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5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

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5 Ways to Be a Good Listener for Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Opening your heart to your spouse—and nurturing theirs—requires listening well. With so many different issues, obligations, devices, and people pulling at us from every direction, it can be difficult to slow down and truly listen to one another. Listening can be pleasant, but sometimes it’s downright hard. Sometimes, you might want to tune out and lose yourself in your favorite pastime instead—or dive into the list of to-do items you still need to cross off before the day is over.

But to have a healthy, thriving marriage, it’s critical to truly listen to your spouse with empathy and generosity. Today, we’re sharing five ways you can be a good listener for your spouse.

1. LISTEN WITH EMPATHY

When you practice empathy, you’re putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes and seeing things through their eyes. Whether you’re trying to resolve a conflict or just simply listening to your spouse talk about their day, it’s beneficial to both of you to listen with empathy when your spouse speaks to you. For you, it gives you a window into their world and their perspective. For your spouse, knowing that you’re listening from an empathic vantage point helps them feel secure.

Maybe your spouse needs to vent about work, and normally, you tune out when they start talking about their tough day or their challenging project. Instead of switching your mind off while they talk, try to see the events of the day through their eyes, and in the context of your life. Have you been dealing with problems at home, like financial issues, trouble with the kids, or taking care of an ailing parent? Contextualizing your whole life along with what’s happening at your spouse’s job will help you understand the level of pile-on they’re dealing with.

2. LISTEN FOR EMOTION

When your spouse needs to talk to you about something—especially if it’s something hard—it’s easy to get wrapped up and carried away by your own emotions on the topic. In that case, you might respond to your spouse in a totally inappropriate way in your attempt to alleviate the difficult emotions that come up for you. Instead, take a minute to listen for what your spouse might be feeling. This type of intentional listening goes hand-in-hand with empathy.

Once you’ve identified what your spouse is feeling—whether it’s anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, or excitement—you can adjust your responses based on their emotional state. It gives you an extra chance to check yourself before you say or do something that might exacerbate the emotional state they’re in. When our emotions go into a tailspin, it can be difficult to keep communication healthy.

3. LISTEN WITHOUT BIAS

You’ve both got your opinions, and it’s hard to let those opinions go in favor of simply listening to one another. Listening without bias is helpful when you have opposite stances on certain issues, or when you’re locked in a stalemate during a fight. Set your opinions aside for long enough to hear what your spouse is saying, then practice your empathy skills to try to understand why.

This doesn’t mean you have to change your opinion to match your spouse’s. What it does mean is that your spouse deserves to be heard, and you can’t truly hear if you’re filtering everything they say through your own bias.

4. LISTEN LOVINGLY

When you’re communicating with your spouse, it can be helpful to use loving gestures and body language to let them know you care about what they have to say. It can be as simple as holding eye contact and nodding to affirm what they’re telling you. You could also reach out to touch them or hold hands. Turn your body toward them, or even stop what you’re doing and just sit with them if that’s what they need.

While you may be able to go about your business and have a conversation at the same time (and that can be okay sometimes), there are going to be times where you need to just put everything down and focus all your attention on your spouse. Turn off the TV, put down your phone or other devices, forget the to-do list for a little while, and give your spouse loving affirmation through eye contact and touch.

5. LISTEN GENEROUSLY

Your spouse needs the gift of your time and attention. It’s hard to take time out of our busy lives to generously give our energy to listening when we have so much to do every day, but communicating openly is key to a healthy marriage. When you listen generously, your spouse will feel secure in coming to you with their concerns, hopes, and fears.

If you would like more help with listening and communicating well with your spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

My Spouse Is Refusing Professional Help! What Can I Do?

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My Spouse Is Refusing Professional Help! What Can I Do? 

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

We all go through times in our lives and our marriages when we’d benefit greatly from getting professional help. Whether we’re having trouble dealing with a life change or transition, experience depression, or facing addiction, there are hundreds of scenarios that could warrant going into counseling with your spouse. But what happens if you recognize the need to get help…but your spouse doesn’t? Is there anything you can do?

You can’t force someone to seek therapy, but you can encourage it—and you can make changes to yourself that result in positive changes for your spouse. Read on for four common scenarios many couples face, and how to approach getting help for a spouse who doesn’t want or recognize the need for it.

IF YOUR SPOUSE REFUSES MARRIAGE COUNSELING…

Maybe you and your spouse have some recurring issues or unresolved problems that are causing trouble in your relationship. The two of you might be fighting a lot lately. Your spouse might have even asked for a separation, or you might suspect that he or she wants a divorce.

You know that working with a therapist or marriage counselor could help the two of you work through whatever you’ve been struggling with. The problem is, your spouse is completely against the idea, and nothing you say will change their mind about it.

It’s incredibly painful when you’re motivated to work on your relationship, but your spouse isn’t willing. You might feel stuck or hopeless, but there’s good news: you can seek help yourself and make changes on your own—without your spouse—that can improve your marriage.

Going to counseling on your own can help you focus on becoming the healthiest possible version of yourself. The most important thing you can do for your marriage is to work on who you are; every healthy choice you make gives your spouse a chance to join you.

Even if your spouse never attends a therapy session, the positive changes you make will affect him or her significantly. In fact, your change is a catalyst for change in your spouse. We’ve seen relationships turn around completely as a result of just one spouse stepping up to get help. So even if you’re the only one willing to seek help, you can still improve your marriage.

IF YOUR SPOUSE IS EXPERIENCING DEPRESSION…

Have you noticed that your spouse seems distant from you and disinterested in things they used to enjoy? Have you observed sudden changes in their sleep habits, appetite, energy levels, or mood? If you suspect that your spouse is dealing with depression, there are a few things you can do that will go a long way toward encouraging them to get the help they need.

First, educate yourself on the degrees and common variations of depression. Depression is a spectrum, ranging from mild, circumstantial depressive periods to severe chemical imbalances and mood disorders.

Your spouse’s depression might be temporary and circumstantial; maybe you’ve just gone through a major life change that triggered it. Some depression is neurochemical, requiring medications and interventions from doctors and therapists. Everyone’s case is different, so it’s important to try to identify what’s going on.

You don’t want to treat depression lightly; if your spouse can’t identify it in themselves, it’s up to you to try to help him or her recognize the symptoms. Try to get some outside, objective help if you can; if your spouse continues to resist therapy or counseling, find a checklist of common depression symptoms and identify the signs you’ve noticed in your spouse. Gently share your list with your spouse and tell them something like, “You know, it feels like so many of these things are things you’re dealing with. I love you and I’d love to see you start feeling better again.”

Continue gently encouraging your spouse to seek help; it’s important for them to get evaluated by a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible. It’s hard to admit you’re having a problem with depression, but the sooner your spouse admits it, the sooner he or she will be on the road to recovery.

IF YOUR SPOUSE HAS AN ADDICTION…

Addiction is one of the most difficult issues to face in any relationship—especially your marriage. You might have been watching your spouse fall into their particular addiction for a while now, but maybe you’ve only recently realized how bad it is. And it’s difficult—sometimes impossible—to communicate with someone who doesn’t see a problem you see.

Whether your spouse’s addiction is gambling, drugs, alcohol, pornography, or something else, he or she is likely to be in serious denial about the issue. Addiction is the physical reality that you’ve lost control over your ability to resist something. And it’s the emotional reality of the pain you’re trying to escape from because you’re unable to cope with it.

If your spouse won’t agree to seek help, think about staging an intervention with some trusted friends or members of your family. Sometimes, a person who is in denial about an addiction needs a group of voices to lead them toward help—not just one. They have to be willing to say, “I’m powerless over this,” then be willing to be vulnerable and put in the hard work to overcome the addiction.

IF YOUR SPOUSE IS A CHILDHOOD TRAUMA SURVIVOR…

Childhood trauma—whether it’s emotional, physical, mental, or sexual abuse—is a serious and weighty topic that continues to impact victims into their adult lives (especially their marriages). If your spouse grew up in a sexually abusive home, for instance, he or she needs extensive therapy in order to experience healing.

When someone has been through that kind of trauma, they’re going to have baggage that will impact both them and their spouse for years to come until they’ve found some kind of resolution for the ongoing pain. Your spouse has the power to become a healing presence for others because of their past, but they need guidance from a counselor to turn their traumatic experiences into healing for others.

The first step toward healing is awareness. If your spouse has confided in you, that’s the first step. We know couples who have gone for decades before one spouse’s childhood trauma was revealed, and in retrospect, they could understand so much more about the troubles they’d faced in their 25 years of marriage.

Keep communication open and encourage your spouse to seek therapy. As an alternative step forward (although we highly recommend moving on to therapy together), your spouse might be open to starting the conversation with a mentor couple first.

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

4 Ways to Support Your Spouse’s Creativity

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4 Ways to Support Your Spouse’s Creativity

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Creative pursuits add an exciting dimension to our lives. Music, theatre, art, writing, dance–these are just a few of the creative outlets you or your spouse might enjoy. But if you’re not particularly creative, what are some ways to support your spouse’s passions?

1. SHOW INTEREST IN THEIR CREATIVE PURSUITS.

Your spouse’s passion for creativity adds meaning, joy, and purpose to their life–and it can do the same for you. Whether your spouse is painting, sculpting, dancing, writing, singing, playing music, or any number of other creative pursuits, it’s important to show interest in what they’re creating.

Is your spouse a painter, graphic designer, or illustrator? Ask to see pieces of their work. Does your spouse perform on stage? Go see a play or musical they’re in. Is your spouse a musician? Ask them to play for you or ask to hear their latest recording. Does your spouse write? Read something they’ve written.

When your spouse lets you into their creative world, it’s important not to offer unwanted critique of their work. Try to respond to their creations or performances in a positive and supportive way. Your spouse is being vulnerable by allowing you to be a part of their creativity, so treat it gently.

If you find yourself uninterested in your spouse’s passions, it’s important to remind yourself how much this means to him or her. Set a calendar reminder to periodically ask about what your spouse is up to lately, and whether you can see their latest work. Marriage is all about compromise and sacrifice, so give your spouse some much-needed attention in this area of your life that’s so important to them.

2. GIVE THEM THE TIME THEY NEED TO CREATE.

Creativity takes time, which is a commodity for most busy adults (especially for parents of young children). Give your spouse the gift of time by:

  • Volunteering to take care of certain weekly tasks so that he or she has a little extra time
  • Occupying the kids for a little while so he or she can paint, write, practice, etc.
  • Making sure not to interrupt them while they’re working
  • Supporting that designated space and time with thing that make them more comfortable (music, coffee, cozy socks, art supplies, etc.)

It has been said that we can’t help others if we don’t put on our oxygen masks first. For your spouse, that creative outlet is their oxygen mask. So extend the gift of creative time, and you’ll both reap the benefits.

3. UNDERSTAND THIS IS PART OF WHO THEY ARE.

Most likely, you realized your spouse had a creative streak when you were dating. Now that you’re married, it’s still the same. During the early years of marriage, it’s common for creative pursuits and outside activities to fall by the wayside while the two of you get to know each other and settle into your new life together (although that isn’t always the case). But at some point, if you spouse has set aside their creative passions for one reason or another, they’re going to want to pick them up again.

You might feel resistant to the idea, especially if it means giving up some of the time you want to spend with your spouse. But remember, this is a part of who they are. It’s not fair to your spouse for you to deny that part of them, any more than it is for them to deny or reject an important part of your own identity. Every day that you honor and love your spouse’s whole self, you’re giving them a tremendous gift.

4. FIND JOY IN THEIR HAPPINESS.

Joy is contagious. When your spouse is creating, they are full of joy–so allow that joy to make its way into your heart, too.

Do you have creative interests you’ve never pursued–or haven’t pursued in a long time? Let your spouse’s passion inspire you to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Then, the two of you can deepen your intimacy by sharing your creative pursuits and making time for one another’s passions.

If you would like more help in the area of your relationship with your spouse or potential spouse, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our counselors or coaches.

10 Romantic Fall Dates To Enjoy With Your Spouse

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10 Romantic Fall Dates To Enjoy With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Fall is a beautiful and exciting time of year, with changing leaves, football season in full swing, and holidays right around the corner. Take advantage of the cooler weather and the wide variety of seasonal activities to go on some creative and romantic dates with your spouse.

There are plenty of ways to fully enjoy the autumn, so we’ve created a list of 10 ideas to get you started. Have fun!

1. GO ON A COFFEE DATE

There’s never a wrong time to get coffee, but there’s something about fall that makes a hot drink seem more appealing. Cooler temperatures are a great excuse to have a date at your favorite coffee shop—and fall is pumpkin spice season, which makes it extra special.

2. HAVE A BONFIRE AND MAKE S’MORES

There’s something romantic about snuggling in front of the bonfire in the chilly night air, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. If either of you (or both!) plays an instrument, like guitar, banjo, or mandolin, bring it to the fireside and liven things up with a little music.

3. GO TO A FOOTBALL GAME

High school and college football games are always a blast. You and your spouse could plan a trip to your respective alma maters’ homecoming festivities and share memories from your college days. Even better, relive your own memories together if you both attended the same school.

4. GO ON A HIKE

A hike is a great way to see the gorgeous fall foliage in all its glory. Choose your favorite scenic trail and spend the day talking, taking pictures, and enjoying each other’s company. Take a picnic with you and savor the day together…and the view.

5. CAMP OUT

Fall weather is perfect for camping, so pick a favorite campground or state park and pack up for the weekend. You can unplug and spend time together fishing, biking, hiking, and rejuvenating in nature. If you’d rather have a staycation, pitch a tent in your backyard and spend the night under the stars.

6. BAKE A PIE TOGETHER

Autumn is definitely pie season! Apple pies, pumpkin pies, and sweet potato pies are all seasonal favorites, so pick your favorite to bake together and make an afternoon of it. When it’s done, make some apple cider or hot chocolate to wash it down.

7. PLAY IN THE LEAVES

Not much connects you to your inner child during fall quite like raking up a huge pile of leaves, then diving into them. Make your autumn yard clean-up a little more interesting this year by playing together while you work.

8. GO TO THE PUMPKIN PATCH

Take a day trip to the pumpkin patch to pick out your pumpkins for this year’s porch decorations. While you’re at it, take a hayride and play with the baby animals on the farm.

9. GET COZY BY THE FIRE

Chilly nights are the perfect excuse to put on some fuzzy socks, grab a comfy blanket, and snuggle up together by a roaring fire. Put on some relaxing music or watch your favorite scary movie (or fun, if you don’t like scary!) with your sweetie, and enjoy a date night in.

10. ATTEND A CARNIVAL OR FALL FESTIVAL

Fall festivals are a ton of fun, and the perfect setting for a date night. Get in on the cake walk, grab a candy apple or some cotton candy, play horseshoes or ring toss, and ride the rides like you’re a couple of kids again.

 

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

5 Ways Empathy Can Neutralize Conflict With Your Spouse

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5 Ways Empathy Can Neutralize Conflict With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Empathy is defined as the identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives. It’s a critical component to success in all types of relationships, but it’s particularly valuable in marriage, a place where peace and harmony are paramount to success.

Practicing empathy can effectively neutralize conflict and restore peace to your marriage. Here are 5 ways being empathic toward your spouse can benefit you both and nurture lifelong love.

1. EMPATHY OPENS YOUR EYES TO ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW.

When you empathize with a person, you put yourself in their shoes. You’re able to view things from their perspective. Empathy gets you out of your own head and gives you a chance to consider situations from a variety of angles. This is especially helpful when you’re working through conflict with your husband or wife.

When you’re in defense mode during a fight, you’re invested in protecting and promoting your own opinion on the issue at hand. It can be difficult to hear your spouse out when you’re passionate about making your point. But when you put empathy into practice, it can help you step out of that defensive stance and into a more open mindset.

2. EMPATHY HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR SPOUSE FEELS.

Emotions run high when you’re working through conflict together, and it’s difficult to handle your own feelings, much less identify with your spouse’s. Practicing empathy will help you understand your spouse’s feelings, whether or not you agree with them.

Having a greater understanding of both of your emotions gives you a big-picture view of what you’re both dealing with. If you can get inside your spouse’s feelings, like fear or anxiety, you’ll be able to suss out ways to calm those emotions–or even make space for positive feelings to take their place. Empathy creates emotional safety, which will help both of you come to a resolution with as little pain as possible.

3. EMPATHY REVEALS YOUR SPOUSE’S MOTIVATIONS.

When you’re in the heat of battle (or just a simple misunderstanding), it’s all too easy to make assumptions about your spouse’s motives. Often, we decide–without actually asking our spouse–why they’re taking a certain position on a contested topic. Without empathy, it’s easy to fill in the blanks for our spouse. And unfortunately, we tend to assume that their motives are not in our best interests.

While you might not understand why your spouse disagrees with you, or why he or she made a decision you’re not happy about, that doesn’t mean they’re trying to hurt you. And when you step outside your own assumptions and leverage empathy instead, you’ll be able to see that more clearly.

4. EMPATHY KEEPS CONFLICT FROM ESCALATING INTO IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE.

When you don’t have empathy for one another, a simple fight can descend into an all-out war. If you don’t check your reactions to one another, you could easily start hurling insults, calling names, and assassinating each other’s character. And these kinds of damaging reactions don’t do anything except run your marriage into the ground.

Being intentionally empathic will help you bite your tongue when you’re aching to scream at your spouse; it will keep your anger in check and help you think about what you say before you say it. If you’re in touch with your spouse’s emotions, you’re not going to want to say or do things to cause them more pain. Using empathy to guide your actions and reactions will never fail either of you.

5. EMPATHY CAN HELP REDUCE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FIGHTS.

Empathy is its own special brand of preventive medicine. While conflict in marriage is inevitable, showing empathy toward one another could actually help you to avoid unnecessary arguments in the future. And when you do butt heads, you’ll be less likely to let your conflicts escalate into a full-out fight.

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

For Better of For Worse: Dealing With Tough Times in Marriage

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For Better of For Worse: Dealing With Tough Times in Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

“More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.”
– Anonymous

If you and your spouse know how to navigate the tough times in your marriage, you’ll come out on the other side closer than ever before. Hard times and conflict are inevitable–they’re just a part of life. When you overcome those times together, that can really deepen your sense of partnership.

Whether you’re dealing with internal conflicts (disagreement or stalemate, infidelity, health crises, mental illness, etc.) or external conflicts (loss, tragedy, job stress or loss, family or in-law issues, etc.), you’re going to come up against some mix of these challenges over the course of your marriage. The trick is knowing how to stick together through it all.

REMEMBER, YOU’RE TEAMMATES

Difficulties in your life can throw your entire marriage off kilter. While each situation must be assessed and approached in its own unique way, a good overarching idea is to remember that you’re on the same team; you aren’t enemies.

When you function as teammates, it’s easier to tackle life’s problems together–and less likely that you’ll turn on one another. Here are some tips for sticking together:

Face your conflict head-on together; don’t bury or avoid it!
Don’t assassinate one another’s character or belittle each other.
Communicate openly about what you’re going through, and listen to one another.
Be present for each other; no checking out allowed.

If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to work together as partners through this season, consider getting outside, objective help from a trusted counselor or pastor. This can help you get focused on your primary objective: sticking together and coming out of this stronger.

CULTIVATE INTIMACY

In general, every relationship has seasons; love has its own natural ebb and flow. But it’s almost a guarantee that most marriages will experience dry spells in the midst of hard times. Tough situations are very consuming, and that can drain all your energy before you’re able to give your marriage the attention it needs.

It’s pretty typical, at some point in most marriages, for spouses to express, “We were soulmates, but now we’re roommates.” When you’ve been dealing with difficult issues, you might come out of it feeling like this.

If you’ve managed to hold onto each other and get through your unique situation together, you’re one step ahead of the pack already. Clearly, your commitment to each other is still there–but it has been tested, and emotionally, it might feel pretty empty.

Just because your relationship doesn’t feel fulfilling in this season doesn’t mean it’s dead. It just needs to be revived. You’re not going to feel emotionally connected to each other 100% of the time, and that’s just how life is. The trick is getting connected again, and you can do this by cultivating intimacy.

To ignite more intimacy in your marriage:

  • Revisit things you have in common.
  • Reminisce together.
  • Invest in the interests or activities that excite your spouse.
  • Laugh together!

We can’t emphasize this enough: laughing together will help you revive the connection you’ve been lacking. Tough times can take a lot out of you, including simple things like laughter. Bring that back to life, and you’ll be amazed at what it does for your marriage.

TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME

Hard seasons in marriage make time feel like it’s dragging by. We know how hard it is to wait for a particular season to pass. Grief, heartbreak, job loss, disconnection, illness, and similar issues all have to run their course, and sometimes it feels like the pain will never end. Just take one day at a time, keep holding onto one another, and you’ll come out on the other side stronger than ever.

If you would like help with the better or for worse of your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

3 Reasons Radical Forgiveness is a Must in Marriage

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3 Reasons Radical Forgiveness is a Must in Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

It has been said that marriage is the combination of two very good forgivers. We have found this to be true in our own marriage–many times over! And we’ve observed countless successful relationships that were made up of good forgivers, as well.

When you’re in such a close relationship with another human being, it’s inevitable that you’re going to step on each other’s toes. That’s just part of life. The trick is being able to offer forgiveness to one another in a genuine, meaningful way, so that when those times come, you’ll be ready to face them head-on.

BUT WHAT IS FORGIVENESS, REALLY?

First, it’s critical to understand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is surrendering the right to retaliate against someone who has hurt you. It is not the relinquishing of your boundaries and dignity, and it is not a cheap or easy thing to extend.

When you extend forgiveness to your spouse, know what you’re forgiving. Be honest about how the hurt has been detrimental to your spirit. In the process of forgiveness, don’t just forgive and forget; forgive, but extend some pointers to your spouse about how they can better handle your heart with care in the future.

Forgiveness in marriage is a must because:

1. THE ACT OF FORGIVENESS STRENGTHENS OUR LOVE.

Forgiveness is a form of love in action, and we can’t get far in marriage without it. When you love someone, you’re vulnerable with them, and vice versa. Your spouse has the power to hurt you more deeply than anyone else in the world because you value their approval and affirmation more than anyone else’s. Your spouse is also just as vulnerable to being hurt by you as you are to being hurt by them.

When we forgive one another, we extend sacrificial love. When we are forgiven, we are humbled and determined to love our spouses better going forward. This cycle challenges us to love one another more fully, completely, and selflessly. And over the years, as we continue to practice this dance of forgiveness, our bond grows deeper and stronger.

2. FORGIVENESS SETS US FREE.

Forgiveness frees us in two ways: first, it releases the offender; second, it releases the one who was hurt.

Forgiveness benefits the forgiver as much as, if not more than, the person who is being forgiven. It sets us free from being dragged down by unforgiveness, which eventually turns into resentment. And when you hold onto resentment, it does no good for anyone–especially you.

There are going to be times when we need to offer forgiveness to our spouse, whether they’ve asked for it or not. When you do this, remember that you’re freeing yourself from a prison of resentment, and graciously offer forgiveness to your spouse.

3. LESSONS WE LEARN FROM FORGIVING OUR SPOUSE CAN EXTEND BEYOND THE MARRIAGE.

Forgiving anyone can be difficult–whether it’s a friend, family member, or co-worker. But when the person you love most in the world has hurt you, the process of forgiving him or her can be incredibly difficult and painful. Once you’ve practiced forgiveness in your marriage for a time, you may find it easier to extend forgiveness to those outside your relationship.

Forgiving one another as husband and wife can also help you to teach your children how to forgive. Modeling healthy forgiveness and allowing them to see their parents live this out will give them the tools they need to practice forgiveness in their own relationships as they grow older.

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

Being able to forgive one another teaches us to love each other and those around us in a more godly way, and it helps us to become more sensitive to the effects of our actions on others. In short, it makes us better husbands, wives, parents, friends, co-workers, and people.

It’s important to note, once again, that forgiveness is a process. You can intend to forgive, but you can’t control the steps to forgiveness, or how long it takes to get there. If the hurt you want to forgive is particularly grievous, it can take a very long time to complete the process. Whatever it takes, set yourself on a path of forgiveness and trust God to meet you on that path. And give yourself grace and time as you walk it.

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

The Importance of Respecting Your Spouse’s Individuality

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Gimme My Space: The Importance of Respecting Your Spouse’s Individuality

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

When you’re in the early years of your relationship–namely, dating and the “honeymoon period” of your marriage–it’s easy to lose yourself in one another. Many couples want to spend every possible moment together, and are even willing to lay aside their individual interests or activities during that time. The differences between you and your spouse tend to be glossed over, too, and those differences don’t feel like a big deal at first.

Eventually, you might find that once you’ve settled into marriage, your spouse might not want to be firmly attached to your side in the same way as before. Or you may have started noticing that some of the qualities that drew you to your spouse in the first place are now beginning to bother you. Sure, you may still have a great relationship, but it’s starting to feel like you’re drifting apart. Should you panic?

RECOVERING YOUR IDENTITIES

The most likely scenario is that you and your spouse have adjusted to sharing a life, and are delving back into the things that make you who you are as individuals. You’ve been together for a little while now, and it’s natural to want to revisit some of the things each of you love that may have fallen by the wayside.

Not only will you both eventually want to revisit your individual selves; you’ll continue to grow and change over the years. Give yourselves room to reconnect with who you are, and with who your spouse is (or has become). There is beauty in making space for those two unique identities that make up your marriage partnership.

It’s also normal to feel some friction as your opposite qualities begin to make themselves clearer. That’s okay, too. After all, you fell in love because of who your spouse is, and vice versa.

REDISCOVERING YOUR SIMILARITIES

It’s important for the two of you to respect one another’s individuality and hard-wiring. The saying that “opposites attract” isn’t really true; most people are drawn to other people who are a lot like them. So when you’re in a marriage with someone who isn’t a lot like you, it’s easy to fall into emphasizing those opposite qualities over what you have in common. Your differences eventually become the most apparent things in your marriage.

When your differences seem to outweigh your similarities, it’s time to reconnect with the common ground you share. Deliberately create moments and opportunities to reminisce about falling in love, and those early, blissful times in your relationship. Those moments will open doors for great conversation, and put you on the road back to intimacy.

Intimacy is built on common ground; keep those things you have in common in mind, and highlight them whenever possible. Create fun, shared experiences that knit your hearts together, and be deliberate and consistent about making that happen. Go on walks together, go fishing, work together in your yard–any activity that will connect you two on a deeper level. Find that common ground and enjoy it together.

LEARNING FROM ONE ANOTHER

When you and your spouse have many differing qualities, you’ll often find that you balance and complement one another. Instead of focusing on things about your spouse’s differences that bother you, try to find the strengths in those individual qualities and see what you can learn from those strengths.

Is your spouse better at saying no than you are (while you’re more of a “yes man” or “yes woman”)? If you often feel over-committed and stretched beyond your limits, perhaps you can pay attention to how your spouse approaches a tactful “no,” then apply the same principles the next time someone asks you to do something you shouldn’t say yes to. Of if you’re an energetic extrovert and your spouse craves a lot of quiet time, you could practice slowing down and learn to savor that quiet time with him or her.

ALLOWING FOR COMPROMISE

Compromise is a form of respecting your spouse–in particular, respecting his or her individuality. You can compromise on many things: food or entertainment preferences, travel, chores, weekly activities, and more.

For example, if you’re an extrovert and your spouse is not, give them the gift of solitude and allow them to do the things they love (like reading, enjoying a quiet coffee, drawing, writing, etc.) without making demands of their energy that they’re unable to fulfill. As a compromise, find a small group or activity you can be a part of so you’re not depending on your spouse to be present for every piece of your proverbial social “pie.”

Respect what your spouse needs in order to have the inner strength and resilience you fell in love with in the first place. Admire who your spouse is, and don’t try to change them; instead, create space for them to be who they are because that is how they were made.

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

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.

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.