5 Ways to Turn Sympathetic Statements Into Empathetic Ones

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5 Ways to Turn Sympathetic Statements Into Empathetic Ones

By Jared Wolf

“Sympathy” and “empathy” are two words so often used interchangeably that it’s rare to find two people who agree on exactly what the difference is.

The way I see it, sympathy is “feeling for,” and empathy is “feeling with.” Put another way, sympathy is telling someone you care, while empathy is showing it. At Crisis Text Line, we like to think we’re in the empathy business, and value empathy as a skill — it’s the key tenet of our Crisis Counselor training, which prepares our volunteers to work with people in crisis via text message.

We recognize everyone’s experience is different. It’s impossible for any one person to know exactly what another is feeling, because they’ll never be in precisely the same set of circumstances.

That’s why we don’t think of empathy in terms of sharing a person’s experience, we think of it as actively listening and genuinely trying to understand that experience to reflect back what it might feel like.

There are many ways you might be practicing sympathy in your life that can easily be turned into more meaningful and powerful acts of empathy.

1. Hold back on the advice.

The instinct to give advice is totally natural, but that’s often not what people are looking for. Bits of (sometimes terrible) advice are a dime-a-dozen, but thoughtful listening is rare. Instead of offering a friend unsolicited advice, try asking what they think they should do.

Example: “You know yourself best. What do you think would be most helpful to you right now?”

2. Avoid showing pity.

There are few things that make a person feel smaller than the sense that they’re being pitied. Replace expressions of pity (anything along the lines of “You poor thing”) with identifications of the person’s strengths.

Example: “You’re showing so much self-awareness in this situation. It’s really admirable. Thanks for being brave enough to come to me with this.”

3. Don’t assume you know the whole story.

When someone is telling you about their experience, it’s easy to believe you know exactly how they feel. Again, it’s impossible to know exactly how someone is feeling. Replace “I know you feel…” with more tentative statements lik1e, “It sounds like you’re feeling…”

Example: “It seems like all this has left you feeling embarrassed, is that right?”

4. Validate difficult emotions.

Expressing painful emotions is never easy, and can leave someone feeling vulnerable. You can help mitigate the fear around it by validating the way someone is feeling, and letting them know it’s OK to not be OK.

Example: “It makes perfect sense that you’re feeling frustrated right now.”

5. Ask questions.

When someone’s struggling, showing a real interest in what they’re saying goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to come right out and ask questions that allow them to further explain how they’re feeling. The caveat is to avoid “curiosity questions,” or questions that seek details, but don’t do anything but feed into your own desire to know more. Another type of question to avoid is the “why” question, which can sound judgmental, even when it’s not meant to be. Try rewording “why” questions into “how” questions to make them more effective.

Example: “How were you feeling when this first happened?”

Turning your sympathy into empathy takes practice, but if you keep these five strategies in mind, you’ll be well on your way to being a more empathetic friend, partner, coworker and family member.

In a crisis? Text HELLO to 741741 for free, 24/7 support in the US with a trained Crisis Counselor.

If you are not in crisis and would like to talk with a counselor or coach, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003. If you are in crisis, please call 911, text the information above, or call Netcare at 614-276-2273.

3 Reasons to Praise Your Spouse Every Day

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3 Reasons to Praise Your Spouse Every Day

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Praise is an essential ingredient to a healthy, happy marriage. Building one another up on a daily basis is a surefire way to build intimacy and keep your love alive for years to come.

Couples who praise each other feed the positive energy in their marriages. They’re happier, more secure, and more unified in their relationship. On the other hand, couples who don’t bother to give one another praise are less likely to have a successful relationship.

Today we’re going to share 3 reasons why praise is so critical to your marriage.

1. PRAISE MAKES US FEEL LOVED

It feels good to be praised–especially when that praise is coming from the most important person in our life. When our spouses praise us, it brightens our day. We feel cherished and special. Most importantly, we feel loved–and we feel motivated to repay that praise. That’s a good cycle to put into motion.

On the flipside, it’s better to give than receive: praising your spouse strengthens and intensifies your feelings of love for him or her. Putting your focus on their positive attributes, then vocalizing them, helps you to keep your attention where it needs to be: on the best things about your spouse.

We all have our faults, and there will be times when it’s appropriate to approach our spouses about issues we see…but most of the time, we need to stay focused on the good things about each other. What does your spouse do well? What do they get right? What’s something you love about them? When did they step up and do something memorable or selfless?

2. PRAISE RAISES OUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL

When we’re fed a steady diet of praise and encouragement, we naturally become more confident in our own abilities and attributes. Consistent praise could mean the difference between your spouse achieving his or her goals, or falling short. Praising your spouse (or receiving praise from them) can take a bad day and turn it on its head.

Praise lifts us up when we’re discouraged and bolsters our confidence to move forward with our endeavors. In marriage, we’re meant to be a team that works together for one another’s best interests.

Praise can take a seemingly ordinary, day-to-day routine and transform it into something extraordinary. Praise the jobs your spouse does for your family, whether that’s being a career person, taking care of the children, handling upkeep on your home, handling finances, or anything else you might consider “mundane.” Doing so will give your spouse a much-needed boost, and help them to feel more confident going forward.

Praise also remembers the extraordinary when the day-to-day has taken over. On days when you or your spouse feels stuck or in a rut, use that opportunity to remind them of the wonderful things they’ve accomplished. That simple gesture can give them the boost they need to keep pressing toward their goals.

3. PRAISE CREATES A UNITED FRONT

This benefit to praise in marriage is twofold:

  1. Praise unifies you from within your marriage
  2. Praise unifies your marriage from the outside in

When you’re spending your time and energy finding good things to say to one another, then vocalizing them, you’re building goodwill in your marriage. Praise solidifies the love you have for each other and brings the two of you closer. And the time and energy spent on praise means you won’t have the time to tear one another down.

Praise is just as important outside the marriage as it is within. Take care to only speak positively about your spouse outside your marriage. Sharing negative information with third parties can not only skew their view of your spouse; it also undermines your unity as husband and wife. Instead of complaining about each other to your friends or to others outside your relationship, be intentional about saying good and positive things about your each other to those people.

If you haven’t been taking the time to praise one another, the best time to begin is now. We’ve seen praise do powerful things in marriage; we’re confident it can pay dividends in yours, as well.

If you would like help with your relationship, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Teamwork in Marriage: Essential Ingredients For Success

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Teamwork in Marriage: Essential Ingredients For Success

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

The beauty of a strong marriage is in the details. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the most successful marriage relationships have something major in common: in the big adventures as well as the day-to-day grind, the happiest, healthiest couples do life together as a team.

We love this quote about how the best marriages have teamwork as their foundation:

“The greatest marriages are built on teamwork. A mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration, and a never-ending portion of love and grace.” – Fawn Weaver

Today we’re going to dig into the three major components of teamwork outlined in the above quote: respect, admiration, and grace. These are all critical ingredients to any winning team, so let’s break them down!

1. RESPECT

Respect is an essential ingredient to any team’s success, whether on the sports field or in a marriage. Merriam-Webster Online defines respect as “an act of giving particular attention; a high or special regard.”

When a team’s players respect one another, they:

  • Value each other
  • Support one another
  • Cheer each other on
  • Are considerate of one another
  • Treat each other with kindness and patience

A team built on respect has a much higher chance of winning the game because they’re not tearing one another down. Instead, each member appreciates his or her teammates for their strengths, and lifts their teammates up in moments of weakness. Team members share an end game: win, and keep winning until the very end.

In a marriage, it’s important to work together toward your end game. Root for your spouse. Support them in times of weakness. Help them keep running the race until you reach the finish line together. It’s a lifelong journey, but a worthwhile one when you stick together.

2. ADMIRATION

Admiration builds on respect and takes it to a whole new level. Merriam-Webster defines admiration as “a feeling of respect and approval; an object of esteem.” In other words, without respect, you can’t have admiration.

To admire another is to hold them in very high regard, or to find them compelling, fascinating, or amazing. The best teams are made up of players who are constantly “wowed” by their teammates’ abilities, instead of players who are in competition with one another or striving to the the star of the team.

In marriage, the concept is the same. Husbands and wives should cultivate that same “wow” factor with one another. And to take that a step farther, be vocal with each other–and with the outside world–about the characteristics and talents you admire. Let your spouse know what it is about him or her that fascinates you.

3. GRACE

When teammates have a healthy dose of grace for one another, the unit as a whole can continue moving toward their collective goal with little hindrance. But if a team falls apart over a player’s mistake, a bad play, or a lost game, it’s going to be that much harder to pick up the pieces and continue pressing forward as a unit. Feelings will be hurt, respect and admiration may be damaged, and morale will be crushed.

Every great team understands that sometimes, things won’t go as planned. Sometimes, you’ll lose a game. One of you might make a mistake or face failure. That impacts the team in the short term, but it doesn’t have to destroy what you’ve built together.

In the same way, husbands and wives must have plenty of grace for one another. There are going to be times in life that get you down: failures, disappointments, missteps, tragic events, illness, and more. Some of these things might be direct results of actions that either you or your spouse takes. And when that happens, it’s important to always have a healthy dose of grace ready.

One effective way to cultivate grace is to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Creating a sense of empathy within yourself will help you extend grace to your spouse when it’s due. And if you’re willing to do that for your spouse, they’ll be more willing to offer the same to you.

Stay in the game! No matter what happens, remember you’re on the same team.

If you would like help developing or enriching your teamwork in your relationship, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Help Your Partner Understand Your Side of the Conflict in 3 Steps

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Help Your Partner Understand Your Side of the Conflict in 3 Steps

By Kyle Benson

There’s no way around it: being misunderstood sucks. It can make you feel frustrated, upset, and hopeless. It can feel even worse in times of conflict.

Conflict isn’t easy. There’s hurt. There’s misunderstanding. And, at the same time, there are parts of us that are screaming to feel validated and understood. The problem for many of us is we have learned to communicate in a way that actually pushes our partners away from truly understanding us or meeting our needs. It’s common to see criticism or contempt in a relationship where partners feel disconnected and misunderstood.

Ultimately, conflict is created by a lack of attunement. This is because one of our deepest needs is for others to understand, or attune to, us. This desire to be “seen” starts when we are young. Take kids, for example: when they play hide-and-seek, they love to be found.

As adults, we crave to be seen in our rawness. To courageously allow another into our inner emotional world. This is why Brene Brown links vulnerability with wholehearted living because vulnerability allows us to be truly known by another. She also refers to vulnerability as the glue that holds relationships together.

But being vulnerable is no easy task. It’s much easier to blame or attack our partners for the problems in our relationship, rather than express how we are feeling.

For example, say your partner leaves the room when you get into an argument. Your gut response may be to blame and yell, “You’re a coward for leaving the room when we fight!” But if you took the more courageous, vulnerable route, you might instead say, “I feel scared and inadequate when you leave the room during our fight. My fear is that I’m not good enough for you to fight for. Is there a way I can bring up a conflict so you and I can work through it together?”

Can you see how easy it is to hide compared to how courageous it is to be vulnerable and seen?

When you speak in a gentle, open way that allows your partner to attune to you, you help them to understand why you feel the way you do. As a result, you feel more emotionally connected, which builds trust, increases intimacy, and makes sex oh so much better. Not to mention that when your partner understands your perspective, they are more willing to meet your needs as well as their own.

So how can you get your partner to attune to you during conflict?

Over the next six weeks, we are going to teach you the skills to attune to each other during your weekly, hour-long State of the Union conversation.

The first skill of attunement for the speaker is the “A” in A.T.T.U.N.E., and it stands for Awareness.

Speak with awareness

By speaking with awareness, we mean that the speaker chooses words mindfully and avoids making the listening partner feel cornered or defensive. This then helps the listening partner open up to understanding because they are not under attack.

Here are three ways you can speak with more awareness:

1. Use “I” statements
An “I” statement reflects your feelings, perceptions, and experiences. Using the word “you” during conflict has the opposite effect: it points fingers at your partner’s feelings, behavior, or personality. And as the saying goes, whenever you point your finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back to you.During a session, a client of mine I’ll call Tristan said to his partner, “You are so self-centered. You clearly didn’t think about how uncomfortable I felt sitting at Canlis (a fancy restaurant) all alone!” His partner instantly became defensive. “No I’m not! I had to stay late to finish up the proposal for the meeting tomorrow so we can take our trip this weekend.”When we paused and tried the discussion again—this time focusing on using “I” statements—Tristan’s tone changed completely. “I wish you had shown up to the restaurant on time,” he said. “I felt like a loser sitting there waiting for you next to the other couples sitting around our table. I even had a little kid staring at me like I was weird. I felt really lonely…”

This softer approach allowed his partner to relate to where he was coming from and find common ground. Her response? “It sucks to sit alone in a restaurant. I know that feeling. I’m sorry. I’ll make sure to be more mindful of the time.”

2. Focus on one issue
Since you have your partner’s undivided attention during your State of the Union conversation, it can be very tempting to lay out all of your relationship problems at once. But the more problems you try to air, the less likely they are to be solved. Instead, focus on one event and describe it like a journalist:

  • “I would like you to take out the trash without me having to ask you to do it.”
  • “I feel frustrated when you come home later than you say you will without checking in with me.”

3. Protect your partner’s triggers
In Stan Tatkin’s audio program Your Brain on Love, he states 11 facts about people in relationships. The seventh is “Romantic Partners are Responsible for Each Other’s Past.” Whether we like it or not, we are affected by the raw spots in our partner’s past, just as they are affected by ours.

These raw spots can escalate conflict if they are not cared for. Your partner’s baggage may be a source of irritation, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to drop their pain points and “change.” Instead, you can prevent conflict from worsening by working around their triggers with compassion.

Intimately knowing your partner gives you the superpower to love them compassionately despite their raw spots, or to severely hurt them with the knowledge you have. The latter breaks relationships, while the former builds them.

Next week, we will teach you the next letter T, which stands for Tolerance of your partner’s perspective.

How you talk to your partner about issues in your relationship determines how effectively the relationship problems are resolved. If you want to change your partner’s behavior towards you, start by changing your behavior towards them.

If you would like help with your relationship communication, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

What Are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some?

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What Are Personal Boundaries? How Do I Get Some?

By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Types of Boundaries

There are several areas where boundaries apply:

  • Material boundaries determine whether you give or lend things, such as your money, car, clothes, books, food, or toothbrush.
  • Physical boundaries pertain to your personal space, privacy, and body. Do you give a handshake or a hug – to whom and when? How do you feel about loud music, nudity, and locked doors?
  • Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions. Are you easily suggestible? Do you know what you believe, and can you hold onto your opinions? Can you listen with an open mind to someone else’s opinion without becoming rigid? If you become highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive, you may have weak emotional boundaries.
  • Emotional boundaries distinguish separating your emotions and responsibility for them from someone else’s. It’s like an imaginary line or force field that separates you and others. Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving advice, blaming or accepting blame. They protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and taking others’ comments personally. High reactivity suggests weak emotional boundaries. Healthy emotional boundaries require clear internal boundaries – knowing your feelings and your responsibilities to yourself and others.
  • Sexual boundaries protect your comfort level with sexual touch and activity – what, where, when, and with whom.
  • Spiritual boundaries relate to your beliefs and experiences in connection with God or a higher power.

Why It’s Hard

It’s hard for codependents to set boundaries because:

  1. They put others’ needs and feelings first;
  2. They don’t know themselves;
  3. They don’t feel they have rights;
  4. They believe setting boundaries jeopardizes the relationship; and
  5. They never learned to have healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are learned. If yours weren’t valued as a child, you didn’t learn you had them. Any kind of abuse violates personal boundaries, including teasing. For example, my brother ignored my pleas for him to stop tickling me until I could barely breathe. This made me feel powerless and that I didn’t have a right to say “stop” when I was uncomfortable. In recovery, I gained the capacity to tell a masseuse to stop and use less pressure. In some cases, boundary violations affect a child’s ability to mature into an independent, responsible adult.

For the full article, go to the original source.

For help with establishing healthy boundaries, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Why Kids Need Mean Moms

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Why Kids Need Mean Moms

By Joanne Kraft

I tried to slip out the door, but Mom intercepted my exit. “Sweetheart, what are you wearing?”

“Just black pants,” I said.

“Did you paint those on?” She called for backup. “George!”

Dad appeared. “What are those?” His face scrunched up, as if looking at something extraterrestrial.

My confidence fled. “Black pants?”

With Dad as wingman, Mom began her “No daughter of mine . . .” speech.

Great. The “no daughter of mine” rant, I thought.

But she’d made her point. As I stomped off to my room to change, I muttered, “Mom, you are so mean.

Where are the mean moms?

Call me crazy, but moms today are just too nice. They need a bit more meanness. No, I don’t mean “mean” in the technical definition of being unkind or malicious.

I don’t think moms should be overly strict and hurtful, discouraging their children’s hearts, stifling their creativity and controlling their God-given gifts. (A friend of mine had a mom like that, and it affects her parenting every day. “It’s the reason I’m such a pushover with my girls,” she told me. “I don’t want my kids to hate me like I hated my mom.”)

The “meanness” I’m talking about is found in those situations where we take the tough, loving road, not the comfortable one where life proceeds without confrontation. Mean is what your children may feel about you when you make them write a thank-you card, enforce daily chores or thwart their Friday night plans. Mean is when you push to know their friends and the parents of those friends, when you instill dinnertimes, bedtimes and curfews.

Mean moms make no excuses if discomfort is caused by loving boundaries. Children often can’t understand boundaries as being good for them. A mean mom sees the big picture. She sees the person her child can be and inspires the child until he or she catches the vision. Her slogan is: I’m not raising a child. I’m raising an adult.

Do you need a bit more meanness? Here are four ways to start:

For the four ways to start, check out the original article.

For help in being an healthy and constructive “mean mom,” please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

The Surprising Upside to Sadness

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The Surprising Upside to Sadness

By Catherine Morgan

Depression. Discouragement. Sorrow.

Too often we find ourselves here. Waves of emotions overcome when we least expect them. While I’ve learned a lot about choosing light, daring to hope, hard thanksgiving, and spiritual battle, there are lessons yet to learn.

The more I consider these emotions I’d rather not experience, the more I see multiple reasons that depression—yes, depression—has been a gift to me. Here are five.

1. Sadness forces me to depend on Jesus.

I am far more aware of Christ, attentive to Christ, and thirsty for Christ when I am discouraged. Trapped in a rough patch, the psalmists’ words suddenly spring to life: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

Only when I thirst for Jesus do I bend low to drink his living water. And so, paradoxically, in sadness I find the key to joy, which otherwise I might blithely miss.

2. Sadness gives me humility and empathy.

Depression has a way of humbling me like nothing else, as God protects me from my own ego. It’s hard to feel you’ve arrived when you struggle to even get out of bed. In these moments I need grace like I need water, a knowledge that keeps me face-planted before the cross—a posture infinitely preferable to the kind of humiliating crash that often flows from pride.

Empathy lets me see the world from a brokenhearted perspective—it lets me borrow broken eyes. Am I compassionate? It’s only because I so deeply need mercy. How can I withhold this gift I’ve received and need more of each day? I meet homeless families, unemployed immigrants, teen moms, couples mid-divorce, suicidal folks, jilted sweethearts. Every one has the same needs, the same sinful soul, the same shy beauty of God’s image imprinted on their heart. When I see them, I see me. God redeems my sadness as he turns my eyes outward and fills me with compassion.

3. Sadness rescues me from silliness.

As my seminary-nerd husband would say, my depression rescues me from ontological lightness. It’s easy to exchange weighty things for hollow entertainment. Unchecked, it can lead someone through 30,000 days only to face eternity with empty pockets. Isn’t this the spirit of Ecclesiastes 7:2? “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

Joy is not inferior to gloom—emphatically it’s not—but it’s easy in all the levity to miss the grand epic as it unfolds. Like hobbits happy in the Shire while Sauron advances, we can forget the stakes—life is short, eternity beckons, souls hang in the balance. A healthy dose of sobriety helps me see the world as it is: cursed and lost, in need of a Redeemer.

4. Sadness prepares me for future struggle.

How often does a rootless faith blow away in adversity? A quick survey of spiritual giants indicates they have this in common: They’ve suffered. In various ways, to various degrees, they’ve driven those roots down ever-deeper into the love of God, so that when the storms of persecution or tragedy arrive, they’re prepared. They know from repeated experience where to find living water in a drought.

5. Sadness is God’s way of strengthening me.

Jesus, who holds the galaxies together by his power, demonstrated another kind of strength as he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted. And in his mercy, he lends us a measure of his strength when we suffer. When we’re weak in ourselves, we’re strong in him.

When I fall into the pit of despair, I’ve learned to look up, to seek light, to cry out for deliverance, to long for home. It’s a struggle I may face all my life. That’s okay. God is at work, and I can trust him.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet. 1:6–9)

Thank you, Jesus.

Caution! Slow: 3 Ways to Handle Critical Premarital Counseling:

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Caution! Slow: 3 Ways to Handle Critical Premarital Counseling:

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

The engagement period in your relationship is one of the most exciting times in your life–and one of the longest waits you’ll ever experience. You’re anticipating a beautiful wedding, a romantic honeymoon, and seeing all the dreams you’ve created together finally come to life.

You feel like you’ve finally found “the one”…until a pastor, family member, friend, or counselor speaks out against your relationship. You’re thrown for a loop! What’s going on?

It’s very upsetting to hear someone you respect say that you shouldn’t get married yet. Most likely, your first response was emotional. But if you’re facing this situation right now, we encourage you to step back for a moment and look objectively at your relationship as you move forward.

1. CONSIDER THE SOURCE AND MOTIVATION

If your pastor or counselor has taken a stance against the two of you getting married, they’ve done so for serious reasons. Most of the time, church leaders and counselors don’t approach these issues flippantly. Chances are, they see their fair share of couples coming to their offices for counseling every year.

Because your counselor most likely has extensive experience working with engaged couples, it’s important to ask yourselves if there’s something about your relationship you need to examine. And it’s worth taking a pause for long enough to find out.

Here are a few questions to consider as you sort things out:

  • Are both of you mature, healthy individuals?
  • Are you (and your intended) really ready for marriage?
  • Is your relationship mature, or has it been stormy?
  • Are there any signs of abuse in your relationship?

If you’ve cleared these questions and can’t reconcile them with your counselor’s feedback, you can always consult someone else. Which brings us to…

2. TALK TO FAMILY & FRIENDS

If you’ve asked yourself the above questions and still feel like your counselor may have missed the mark, you and your fiance might want to consult trusted family members or friends. Share your counselor’s feedback, and see what they have to say about your relationship.

You may find that your family and/or friends have a different perspective on your relationship, or you may get similar answers. If their feedback aligns with your counselor’s and they think you should wait to get married–or they aren’t in support of your relationship at all–it’s important to proceed with caution.

3. TAKE AN OBJECTIVE ASSESSMENT TOGETHER

Sometimes, it can help to work with a collection of objective data to inform yourselves on how to proceed in your relationship. An assessment like SYMBIS is a great way to gather this data. You’ll go over your results together with a facilitator in your area, but you’ll have the added reassurance of knowing that your test results came entirely from the two of you

It’s scary and upsetting when you’re in love and planning to marry the person you want to spend the rest of your life with…only to be told you shouldn’t get married yet (or at all, as the case may be). When you’re in love, you’re blind; when someone tells you that you shouldn’t get married, you feel defiant and even more devoted to your intended. Every situation is different, but remember, the most likely scenario is that the person who provided this feedback cares deeply about you, and wants the best for your life and marriage.

We encourage you to take a deep breath, slow down, and explore this feedback as you move forward. As much as you may want to throw all caution to the wind and defy the advice you’ve received, it’s important to take heed. Make sure all the red flags are resolved before moving forward. We haven’t met a couple yet who wasn’t thankful for that extra time to truly prepare for a successful and healthy marriage.

If you would like help with your premarital counseling, please contact one of our counselors or coaches who are registered facilitators of SYMBIS and Prepare/Enrich by calling our office at 614-459-3003.

Toxic People

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If you would like help with handling yourself around the toxic people in your life, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or life coach.

How to Handle Invasive In-Laws

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How to Handle Invasive In-Laws

By Drs Les and Leslie Parrott

One of the most difficult situations married couples face is dealing with invasive or controlling in-laws. Maybe they’re critical, nosy, or they monopolize your (or your spouse’s) time. Perhaps they don’t think you can take care of their “baby” as well as they did. Whatever the case, these situations can get dicey in a hurry.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to focus on how to deal with invasive in-laws who are making your life as a couple harder than it should be.

HAVE A HEART-TO-HEART…WITH YOUR SPOUSE

Is your mother-in-law rifling through your things when you’re not home? Has your father-in-law repeatedly interfered with your home repairs and handyman projects? Do your in-laws probe you both for personal information?

It’s time for a heart-to-heart talk…but not with your in-laws.

Even though you might feel tempted to address them yourself (especially if your frustration level is high), it’s best to rely on your spouse–who is their child–to be willing to draw a line in the sand. That means you need to approach your husband or wife first, and lovingly talk to them about what’s happening and how it makes you feel.

You could say something like, “I know your parents love us, but this is making it hard for me to be close to you. When they (fill in the blank), I feel (fill in the blank).”

Be patient with your spouse; it’s often difficult for a person to hear that their parents have such a negative effect on their spouse. And they may not admit it at the time, but they’re probably feeling pretty frustrated with their folks, too (maybe even more than you are).

Don’t shift the situation into an attempt to control your in-laws through your spouse; instead, say your peace, and give your spouse space to process the situation. He or she may need a little time to figure out how to approach your in-laws.

SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR INVASIVE PARENTS

If your parents are guilty of invasive or controlling behavior, it’s your responsibility to be your spouse’s advocate (and your childrens’, if you have kids). We know that approaching your parents isn’t going to be easy, but it’s essential for the health of your marriage.

Be kind when you approach your parents. You could say something to them like, “You guys are so helpful to us, and we see all the love behind what you’re doing, but we’re going to have to decide/work through this on our own.”
Let them know you understand their love for you. Acknowledge the good they do in your life, and the wonderful part they have in it. If they respond with hurt feelings, understand it’s normal for parents to mourn the loss of a large role in their adult child’s life, but remain firm.

Sometimes, we run into situations where we can’t easily set boundaries with our in-laws. For example, if you know your mother-in-law has a key to your home and has been going through your personal belongings–but you can’t prove it–you have to find a workaround, since you can’t confront her. To set a boundary around this behavior, you could lock away your personal items or send the kids to her house for babysitting, instead of having her keep them in your home.

Here are a few more quick tips for dealing with sticky in-law situations:

  • If your in-laws are monopolizing your time, ask your spouse to set aside time for you
  • If your parents and your spouse don’t get along, get out of the middle of their disagreements and let them work things out for themselves
  • If family functions are stressful, work together to maintain a sense of humor about the situation

ADVOCATE FOR YOUR SPOUSE

Remember, if your parents are the ones creating problems in your marriage, it’s up to you to change the dynamic of your relationship with your spouse for the better. A toxic relationship with in-laws can be really harmful to your marriage, so it’s up to you to be your spouse’s advocate and change your relationship with your parents on his or her behalf.

There may never be an ideal or perfect relationship, but you have the power to make your marriage the very best it can be. That includes protecting it from outside sources–parents or not–that may interfere with your peace.

We’ve included a chapter in our book, The Control Freak, that deals with invasive in-laws if you want to know more about how to navigate these tough situations.

If you would like help dealing with in-laws or other family situations, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.