How to Know if Your Spouse is Your Soul Mate

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How to Know if Your Spouse is Your Soul Mate

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

The concept of “soul mates” is an age-old, romantic idea that each of us is fated to be with one special someone with whom we connect on a spiritual level. Many people put a lot of stock into this concept, and it’s not unusual for married individuals to wonder whether or not their spouse is their soul mate. The problem is that this can lead us to doubt the marriages we’ve committed to.

When a young couple transitions from the “honeymoon phase” and into a more day-to-day dynamic, they might begin doubting or questioning whether this is the person they were ultimately meant to marry. Maybe they find that they don’t actually agree on everything–since young couples tend to start out imitating one another’s preferences, dreams, and wants in order to achieve a sameness and avoid conflict–or maybe they’ve begun to butt heads more frequently.

From a biblical perspective, marriage is a lifelong commitment you promise to honor. And once you’ve made those promises to one another, it’s up to you and your spouse to nurture the spiritual side of your marriage. Because ultimately, nurturing the spiritual aspect of your relationship will be what binds your souls closer together. In other words, our marriages are at their best when we’re tending to our souls.

The good news is, determining whether you’ve married your soul mate isn’t a matter of guesswork. You simply have to take care of your souls.

So how do couples nurture one another’s souls and, ultimately, create that soul-mate bond so many of us long for?

1. THEY CULTIVATE SPIRITUAL INTIMACY

Each of us has a deep, abiding longing in our souls for connection. Most young people believe finding their soul mate and getting married will fill that void–and for a while, it seems like it does. But eventually, the longing comes rushing back, and we begin to wonder, “Was this really the person I was supposed to marry?”

Even couples who have done “all the right things” to achieve a healthy marriage–premarital counseling, practicing effective communication and conflict resolution skills, achieving emotional balance, adjusting expectations, and more–feel this longing when their soul care is not in working order.

If you and your spouse aren’t working toward spiritual intimacy, you’ll continue feeling restless. But if you bond with one another on a soul level, you’ll experience a deeper connection and more profound meaning, both in your marriage and in your life. God calls soul mates to pursue and share spiritual meaning; in your partnership, the only way to discover that successfully is to pursue it together.

2. THEY SEE GOD IN THEIR MARRIAGE

As you seek the spiritual meaning of your marriage together, God will be revealed to you more fully. Marriage itself has a way of revealing God to us, and anchoring ourselves in faith is critical to both the health of our relationship and our soul connection.

Marriage is an earthly metaphor that represents God’s love for us. Isaiah 62:5 says, “[…] as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” The Lord’s church is called “The Bride of Christ” multiple times in the Bible, and Jesus’s love for His church is an additional mirroring of the love and connection God intends for our marriages.

When we see and acknowledge these parallels, we gain a greater understanding of the sort of connection God wants us to pursue. In order to achieve this connection, we must practice God’s examples of faithfulness and forgiveness for each other on a daily basis. Without these two critical components, marriage can’t last.

Faithfulness is the foundation on which we build abiding trust. If both spouses aren’t willing to be faithful, the marriage crumbles. As God is faithful, we also promise faithfulness to one another.

Forgiveness allows us to start each day fresh. When we live together, we’ll inevitably step on each other’s toes (whether we mean to or not). We have to be willing to forgive each other over and over; if not, we risk growing bitter and resentful toward each other. As God is forgiving, we promise to forgive each other.

As we practice and model the qualities of God in our own marriages, we’ll see Him more and more.

3. THEY NURTURE THE SOUL OF THEIR MARRIAGE

Nurturing the spiritual aspect of your marriage requires daily, intentional action. Couples who practice soul care in their marriages:

  • Worship together
  • Serve one another–and others
  • Pray together

By keeping God in the center of their lives, they bind themselves closer together on a soul level.

If you would like help in cultivating your relationship on the soul-mate level, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

When Not to Talk: 7 Ways to Decide Whether Silence is Best (Part 2)

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When Not to Talk: 7 Ways to Decide Whether Silence is Best (Part 2) 

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles.” – Proverbs 21:23

Being silent when you and your spouse are dealing with an unresolved issue is a difficult choice to make, but sometimes, it’s the best choice for the health of your marriage. Last week, we began a two-part series on holding your tongue–and gave you three questions to ask yourself that will help guide your communication decisions. Today, we’re sharing four more.

4. IS ONE OF YOU BEING UNREASONABLE? (OR BOTH?)

When we’re debating issues that are highly emotional for one or both of us, it’s easy to slide into a place of overreaction. When we allow our emotions to govern our discussions, we can quickly become unreasonable–and it’s almost impossible to have a constructive conversation with someone you can’t reason with. Emotionally reactive, unreasonable interactions are rife with black-and-white thinking, generalized statements, and hurtful remarks, so it’s best to end these conversations until you’re both in a more receptive frame of mind.

Resolution Tip: If your spouse is being unreasonable, stop feeding into their emotional reaction. Instead, end the conversation with a polite statement like, “I’m going to give you space now,” then stick to it. Chances are, your spouse will come back around after they’ve cooled down.

5. DOES ONE OF YOU NEED SOME TIME TO THINK?

Have you two been going in circles around a big decision that means a lot to both of you? Even though you might feel very invested in a particular outcome, you need to determine whether your spouse needs a little more time to think about it–maybe more time than you’d like. Don’t push them; give them space and time to consider the options before you. Pressuring your spouse is only going to make the decision-making process more difficult…that could drag it out longer. If you resist the urge to nag or hound your spouse, you’ll be more likely to reach a compromise (that’s favorable for both of you) more quickly.

Resolution Tip: If you’re the spouse who needs a little extra time to think, end the ongoing conversations by saying something like, “That’s interesting. I’d like to think it over and let you know in a few days.” If your spouse is the one who needs time, honor their wishes and step back.

6. HAVE YOU BEEN A BROKEN RECORD ABOUT THIS ISSUE?

We know how it goes; your spouse probably has a few personality traits, quirks, or habits that really get on your nerves. And no matter how many times you’ve asked her to stop throwing her dirty clothes in the floor–or “reminded” him to fill up the gas tank instead of leaving it on empty–nothing seems to be changing. Or maybe you’ve gone round and round a particular conflict that you just can’t seem to resolve, and you’re exhausted. If you’ve been as repetitive as a broken record, maybe it’s time to take a break and give yourself some time to rest.

Resolution Tip: Decide on a set amount of time during which you’re going to drop the issue and not bring it up again. It could be three months, or it could be a year–the point is to give some space to the problem. In the meantime, figure out some ways you can alleviate the distress you’re feeling; for example, if your wife throws her laundry in the floor, chuck it in the hamper yourself. You might be surprised how much better you feel when the issue is resolved, even if it’s not resolved in the way you originally preferred.

7. ARE BOTH OF YOU READY TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION?

As with many of our interactions, anxiety can play a big part in propelling us into conversation–even when one of us isn’t in the right frame of mind to tackle the issue at that moment. Husbands, don’t try to start a deep or weighty conversation when your wife is immersed in a work assignment; and wives, if your husband is wrangling the kids at bedtime, it might be best to hold that thought until the little ones are settled.

Resolution Tip: Wait to discuss what’s on your mind until there are no pressing distractions or obligations demanding your immediate attention. Let your spouse finish what they’re in the middle of, then ask if it’s a good time to have that conversation.

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

How to Intentionally Pursue Joy With Your Spouse

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How to Intentionally Pursue Joy With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Keeping your marriage infused with joy is one of the greatest challenges–but can also be one of the biggest adventures–in your life as a couple. After the honeymoon, life can get bogged down by day-to-day drudgery and less-than-ideal circumstances that are beyond your control. And while it’s a little too easy to let these things drown your happiness, it’s important for the two of you to stay focused on finding the joy that keeps you moving forward, no matter what.

Today, we’re sharing some tips on how to intentionally pursue joy together, so that when the going gets tough, the hard times won’t destroy your happiness.

1. GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER AGAIN.

In the early part of your relationship, you two seemed to know everything about each other, right? You knew your spouse’s favorite movies, foods, songs, colors, and bands. You knew what made him or her tick, and you knew the perfect ways to make one another happy.

But how long have you been married? Even if you’ve only been married for a few years, some of those details may have changed. The longer we’re together, the more changes we’ll experience over time. So if it’s been awhile since you asked, it might be time to get to know your husband or wife all over again.

What matters most to your spouse? Are their favorite things still their favorites now, or have they moved on to new and different interests? If you haven’t been paying attention, now’s the perfect time to get caught up. Share your new favorites with your spouse, too.

Another great way to reconnect is to tell each other stories about your childhood that you might not know about each other. This will deepen your sense of connection and give one another insight into parts of your lives that you may not have shared before.

When you get back in touch with the core of who your spouse is, not only will you feel closer to one another–you’ll feel more joyful and more in love than ever.

2. STAY POSITIVE.

The world is full of enough bad news as it is, right? On top of that, most couples are dealing with near-constant crises of one kind of another. It’s just part of life. But if you want to pursue joy in your marriage, it’s critical to minimize the voices of negativity in your life and keep things as positive as you can.

We can’t avoid talking about and dealing with heavy topics; it’s totally fine, normal, and healthy to address the issues in your life. But don’t dwell on the negative all the time. If you’re going through a hard time in your life (or someone close to you is), it won’t be easy to shift your communication into positive messages, but making the effort to do so will pay dividends for your marriage.

When you come together after a long work day or finally go out on that date night you’ve been looking forward to, tell each other about the good things that have been going on at work, at home, or in your activities. Tell your spouse something good that happened to you that day. On the flipside, ask your spouse what the best part of his or her day was.

It’s also inspiring and effective to keep a journal of the things you’re thankful for and the things you love about each other. When you’re having a “down” day, just add to or refer to your existing list and the gratitude will help lift your spirits.

If you’ve allowed negativity to rule your life, it might take some time to shift the polarity. But stick with it, because it can be done–and you’ll thank yourselves when you realize how much more joy you have in your life as a result.

3. MAKE ‘EM LAUGH!

For an instant shot of joy, find a way to make your spouse laugh. Better yet, look for little ways every day to bring a smile to your spouse’s face.

You know your spouse better than anyone else, so you most likely “get” their sense of humor and know what’s going to make them laugh. Actively seek out ways to tickle their funny bone, because laughter is medicine.

Here are a few quick ways to get a chuckle out of your husband or wife:

  • Utilize social media to find memes or videos that they’ll appreciate
  • Throw out a silly quote or two from a funny movie or show they like
  • Look up jokes in their particular “flavor” of humor to share
  • Impersonate a character or celebrity for them
  • Settle down for a date night in with a funny movie, show, or stand-up comedy routine
  • Go see a new funny movie or attend an event that you know will make your spouse laugh

You’re creative and you know what your spouse likes, so use our handy list or an idea of your own, and get to laughing!

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

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.

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.

21 Ways to Love the Person You Married

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21 Ways to Love the Person You Married

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

It’s easy to fall in love and to marry the person you’ve fallen for; it’s a much bigger endeavor to nurture that love for a lifetime. The good news is, it can definitely be done! We’ve created a list of 21 ways to love the one you married. Put even a few of these into motion, and you’ll see your relationship continue to blossom and thrive over the years together. Let’s jump in!

1. OFFER YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.

Nothing is more validating than giving your spouse your undivided attention when they are speaking to you. When you intentionally make time to put distractions aside and focus on your spouse, they’ll feel loved, heard, and seen.

2. ASK TO SEE THEIR CREATIONS.

If your spouse is a creative person, show an interest in his or her paintings, writing, woodworking, drawings, music, poetry, etc. Engage with your spouse about what they’ve made or built, ask about their creative process, and show an interest in the materials they used to pull it all together. Praise their work and encourage them to continue creating.

3. LISTEN TO THEIR DREAMS.

Your spouse’s innermost dreams are precious; when they reveal dreams, goals, or ambitions to you, treat them as such. Even if a dream he or she shares doesn’t resonate with you at first, keep in mind that this is very personal for your spouse, and be willing to be receptive to it.

4. LAUGH AT THEIR JOKES.

Does your spouse have a funny bone–and enjoy tickling yours? Laugh at their jokes! It can be easy to let the stressors of life get to you, and stress can kill your sense of humor like nothing else. Don’t let it keep you from enjoying your spouse’s wit.

5. ALLOW THEM TO FULLY BE THEMSELVES.

You fell in love with your spouse because of the unique combination of features that makes them who they are–right? There may be times when some of your spouse’s qualities aren’t as attractive to you as they used to be…but allow them to be themselves, anyway. Your spouse will recognize and appreciate the freedom you give them to be who they truly are at heart.

For the rest of the items, check out the original post here.

If you would like help showing or rekindling love for the one you married, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Toxic People

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

How to Handle Invasive In-Laws

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How to Handle Invasive In-Laws

By Drs Les and Leslie Parrott

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

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

HAVE A HEART-TO-HEART…WITH YOUR SPOUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR INVASIVE PARENTS

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

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

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

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

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

ADVOCATE FOR YOUR SPOUSE

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

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

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

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

Three Simple Steps to More Joy in Your Life and Relationships

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Three Simple Steps to More Joy in Your Life and Relationships

By Shaunti Feldhahn

Does your mother-in-law make you want to pull your hair out by criticizing every move you make? Maybe your wife doesn’t appreciate all the things you do for your family, or it’s your husband who takes you for granted and always seems angry.

Perhaps you dread going to work every day because your boss talks down to you and you’ve had enough.

Or maybe it isn’t a bad relationship, but a good one … and you want it to be great.

What if you had the power to transform that relationship into one that is positive and brings joy into your life?

I’ve got great news …You do have the power. In fact, you have a superpower and it’s called kindness. Let me explain.

I’m a social researcher; and after years of study on what we call the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, we found three actions anyone can do to transform any relationship.  Because targeted kindness is a potent weapon and will soften any heart.

Including our own!

Here’s what you do.  Pick that someone with whom you want a better relationship.  For 30 days, you will:

  1. Say nothing negative about your person—either to them or about them to someone else. If you must provide negative feedback (for example, to discipline a child or correct a subordinate’s mistake), be constructive and encouraging without a negative tone.
  1. Every day, find one thing that you can sincerely praise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else.
  1. Every day, do one small act of kindness or generosity for them.

That’s it!  So simple.  And yet in our research for The Kindness Challenge, 89% of relationships improved!

What does this look like in practice?  Well, suppose you and your teenage daughter have been pushing each other’s buttons for weeks. Every conversation with her is like a minefield, not knowing what will set her off.

During the 30-Day Kindness Challenge, you resist the urge to ask “Why did you wait until the last minute to do your homework??” (No sighing in exasperation, either!) And you completely stop yourself from venting about it with your husband or your friends at work. (This is just for thirty days, remember!)  Instead, you look for things to praise. So you notice that it was really nice of her to take her little brother to get ice cream. You thank her for it – and then you tell your friends at work about the nice thing she did.

You’re also looking for that little act of generosity to do each day. So when you know she wants to meet her friends at the coffee shop after dinner but it’s her turn to clean the kitchen, you sincerely say, “I’ve got this. You go ahead and go. Have a great time.”

Trust me: Starting this process will show us a whole lot about what needs to change.  Not just in the other person: but in us. You will see just how negative you have been, in ways you never realized before.  (In The Kindness Challenge I outline the seven distinct types of negativity we found in the research, ranging from exasperation to overt criticism to suspicion.  I strongly recommend you find out your negativity patterns, so you can watch for them!)

But as you go, you will also see something amazing: you will see your feelings changing. Not only will you experience more joy and feel better about yourself, you’ll also start appreciating the other person more. You’ll see their defenses lowering. And you may see enjoyment and positivity in the relationship you haven’t seen in years.  An effort toward kindness won’t solve every problem – especially the big ones like addiction – but it will make them easier to solve.

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

Balancing Act: Marriage and Friendships

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Balancing Act: Marriage and Friendships

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Friendship is a great blessing. Can you imagine going through life without friends? (We sure can’t!) Our friendships make up some of the closest relationships in our lives, and that doesn’t stop when we get married.

But when we go through a huge change in life, like beginning a dating relationship or getting married, it shifts the landscape of our relationships. Even though these changes occur, it’s important to find a new balance together, because maintaining our close relationships is important. So how do we do that?

FOCUS ON YOUR MARRIAGE FIRST

When you get married, it can be difficult for your friends (especially if you’re the first one in your circle to tie the knot) to accept the inevitable changes in your relationships with them. They don’t want to “give you up,” in a sense, for you to embark on something new. But it’s impossible to keep pouring the same amount of time and effort into your friendships as before, while cultivating intimacy with your new spouse.

It’s important for you and your spouse to understand that you’re both going to have to make some adjustments to the amount of time you invest in your friendships. You’re starting a new life together, and you need this time. Be empathic toward one another, and work together to make sure you’re meeting one another’s needs, as well as honoring one another’s need for your other friendships.

It’s also important to show empathy toward you friends, who may not understand your need to pour more time into your marriage. If you need to, you can explain that there have been some changes in your life, and right now you need to honor those changes as you start this new chapter.

Remember, your single friends will probably start getting married soon, and at that point, they’ll have a better understanding of where you are right now. In the meantime, you’re the pioneer, so start setting some great patterns in motion. Your friends will see your example of dedication to your marriage, and that will give them a strong model to follow when they get married, themselves.

CREATE SHARED FRIENDSHIPS

One of the greatest joys of a healthy, happy couple is having a shared circle of social connections. Shared friendships enrich your life, but it’s tricky to create a social circle within your marriage that works for both of you (and for those you bring into the circle).

When you gather friends together, something magical happens. You and your spouse get to know the deeper layers of each other in the process, particularly if you have a shared past with some of these friends. Enjoying friends together will deepen and enrich your relationship.

It’s easy to find a single friend we’d like to spend time with, but when it comes to forging friendships with other couples–and creating a relaxed, comfortable dynamic–it takes work, and it’s not as easy to pull off. All four of you need that natural chemistry, and that can be a challenge to find.

But when you and your spouse do “click” with another couple, it’s so rewarding. Not only are you friends with each of them; the mentoring that occurs when you watch another marriage play out in front of you is a huge bonus. When it comes to friends like this, the whole really is greater than each individual.

MAINTAIN INDIVIDUAL FRIENDSHIPS

While we’re big proponents of shared friendships (especially with other couples), this doesn’t mean you can’t also have individual friends. Our lives are enriched by keeping connections with friends from the past, work colleagues, classmates, and others. Communicate openly with one another about these friends, and allow one another the space you need to continue cultivating these individual friendships.

Sometimes we have a sense of responsibility and ownership for friends who have been loyal to us over the years (especially the single years!). It’s important to try to pull those friends into your shared life, but there are times when some of the friends you choose might not be your spouse’s favorite choices, and vice versa.

If your spouse has a friend he or she wants to maintain a connection with, open your arms a little wider to this person. Honor your spouse’s shared history with them, and allow your social horizon to expand. Your spouse is loyal to their friend, and it’s important to show grace and to respect your spouse’s desire to keep this friend in your lives.

Over time, you may find that the friends who aren’t in the center of your shared social circle draw closer to you as a couple. Relationships shift and evolve over time, and you may find that a friend of your spouse’s–who might not have been your top pick at first–turns out to be one of your most loyal friendships.

If you would like help with this balancing act of marriage and friendships, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.