…. what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

The pain is real and the satisfaction from connection runs deep. There can be a strong temptation to keep pieces of yourself hidden from everyone. If you hide the bullying you went through in school, the bad divorce you experienced, or the guilt from the way you have treated people in the past, people can’t judge you or treat you differently for it. You can keep things from people and, in fact, sometimes you should. However, the feeling of loneliness and being unknown can start to creep in the more that you hold painful things in.

Don is an excellent example of this. He keeps his identity and past a secret from most people throughout the show. No one knows of his painful and ugly past except for Anna. She was the one person he could turn to that knew and cared for him unconditionally. There is a strong sense of relief that comes from showing someone everything and then having them love and care for you despite your ugliness.

Make time to share with people that you know are trustworthy. A supportive and encouraging ear can be transformative. This isn’t something that will go away overnight, but with the right people and willingness to share, it won’t hold as much power.

If this feeling persists more often than not and doesn’t seem to go away, then seek professional help from a local counselor or psychiatrist. This could be a symptom of depression. With the right care you can move forward and find healing.

Working Through Stress at Work

All of us know that work can be stressful, even hardly bearable at times. For most of us, our jobs are our livelihoods. Not only that, a lot of us are there for at least 40 hours a week. We spend a ton of time completing tasks, talking with coworkers, and dealing with our bosses throughout the week. Work is a large part of our lives, and once you add stress to your work, it can become difficult to manage and carry over into our personal lives. If you feel like your stress leaves work with you, then this is for you.

One reason you may be experiencing stress at work is that there are a lack of boundaries between yourself and work. You want to be the best employee you can and sometimes you will do more than you have the capacity to. When your boss asks you to stay late several times a week or asks you to do 5 extra tasks that you don’t have the time for things can get stressful real fast. You don’t have to be the office superhero. All of us have limitations.

I’m not saying that you should say no to going the extra mile. Instead I’m saying to say no to going an extra 10 miles every day. If you notice your stress levels getting out of control and affecting your relationships, then it might be time to say no and practice self-care. If you are too bogged down, you aren’t just affecting your relationships, but your work performance will suffer too. The best thing for you and your company can be to cut back on what you can and invest time on other things that are important to you.

That leads us to the next part, practice self-care. I’ve written on this topic before, but it is very important when discussing workplace stress. This is where the saying “You shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket” comes into play. If you don’t have any hobbies, friendships, or time with your family set aside, then your mental health can suffer. There is more to you than your ability to accomplish things at work. Engaging in hobbies and spending time with friends and family is crucial to abating stress and finding fulfillment.

Lastly, take your vacation! Over half of US employees did not use all of their vacation days last year. Whatever vacation time you have, use it. There is a reason that you have vacation days. It is exhausting to go for a whole year without taking time off regardless of whether or not you love your job. You don’t have to take an extravagant vacation; you can just relax at home or with family. Regardless, you deserve time off. You put in a lot of time to make your company or business better, the least you can do is give yourself a couple of weeks a year.

Working hard is great. Working yourself too much isn’t. In order to take a breath of air from work, set some boundaries, say no, and practice self-care. If you continue to feel stuck and unable to break free from your anxiety at work, and possibly outside of work, then seek professional help. Professionals are trained to help people through things like anxiety and workplace stress. Take some time to re-calibrate so that you can re-focus and work through workplace stress and anxiety.

7 Ways to Cope With Anxiety

Anxiety can be crippling. It can be constant and last all day, playing in the background or constantly nagging. It can also come up at unexpected times, with great intensity, and keep you from being productive, or even leaving the house. If you struggle with an anxiety disorder, it can significantly affect relationships and the ability to accomplish simple tasks throughout the day. Hanging out with friends and getting through the day at work can seem like impossible tasks. If you struggle with general anxiety or an anxiety disorder, here are a few ways to regain control and cope with your anxiety.

  1. Accept Your Anxiety –One of the worst ways to deal with anxiety is to try and avoid it. Denying the feeling does not help, it actually exacerbates it. Instead of denying and avoiding, one way to cope with anxiety is to accept it. Anxiety is not a completely unhelpful emotion. It can help us accomplish tasks, meet deadlines, and avoid risky situations. Anxiety also signals that we need help. The next time your anxiety bothers you remember “It is okay to feel this way.”

 

  1. Breathe – This is the MOST IMPORTANT tip to deal with anxiety. When you get anxious, your body is in a heightened state of arousal known as fight or flight. When you are in this state, it is difficult to think clearly about what’s going on because the portion of your brain responsible for decision making and planning is partially offline. One way to get that part of your brain back up and running is to BREATHE. Wherever you are take some time to inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. Do this at least ten times or until you notice your anxiety level become manageable.

 

  1. Evaluate – Another way is to evaluate the situation that caused your anxiety to get out of control. Sometimes the amount of anxiety we experience can be out of proportion to the situation that caused it. A lot of the times simply observing what caused your anxiety and seeing if your response is justified can be helpful.

 

  1. Find an Outlet – Do you have any planned activities throughout the week that you enjoy? If not, planning ways to relieve stress through doing things that you enjoy can be extremely helpful. Engaging in an activity that you enjoy is like adding money to your mental-health bank. If you have added to your mental-health bank, then you can make a withdrawal when you are going through stressful situations throughout the week.

 

  1. Talk About It– You are not alone in feeling anxious. Talking to friends or finding a support group can be incredibly helpful when dealing with anxiety. Knowing that other people experience anxiety and feeling understood is crucial to the healing process.

 

  1. Anchor in Truth – If your anxiety tells you lies like “I’m never good enough” “If I don’t do this, then that must mean I’m a failure” or “I’m going crazy” then fight back. One way is to write down truths that oppose the lies anxiety tends to tell you. If you struggle to find positive truths about yourself, then ask people who you know and trust. You can write them down on a note in your phone or keep them on a notecard in your back pocket. Regardless, keep them somewhere close by.

 

  1. If Stuck, Find a Professional – Sometimes dealing with anxiety may seem like an impossible task and you can get stuck. Maybe you think that no one will understand or you are embarrassed to share your experience with anxiety. If that is the case, then find a mental health professional in your area. Licensed Counselors are trained to help people fight anxiety and find healing.

 

Anxiety is not easy to manage, but these tips can help. If it helps, print this blog off and put it on the fridge, in the car, or somewhere at work. Keeping this around might help to create insight as to when your anxiety is starting to surface. The first part to managing your anxiety is to realize when you are being controlled by it.

If you feel like counseling might be the right fit for you, then schedule an appointment. If you have any questions about anxiety, then reach out to a local mental health professional!

The Key Ingredient to Creating a Lasting Marriage

There are many pieces that work together to create a positive, fulfilling, and healthy marriage. If those pieces made up a puzzle, emotional intimacy would be the centerpieces. They are the pieces that are the most difficult to put together, but are oftentimes the most colorful and beautiful part of the puzzle. Without them the puzzle would be dull and incomplete. With them you have a beautiful piece of art. You can have a relationship with little to no emotional intimacy, but it will be hardly bearable at its best and completely intolerable at its worst.

So what exactly is emotional intimacy?

These two words get thrown around so much, sometimes the meaning can get lost in translation. Emotional intimacy can be described as the feelings of love, trust, acceptance and respect created by the willingness of each person to share personal and vulnerable thoughts and feelings. The more open and transparent each person is, while maintaining a non-judgmental and accepting posture with one another, the more emotional intimacy is created. Emotional intimacy doesn’t just happen between two people in a romantic relationship, but can also happen in other types of relationships. Although this blog focuses on emotional intimacy within a marriage, it is crucial to every relationship, not just between romantic partners. Emotional intimacy is powerful and a critical part of any trans-formative relationship.

The Power of Emotional Intimacy

The power of emotional intimacy is that it transforms relationships and creates stability, empowerment, freedom, and deep fulfillment.

Stability

When emotional intimacy is created within a relationship it provides stability and grounding for each person. To be able to share our deepest insecurities and painful past with someone, who doesn’t run away or shut us down, provides an unbelievable amount of security. The simple truth is that most people aren’t willing or able to provide that. We usually have our defenses up because we have all encountered painful rejection in the past and we try our best to avoid that by keeping things surface level. Sometimes we don’t share because we don’t want to drive the other person away.

If you are able to share those deep, and sometimes painful, parts of yourself without being rejected or abandoned, then it draws you closer to your spouse. Over time you and your spouse begin to realize that you aren’t going anywhere and you’re both willing to stick together no matter what. This closeness gives you a sense of peace and security that is incredibly satisfying and undoubtedly hard to find.

Freedom and Empowerment

Our deepest pains and insecurities are infamous for holding us hostage. Maybe one of yours is that you think and feel that you are boring and uninteresting. Feeling that way can keep you from reaching out to people and connecting with others because you think you don’t have anything interesting to offer. When you add emotional intimacy to that insecurity (a spouse who takes the time to listen to you and your ‘boring’ thoughts and feelings while being non-judgmental and accepting) then you might start to question how boring and uninteresting you actually are. I mean if someone wants to sit with you and listen to what you have to say, then that contradicts the belief that you are boring and uninteresting. In fact, it might mean that you are kind of a catch.

That process is freeing and empowering. Emotional intimacy gives you the courage to share more and express yourself in ways that you never have before. Once it is created, its effects reach far outside of your marriage and influence your experience at work, within the family, and even while engaging in your hobbies. Emotional intimacy can help you realize that you matter.

Deep Fulfillment

Emotional intimacy leads to deep fulfillment. The fulfillment is, among other things, a love and acceptance that transform us. It is satisfying and comforting to know that someone accepts you for all of you, not just the good parts. It’s also something that can continue to grow within the marriage. The more that you commit to being vulnerable and open with one another, while being willing to listen and accept one another, the greater your love for one another grows. This can be the bedrock of your marriage and one of the most satisfying and rewarding feelings you will ever experience.

 

It is so easy to be swept away by our every-day routines. Work has a way of carrying into your off time, the list of errands you need to run is endless, and maintaining a social life on top of everything else is difficult, to say the least. All of these things are important, but spending quality time with your spouse is crucial. Whether you choose to go out on a date or have some time for yourselves at home, use the time to share with one another. Don’t use the time to just share facts about your week, but also your feelings about things. Be there for one another by being accepting, generous in your assumptions, and willing to listen. As you perfect the process, you add centerpieces to your puzzle. What once was a puzzle with missing centerpieces will become a beautiful piece of art.

Why Relationships Are Important

Why Relationships Are Important

Whether you struggle with anxiety, anger, stress, perfectionism, depression, or anything in between, there is hope.  Developing more healthy relationships, or transforming current relationships into more healthy and positive ones, is a big piece of the healing process. This oftentimes means fighting the feeling of loneliness and I won’t pretend that it’s easy. It’s not. In fact, it’s really hard at times. Creating or maintaining healthy relationships in our society today has become more difficult than saying no to Girl Scout cookies. We are constantly being dragged from one thing to the next with little to no time to develop relationships. In order to make relationships work, they need quite a bit of time and effort. In order for them to get time and effort, most of us need to know that they are going to pay out. Is the time spent investing in relationships able to produce a high return on investment?

Relationships and Your Physical Health

The proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study suggesting the number and quality of social relationships a person has impacts their health just as much as diet and exercise. Having less quality relationships has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and other serious health concerns across different parts of a person’s lifespan. The mortality rate for older adults significantly increases the less a person is socially connected, and the risk for obesity among adolescents significantly increases the less they are socially connected.

The physical response to being less connected to people is burdensome. Not only can it decrease your lifespan, but it can also affect your quality of life.

Relationships and Your Mental Health

Not only is a lack of relationships bad for your physical heath, but loneliness has a negative impact on your mental health as well. Loneliness has been linked to depression and increases a person’s risk of committing suicide. Loneliness can also increase stress and decrease motivation which can make it incredibly difficult to cope with everyday stressors and accomplish tasks.

Living life without meaningful relationships is hard. It becomes more difficult to deal with the hard times and enjoy the good ones.

If there is one thing worth adding to the top of your to-do list, connecting with people should be that thing. Make sure to invest time in people that are important to you and possibly even creating new relationships. If you notice that most of the things you set aside time for throughout the week are tasks related to work or running errands, and you end most weeks feeling stressed out and empty, then commit to taking some time to nurture and build relationships. That could be taking your spouse on a date, or going out with friends. Regardless of how you do it, make an effort to connect. If loneliness is something that you struggle with often and don’t see a way out, then reach out to a professional for help.

Importance of Self-Care: Why Caring for Yourself is Caring for All

You’re overwhelmed at work. You have a ton of projects piling up at home, and your calendar is packed with overdue tasks. To make room for all of this stuff, you skip lunch, stop going to the gym, and forget about your social life entirely. When we’re stressed, self-care is usually the first thing to go. And that only makes things worse.

It’s easy to neglect taking care of ourselves because when we’re busy and overwhelmed, even a small reprieve feels like a luxury. So actually taking time to eat lunch, exercise, and hang out with friends? That just feels like slacking.

Self-care is important for your physical health as well as your mind, soul and, let’s face it, your overall health. Without self-care, your relationships with others can suffer tremendously. Neglecting ourselves and focusing too much on work or other people can be like trying to write a 50-page paper, the night before it’s due, working on 2 hours of sleep. You need to get the paper done, and you might finish it. However, it won’t be published in any journal or selected as a New York Times Best Seller.

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Why?

No matter how unimportant you may think it is, self-care is crucial for our physical, emotional and mental well-being. You shouldn’t neglect self-care and here’s why:

It increases your sense of respect and care for yourself, allowing you to appreciate and accept yourself for who you are. Self-care is only possible after you come to the realization that you are important and need to be cared for. Also, it helps with productivity. When you learn how to say “no” to things that over-extend you and start making time for things that matter more, you slow life down in a wonderful way. This brings your goals into sharper focus and helps you to concentrate on what you’re doing. It also promotes feelings of peace and relaxation, serving as a way to refocus and come back to your daily life refreshed and ready to take on anything. It also enhances self-esteem like when you regularly carve out time that’s only about being good to yourself and meeting your own needs; you send a positive message to your subconscious. Specifically, you treat yourself like you matter and have intrinsic value. This can go a long way toward discouraging negative self-talk and your critical inner voice.

At the same time, it improves both physical and mental health by reducing the effects of prolonged stress on your mind and body. Lastly, when you’re good to yourself, you might think you’re being selfish. In truth, self-care gives you the resources you need to be compassionate to others as well. Giving compassion is a bit like filling a bucket; you can’t fill someone else’s if you haven’t filled your own!

Four Pathways to Self-Care

Fortunately, there are several ways that you can care for yourself:

1. Physical: care for your body (everything from sleep to seeing the dentist)

Your body needs what it needs. Getting enough sleep, food, and exercise is critical to your mental health and stability. The more you neglect your biological imperatives, the less energy, motivation, and will-power you’ll be left with throughout the day to deal with intense feelings like anxiety, anger, or depression when they come up.

2. Emotional: care for your feelings (acknowledging & processing feelings, changing distressing situations)

Take time to notice and process your feelings. For example, if you start to notice anxiety come up, then take some time to cool down and think through what might be causing it. A lot of times what feels like life or death in the moment turns out to be less severe once we have time to calm down and think through it. Other times you may need to reach out for support from people you trust.

3. Spiritual: care for your spirit (a worship community, a cause greater than you, nature)

Whatever your religious background may be, connecting to a cause greater than yourself can provide deep fulfillment and satisfaction.

4. Social: care for your relationships (friends who get you, family time, lunch with your coworkers)

Significant, healthy relationships are incredibly important. Connecting with others provides stability and support. When people notice you for who you are, and appreciate you, then it helps you to notice how important and worthwhile you are. Relationships help us to see the pieces of us that sometimes go unnoticed.

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Some practical tips for self-care include: living healthy, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid drugs and excessive alcohol. Manage stress and go for regular medical check-ups, exercise by taking classes with others for motivation, and spend time doing things that help you relax. Practice good hygiene which is important for social, medical, and psychological reasons in that it not only reduces the risk of illness, but it also improves the way others view you and how you view yourself. Also, see friends to build your sense of belonging. Consider joining a support group to make new friends. You may also try to do something you enjoy every day. That might mean dancing, watching a favorite TV show, working in the garden, painting or reading. Lastly, find ways to relax, like meditation, yoga, getting a massage, taking a bath or walking in the woods.

With so many types of self-care, it can often be difficult to find a good balance. Having a self-care routine can be incredibly helpful. It’s so important to take time for yourself and shed the stress. An hour a day can make a huge difference. It’s a great way to stay motivated and take time for yourself every day!

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Making Marriage Last

In the United States, nearly 300,000 couples get married every month, and there are 2.4 million formal weddings every year. The institution of marriage is alive and well. The caveat is that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. So nearly half of the couples that promise to remain together no matter what break that promise at some point during their relationship. Marriage is difficult, in fact, it’s just plain hard. Staying committed to one person for the rest of your life may seem impossible at some points in the relationship, but the effects of staying committed to your spouse make it worth it.  Marriage is associated with a number of important health benefits. Married adults are happier and healthier, live longer, and have lower rates of a variety of mental health concerns than do adults without committed partners. If that is the case, how can you make your marriage not just work, but thrive?

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Make Time, Quality Time

If you don’t set aside time to spend with your spouse and connect, then there is no way to create intimacy in your marriage. Without connection and intimacy, you are bound for excessive conflict and misery within the relationship. The person that you chose to marry has a life independent of yours and experiences a whole different set of thoughts and feelings than you do. It takes effort to make time to connect, but it is worth it. They want to share those thoughts and feelings with you, whether it is conscious or not, and we all want to be known and loved by our partners. Whether you have one night a week that you go out for dinner, or you pick up an activity together, the consequence of having quality time together is invaluable. With the 10,000 things that we have going on every day it is hard, but spending time to invest in your relationship is far more valuable than crossing ten things off of your to-do list.

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Do Conflict Well

Research shows that, among newlyweds, the frequency of arguments about in-laws is exceeded only by the frequency of disagreements about financial matters. Although in-laws and financial matters can be hot-button issues, they aren’t the only ones. Arguments and conflict will happen. The important thing is that conflict is done well. The more that hurtful remarks are made and issues are “swept under the rug” the more difficult it becomes to resolve conflicts and create intimacy in your marriage. The goal isn’t to get rid of conflict, because I don’t know that it’s possible. Instead, the goal is to approach conflict with patience and generosity. Getting there isn’t easy, but the road is well worth the travel.

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Commit

If you want your marriage to last, it takes an incredibly large amount of commitment. A commitment which perseveres through the thick and the thin. There will be several days full of tears. Some of those days the tears will be from laughter, and others will be from sadness. Regardless, it is helpful to remember that you made a commitment to your spouse. That commitment leads to a love that runs deeper than the feelings you had when you first met. You will have days where you don’t like your spouse, you will question your love and commitment, and might even grow eager to have a life with less conflict and more simplicity. Commitment is a choice. It is a choice to grow together and not away from one another. It is a choice to listen to what your spouse has to say, work through your pain and hurt, or simply go to the movie they have wanted to see that isn’t at the top of your list. That choice, as difficult as it sometimes can be, moves you closer to the person you chose to be with, for better or for worse.

The effects of a healthy marriage far outweigh getting a promotion or making enough to get that beach house. Take time, work through conflict, and commit. If you get stuck, then reach out for help. Some problems are too difficult to deal with on our own and getting help is okay. Reach out to your friends for support, pastor for spiritual guidance, or counselor for relationship guidance and emotional healing. Your relationship will have ups and downs, but sticking with it will bring unexpected joy, some of the deepest love you will ever know, and a lasting friendship.

I want to add that these tips for making a marriage last are all within the confines of a relationship without abuse. If you are physically or sexually abused, separate from your partner immediately. Staying with a partner who is abusing not only keeps you from moving forward, but it is also enabling to the partner who is committing the abuse to continue hurting people. For help with protecting yourself from an abuser call local authorities or 911.

Dealing With Your Anger (Part Two)

Despite the fact that anger can be destructive, it can also be a useful and a healthy emotion when expressed appropriately. Anger is a signal that you have a need that hasn’t been met. Anger has been used in healthy ways to motivate people to change themselves and the world.

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Without lashing out and hurting others, anger can be a central piece in motivating people to make life-changing decisions for themselves and others. One example is the feeling that comes from experiencing social injustice. When a particular group or class of people is being treated poorly based on things such as their race or socioeconomic status, it is useful for anger to motivate a response to the injustice. This doesn’t mean saying hurtful things or physically harming others. Rather, it means speaking up for what is true and right and pushing for change. This motivation and action accompanied with an audience that is ready to listen and respond provide a space to be understood and cared for by others.

Since anger itself isn’t a bad emotion and instead is a healthy and useful one, what is next? Knowing that anger can be destructive on the one hand and useful on the other only gets us so far.

Getting control over the anger throttle, for those of us who struggle with its overwhelming forces at times, is the next step in harnessing its usefulness. Here are some useful tips for dealing with anger’s strong and powerful grip:

Be On Guard

Be on alert for anger’s warning signs. This comes from understanding what your body’s usual response is to anger. Pay attention to whether or not you feel that burning sensation in your chest, ball in your throat, or the tensing of your arms or hands. If you are attempting to be alert regarding when anger is about to show up, it gives you the advantage to prepare and respond appropriately.

 

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STOP!

Once you realize it is coming or is already here, stop! If you are in a heated argument with your significant other, then table the discussion if you can or walk away and take a minute to return. This is especially important early on when you are trying to gain control of your anger. Continuing to fight or argue has the potential to leave you spinning your wheels without gaining any traction. The more you leave your wheels spinning, the more your tread wears down leaving you unable to move forward.

 

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Breathe

This is one of the most important steps. To put the brakes on your anger, you need to breathe. If you do not activate your parasympathetic nervous system, by breathing, it is like trying to fight a war with a Swiss Army Knife. Pulling out those small scissors won’t get you very far here. There are several different structures for parasympathetic breathing, but one that I have found to work is to start inhaling and begin to count to 4 slowly. Once you get to 4, start to exhale and begin to count to 4 again. After you finish, start the process over again until you begin to notice your body relax and your anger level significantly drop. Respond. Now that you have executed steps 1 through 3 you are ready to respond to whatever made you angry. You should now have the ability to think clearly and respond with a better and more thoughtful response. The boss who was angry at his employees doesn’t need to yell every time now. Instead, he can pitch to his employees what he expects of them without losing it and why he has such expectations. Now if he decides to correct his employees or even let them go, it is from a place of clarity and understanding instead of from a place of unbridled rage in the heat of the moment. Things would be similar to the now calm spouse. When their significant other doesn’t do something they ask, they now don’t have to jump to the conclusion that it is because they don’t care or think that their needs are unimportant.

 

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Seek Help

If you find yourself stuck and unable to move forward from constant irritation or anger, seek professional help. Therapists go through extensive training in understanding and treating issues such as anger. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is the gift of counseling from someone who understands and can help.

These tips are a few ways to manage and control anger. Anger can be a cumbersome problem, but there is hope to overcome its sometimes powerful grip. If you find yourself continuing to be stuck even after going through these tips, reaching out and getting professional help is something you can do for yourself and those around you. It may seem far out of reach, but there is hope. If you have any questions about counseling feel free to send me an email or if you would like to schedule an appointment you can click on the link below.

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