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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.

Avoiding Destructive Defensiveness

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Studies by the Gottman Institute have demonstrated that when we respond to criticism or a complaint with defensiveness, the conflict escalates rather than becoming constructive.

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

Look at Your Partner Through Rose-Colored Glasses (Seriously)

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Look at Your Partner Through Rose-Colored Glasses (Seriously)

By Sanaa Hyder, M.S.Ed

When you started dating your partner, you probably had glowing things to say about them. You noticed every gesture (flowers for no reason!) and every sweet compliment. Fast forward a few years, you both may have collected hurtful emotional bumps and bruises along the way, making it hard to focus on the good things. It’s easy to fall into a rut and imagine that your partner doesn’t care, even if they still do. Does this negative perspective hurt a relationship? Let’s take a look at what the research says.

Dr. Gottman defines the negative perspective as an overriding sense of negative regard, where even neutral or positive actions from your partner are skewed in your mind to be perceived as negative. This often manifests itself in feelings of loneliness, powerlessness, and eventually one or both partners distancing themselves from each other. When your feelings are predominantly negative, every action, bid for attention, joke, or mistake can be interpreted through this new negative lense – whether or not it deserves to be seen that way.

If you find yourself constantly questioning your partner’s intentions, not giving them the benefit of the doubt, you may be experiencing the result of weeks or months of being in the negative perspective.

Dr. Gottman suggests that it’s never too late to reinvigorate your relationship with positive feelings for one another. This requires a deliberate effort to think about your partner in a more favorable light. Successful couples create a culture of goodwill in their relationship and purposefully strive to see each other through rose-colored glasses.

But what does positivity in a relationship actually look like? Here are some ideas for how to start thinking the best of your partner.

“I love it when…”
Try starting your sentences (even complaints) with “I love it when.” For instance, instead of “Why haven’t we gone on a date recently?” try this: “I love it when we go out together. Remember when we went to that restaurant that night? I had so much fun. Let’s do that again!”

Write down your appreciations
Try making a list of all the small things you notice your partner do or say. Dr. Gottman encourages couples to catch their partner doing something right. Start in the morning and continue through the evening as if you’re tracking their good habits. For instance: made coffee, poured my cereal, called me in the afternoon, paid the bill after I forgot.

An awareness of these small moments builds a habit of mind of seeing your partner in a positive way. When it is time to voice your appreciation, it will be easier to recall one moment out of many. Of course, they may also be negative moments, but try to actively engage your mind in remembering the good ones.

Build up your partner
Find moments to tell your partner about how amazing, brave, and sexy a certain behavior has been. Here are some examples.

Did they collect old clothing for donation? “Babe, you’re so thoughtful and giving  – not just to this family!” or, “Thanks for coming out shopping with me on Wednesday, even though it was boring for you, I’m glad you came.”

Your attitude is your responsibility. You have the opportunity to adjust the narrative you want to tell yourself about the relationship. This narrative is important because it affects the intensity of your arguments, and ultimately your long term-success as a couple.

Now, after doing these exercises, it becomes easier to state your complaint or positive need, because you have a perspective of your partner which may be more akin to the perspective they hold of themselves.

For instance, when you are in the positive perspective, you are more inclined to recall that you are asking someone for whom you’ve built up regard and love. Within the context of appreciating your partner’s efforts all day, it feels easier to to approach your best friend with your needs from a place of warmth and affection.

If you were not paying attention to your partner’s actions all day, your request might gloss over their good behavior. Your partner may think you haven’t noticed their efforts at being caring and attentive. Unknowingly, you create a culture of negativity. So, paying attention matters. Sound like a lot to keep in mind? Maybe at first, but remember that the Gottman motto is “small things often”  -  this includes noticing the small things and appreciating them.

To build a culture of good feelings in your home and in your relationship, you have to start taking responsibility for your mindset. Where the mind goes, words and actions will follow.

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

Does He Need to Confess Adultery to His Wife?

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Does He Need to Confess Adultery to His Wife?

By Dr. Russell Moore

[Note: Questions and Ethics is a monthly series in which Dr. Russell Moore provides insight into how Christians should navigate through life’s most challenging moral and ethical issues. The following is a transcript of this audio.]

Today I have an email that came in from someone who is writing—he is a Christian man, a member of a church, who writes and tells me that he had an affair several years ago, that this affair only lasted about a week, that he put an end to it, but he writes and wants to know whether or not now—even though he has confessed it to God, he has repented toward God, he has talked to a couple of key accountability partners in his life—whether or not he ought to tell his wife. Now, this man says that their marriage is already precarious. It has been precarious for some time. He is not sure whether or not his wife knows the Lord—or if she does, how mature she is in Christ—and he doesn’t want to jeopardize their marriage. He doesn’t want to split up their marriage and really wreck the lives of their children. And so he says do I have to tell my wife?

Now, what I want to say is first of all I just stopped and prayed for this family because I know that this has to be absolutely agonizing. It is agonizing for him. It will be soon agonizing for her and for the children—those who are completely innocent in this saga. I do think that you need to tell her and for several reasons: One of those reasons being, you have sinned against her. Your having this adulterous affair is a sin against your wife, and until you have confessed to her and until you have repented to her I don’t think you are finished with the process of repenting. Biblically she has ownership—that is radical language, I Corinthians, chapter 7—she has ownership over your sexuality, and so your sin affects her, even if she doesn’t know about it. And it affects her in several ways: one of them being you have joined yourself with some other woman outside of your marriage, which has a spiritual, mysterious effect, Paul says in I Corinthians, chapter 6.

Secondly though, you have brought to the marriage a breakdown in intimacy. You are keeping a secret from her about something that is at the core of your marriage. She deserves to know this, and I don’t think you have finished repenting until you confess it to her and until you ask for her forgiveness. I also don’t think that you are going to be free from the weight of conviction that you feel from that sense of guilt that you either feel—or if you don’t feel, it’s because you have covered that over and you have a heart that is numb to that. I think that you need to confess this and get that out in the open.

Having said that, I want to say to you be prepared for the consequences of your sin. And I think that you need to make it very clear when you confess this to your wife that she is more important to you than the risk that may come along with your confessing this to her. And so you need to own your sin. You need to communicate this to her as a sin, and do not give any indication that you blame her at all. She is already probably going to be looking for that in whatever it is that you are saying. Do not give even the appearance that you are blaming her. So whatever problems you may have had in your marriage, whatever sorts of issues that you may have with her, this is not the time to talk about those things. You have no ground to give any list of grievances to her—regardless of whether or not those things may be legitimate. She is not to blame for your immorality and your sin, and so don’t imply that she is.

And I would also say don’t take her first reaction to be necessarily her last reaction. She is going to feel betrayed. She is going to feel outraged. She is going to feel as though she doesn’t even understand what her world means right now. That is all completely natural because you have broken the covenant. You have sinned against her, and you have done so with a breach of trust. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t give excuses, reasons. And let her express the grief and the anger that comes out of this. You have been carrying this sin with you now for several years. It could feel to you almost as a relief to get it out in the open in front of her. But this is the first time she is hearing about this, and so, you can’t expect her to forgive you immediately, reconcile with you immediately, move on. She has to grieve this, and she has to express the sort of anger that she has. Let her do that, and then wait patiently for her to forgive you. Don’t expect that she owes you some sort of immediate reconciliation. You are going to have to spend in many ways the rest of your life in your marriage rebuilding the trust that is there, even when she does forgive you.

So I am really sorry about this, and I am praying for your entire family, but yeah, you need to tell her. That is the second step for you, after confessing to God, in your repentance.

 

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

How to Be Kind When You’re Upset With Your Partner

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How to Be Kind When You’re Upset With Your Partner

By Sanaa Hyder, M.S.Ed.

Kindness is not just important in the heat of an argument, rather, it is about your mindful and considerate behavior throughout your relationship.

When we enter into a committed relationship, most of us make some sort of declaration  – a promise or a vow  – that we will uphold our partner and care for them. We also make a secondary promise: that we will be our best selves ,  full of integrity and hope for a successful future.

The act of not choosing kindness is therefore doubly hurtful – to our partners and to ourselves – because it undercuts our efforts for growth and the potential for greater intimacy.

A relationship is the concerted effort of two people who mindfully and enthusiastically work towards a shared vision. Despite the difficulties of daily life, partners are in charge of their own behavior. While a couple grows together, they are not precluded from growing as individuals as well  –  in fact they must evolve as individuals in order to continually bring their “best selves” to their partner.

Kindness Begets Kindness

How can you cultivate a habit of kindness in your relationship? Below are 3 powerful tips that you can put into action right now, regardless of where your partner is on their journey:

1. Think good thoughts
We are wired to feel how we repeatedly think. Thinking positive thoughts about your partner will make it easier for you to think more positive thoughts, and to speak and behave positively towards them. In order to get into the habit of being kind, you must practice the thoughts as well as the actions.

Remind yourself of the nice things your partner has done each day. For instance, did they take out the recycling or come home early one night for dinner? However small the action, make it a habit of noticing the kindness as it is happening and make a mental note of how happy it makes you feel. When you see your partner, mention it to them. Noticing the good things about your partner helps to keep you in what Dr. John Gottman calls the Positive Perspective or Positive Sentiment Override. It is a sense of hopeful well-being that arises from a positive thoughts and positive interactions.

2. Accept responsibility
Take responsibility for assessing your own feelings before presenting them to your partner. Whereas anger and frustration are legitimate emotions, further exploration might reveal that in fact you feel annoyed or sad about a situation. Perhaps upon reflection you find that in fact you felt abandoned or that your dreams are not being acknowledged. Being able to accurately pinpoint your feelings will help you to convey them in a kinder, gentler tone to your partner.

You might think it is more authentic to say exactly what’s on your mind without filtering anything for your partner, but consider that once they are hurt, it is harder for them to connect with you empathically. Take a moment to process your feelings with a therapist or by yourself. Try keeping a journal or log of your day and how you were feeling. Processing your feelings through writing often helps to sort out and organize thoughts.

3. Let hope win
Have faith in the relationship and in your commitment. Even though you will have ongoing arguments with you partner, focus on your friendship. I see couples in my office who want to “solve” their issues first before going out for an ice cream or relaxing over dinner. It’s not possible to solve problems with someone you don’t want to collaborate with.

I often encourage couples to do an activity together to enjoy their love  –  despite their gripes! It is much easier to discuss problems with your best friend than with your “enemy.” It may take effort to institute a date night, but being close and connected is a habit, and habits have to be practiced consciously and regularly. Try going out of your way to be friendly to your partner.

For instance, pour milk in their cereal in the morning, or offer to walk the dog. Look up a movie they’ve been meaning to watch, or even send them a text message today (not about errands or scheduling) about something you’re looking forward to doing with them later.

Kindness Allows You to be Heard

Ultimately, kindness serves your expression of difficult emotions by offering your partner the capacity to really hear you. Even if you are angry, in order to approach your partner effectively you must be kind. If you’ve paved the way for your partner to be open to you, they are more likely to hear your frustration and respond with compassion. Kindness gets your needs met.

Being kind and gentle is a decision. Just as we offer a smile and hold the door open for a stranger, we must remember to cultivate this habit in our relationship no matter how many months or years have passed.

The longer we try, the easier it gets to summon up a positive picture of our beloved. The more we practice kindness, the easier it is to recall that our partner is also a human who is experiencing life alongside us. It becomes easier to offer a smile and to extend an olive branch to the person who is in the struggle with us – not against us.

 

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