Yesterday evening, as I was returning home from a trip to the grocery store, I noticed that the plants on my porch appeared wilted and sagging. I thought to myself, “I just watered those yesterday”, but then I noticed the hot sun beaming down on them and realized they needed another drink in order to thrive again. I watered them, and within hours they perked right back up. This was a nice reminder that we can’t just nourish something once and expect it to thrive forever. We must water our plants multiple times a week or else they will die, and I’m sorry to break the news to you, my friends, but the same goes for our relationships. Now serving Edmond Through Edmond Marriage Counseling.
Often times, we start out strong in our relationships and our marriages. We pour on the nourishment in the beginning because things are fresh and new. It’s so easy in the beginning! Slowly though, over time, we fail to “water” the flower that is our partnership, and then we wonder why it begins to sag and wilt. If we nourish our marriage every single day, it will thrive. If we neglect it day after day, it will die. Simple as that! So how do we ensure that we provide the proper “nutrients” to our relationship on the daily? There are so many ways to do this, but I’m going to share an easy one with you: Be intentional about the daily transition times in your relationship. By transitions I mean, the way you say, “Good morning”, “See ya later”, “Hello again” and “Goodnight”. These are four beautiful, frequent opportunities to maintain positivity in your relationship. However, these are often taken for granted and become dull parts of our habitual existence. Decide right now that you will make a big, loving deal out of these four moments every day, and your relationship is already moving forward! Now serving Edmond Through Edmond Marriage Counseling.
Human beings are designed for connection. We all crave it, whether we admit it or not! We also want to feel significant and important. Well, nothing will make your partner feel more disconnected and more insignificant than being ignored or even overlooked by you! So, as you think about the best ways to execute your four primary daily transitions with your partner, think about how you can make them feel connected and significant. Try this trick from Mary Kay Ash: She said, “Whenever I meet someone, I try to imagine her wearing an invisible sign that says MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT. I respond to this sign immediately and it works every time.” Imagine if you used this trick when you first see your spouse in the morning, or when they first walk through the door after work each day. Do whatever it takes to make them feel important, and I promise, the tone of your relationship will instantly feel better. Do this at EVERY transition of the day, and you’ll feel more connected as a couple. Here are a few more tips for generating feelings of significance and connection in each of your transitions throughout the day: Now serving Edmond Through Edmond Marriage Counseling.
Tip #2: Kiss & Hug! Throw a few extra seconds into your kisses and hugs to let your partner know you don’t take them for granted. Consider Romans 16:16, which says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss”. Make your kiss holy! Muah!
Tip #3: Pray together at one (or more) of the transitions. Praying together as a couple is the most intimate thing you can do with your clothes on! Now serving Edmond Through Edmond Marriage Counseling.
Tip #4: Use a pet name. “Goodnight, Babe” always feels better than a simple “Goodnight”. Now serving Edmond Through Edmond Marriage Counseling.
Tip #5: The “Hello again” might be the most important transition! (This is when you return home to each other after a day away at work or being apart for any reason.) Make this a big deal! Greet your partner in a way that is meaningful and communicates that you’re happy to see them, even on days when you’re not feeling up to it! (Half the battle of marriage is meeting your partner’s needs even when you don’t feel like it. Do it! It matters and it’s a game-changer!). Now serving Edmond Through Edmond Marriage Counseling.
Tip #6: Don’t take your transitions for granted. This one is easier said than done. However, we all know that we can’t guarantee our next breath, so don’t pretend that you can guarantee your next transition with your spouse. Say “Good Morning” and “Goodbye” like it’s the last one! Now serving Edmond Through Edmond Marriage Counseling.
One of my favorite words is “intentional”, because it suggests that we are actively and deliberately living our life instead of just allowing it to happen. Be intentional in your relationships! Be intentional about daily transitions with your partner! Greet them with purpose and leave them with love. These are nurturing ingredients for a lasting connection! Now serving Edmond Through Edmond Marriage Counseling.
Summer Smith is a therapist at New Vision Counseling & Consulting. A place where help you discover what better looks like for you and equip you with the tools to create it.
Walking through the halls of a church a few years ago I saw a poster for a class and in big letters it said, “It’s Complicated” and then in smaller letters, “A class on relationships.” This struck me because while I know relationships are complicated, I wondered how much we complicate them unnecessarily.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist I see daily how complicated relationships can be, but I also see how complicated we can make our relationships. My goal is to help people avoid unnecessarily complicating their relationships, and I came up with three ways we do this.
The first way we complicate things in relationships is by trying to take responsibility for the other person in our relationship. We take responsibility for their emotions, their happiness, their time, etc., and what begins as a well-meaning attempt to make their lives better quickly turns into an impossible task. What happens when all your attempts fail to keep your partner or child or family member happy? Usually you try harder and harder until you finally realize you can’t do it! You can’t control another human being and it gets complicated!
Here’s how to simplify this: Remember that you have a responsibility to the other person, not for the other person Your responsibility is for yourself, but not for the other person. You bring your best to the relationship, but you can’t take over for the other person. Sounds simple, and it is, but putting it in to practice can be challenging. Why? Because you have to give up control of the other person. You have to allow them to feel and think and behave so they can grow, and you might not like the way they do it.
To give you an illustration, I received a questionnaire back that I sent a prospective client who stated his main problem was that his wife was unhappy. When he answered the question, “What have you tried to do to solve your problem?”, he wrote me a list of about 20 things he had tried to do to make his wife happy and they had all failed. Now, he was very resentful of his wife because she was not changing and he felt helpless. No matter what he did, she was still unhappy! Through therapy he learned how to quit taking responsibility for her and start taking responsibility for himself and focus on his responsibility to her—to support her, to listen to her, to cherish her. Then, he was able to make the changes in himself that he needed to and it took a ton of pressure off his wife to be happy for him and she was able to express what she needed and what she was feeling.
The second way we complicate our relationships is by putting all of our needs in one relationship. I read and research a lot about marriage and here’s one of the biggest things coming up: we now expect more out of our marriages than ever before. Why? Because for most of history marriage was mainly about personal, financial, and social stability of those involved, especially for women. Being passionately in love with someone was not a prerequisite or an expectation for marriage like it is now. In the United Staes in 2019, marriage is not seen as a means for economic stability but as a means for emotional stability, romance, and growth. Of those, our culture really pushes for romance and passion as the most important facets of marriage.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just a new thing. Now, one of the most important qualities for a man is to be emotional stable and connected. Can you see the problem, here? What have men been historically and socially trained to avoid, see as pointless, or not deal with? You guessed it, emotion! Men are having to learn how to be emotional after be told for so long not to be. This is not an excuse for men, but a reality to face and a place for men to grow.
Another consequence of this change has been men and women having less friendships outside their marriage. Men and women are having to learn how to be husband and wife, best friend, confidant, lover, and emotional supporter all at the same time. That’s a tall order! Having close same-sex relationships, something I believe is very important for people and marriages, is becoming less and less common as we lean on our spouses to be our best friends. We need more friends than just our spouse to be healthy in life.
To simplify this one, you need to make sure you are not putting all your needs on your partner and make sure you have other people that you are close to and that you can go to for friendship and support. As a man I need other men in my life who can listen to me and can support me when I am struggling as a man or husband. I do not need to put all this on my wife—I’ve tried and she just gets stressed and resentful. She does not need to be my only support. What makes a marriage complicated is trying to switch between lover, supporter, protector, friend, advisor, etc., all the time. It is important have a best friend outside your marriage to help balance this, and this friend needs to be of the same gender who strongly supports your marriage.
For women, I do not envy you. I believe many women have been raised in so much competition and distrust with each other that it can feel really vulnerable to be close with other women. There is a reason the Mean Girls type movies exist. I’ve talked to my wife and other women about this and have heard how difficult it can be to not feel judged by other women. However, there are ways other women can support you and hear you and love you that your husband cannot.
The third way we complicate relationships is by not truly listening to each other. Listening is a lost art, and so few of us do it well. I believe if we would listen and really try to understand each other, we would have a lot less problems (I’d venture to say at least 75% less).
I’ll be the first to confess I struggle listening. As much as I teach it to others, I still struggle to hold back my thoughts before I really understand someone. Listening takes serious effort while talking is so easy to do. We have a term we therapists like to call active listening, which means to listen with the intent to understand someone else and to give verbal and non-verbal feedback that we are listening. Listening is not a passive action, but an intentional act.
To simplify this, learn to listen. Practicing giving someone else your ears and not taking over the conversation or jumping in before you really understand them. Ask questions about what the other person is saying and take time to listen to them. I don’t know about you, but when I feel like someone is truly listening to me, I feel honored and comfortable and valued.
One of my greatest joys in life is to help others find more joy and passion in their lives so they can live amazing lives. I love helping people simplify and uncomplicated their relationships so they can love more fully and more completely. If you would like to work with me, you can contact me at New Vision Counseling at (405) 921-7776.
In addition, we have other great therapists at New Vision that are more than happy to help you on the same journey. I encourage you to seek out help if you are feeling like you are in a place you don’t want to be emotionally or spiritually, whether that is in your individual life or in your relationships. Please reach out and let us help you discover what better looks like for you and then equip you with the tools to create it. We can be reached at (405) 921-7776 or go to NewVisionCounseling.live to find out more.
By Misty Tafao
We all struggle with negative thoughts. However, it is what we do with those thoughts that matter. It becomes a problem when we allow ourselves to maintain negative thoughts. When we are constantly thinking negatively, it can impact our mental, physical, and spiritual health, as well as have impacts on other areas of life.
If you struggle with depression and/or anxiety, your negative thoughts feed them and create a greater manifestation of symptoms. Scripture tells us not to worry or be anxious about anything (Phil. 4:6). When we allow ourselves to be overcome with anxiety, we are exalting our thoughts (pretension) above God’s word. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us that we can “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It is highly likely that your negative thoughts are contradicting the truth of God’s word, and God instructs us on how to handle it.
Satan is aware of the significance of what goes on in our minds. He knows how much power our thoughts have over our emotions and behaviors. If we do not take control of our thoughts, our thoughts can control us. As we take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, we are less likely to be conformed to the patterns of this world, and instead we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Many of us wonder, “How do you ‘renew’ your mind?” I am going to share with you 3 practical steps that you can use to begin renewing your mind immediately.
1. Catch it. Catch your thought. As I mentioned before, 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take our thoughts captive; this is where it starts. We cannot change what we do not know, so it is important to begin identifying your thoughts, which are made up of statements or images. When we start catching our thoughts, we can identify which ones are harmful to us and contrary to Scripture. People do not generally think about what they are thinking about, so in the beginning this might seem a bit difficult, but it will get easier with time. I want to encourage you to keep identifying your thoughts. You are building a new skill! Start a thought log. It will be helpful to jot down thoughts as you catch them. While tracking your thoughts, use your emotions as an alarm to alert you to pay attention to what you are thinking. If you are feeling stressed, disappointed, angry etc., take a minute to notice your thoughts. What are you telling yourself?
2. Check it. Once you have identified your thought, you can check it by analyzing evidence to determine if your thought is true. Your evidence can include many different elements, and the more you have the better. You can use experiences as evidence. For example, if your thought tells you that you are not good at anything, consider the things you are good at doing (ie. good grades, good parenting, good cook, good at sports). If you make a list of the things that you do well, it disputes the idea that you are not good at anything. Another form of evidence is Scripture. Compare your thoughts with what the Bible says, for we know that if it contradicts Scripture it is a lie.
3. Change it. After you come to the realization that your thought is untrue, it is important to change it. This is where you make the thoughts obedient to Christ. If Scripture tells you that your thought is a lie, use what Scripture says as your truth. Begin speaking that truth out loud over yourself. Write it down. You can also hang it up somewhere so that you see it often and can be reminded. Memorize the Scripture and meditate on it. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is alive and active.” It is ALIVE and ACTIVE! That means when God’s word is within us, it is not simply lying dormant, it is judging the thoughts and attitudes of our heart and making changes that we cannot make on our own.
By using these 3 steps consistently, you will begin renewing your mind. You will see changes in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is going to be challenging, but if you stick with it, you will see the fruit! If you find that you are struggling with your thought life and need some additional help, we here at New Vision Counseling and Consulting in OKC and Edmond OK would love to come along side you in your journey of transformation.
Creed, T. A., Reisweber, J., & Beck, A. T. (2011). Cognitive therapy for adolescents in school settings. New York: Guilford Press
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
Do you ever find yourself getting up in the morning and feeling like it is just another day? Same bed, same shower, same thoughts, same job, same clothes… It’s easy to get stuck on autopilot where the date changes, but nothing else really seems to change. It’s almost as if you are living one long day.
Sometimes you might even start the day strong, but once you get into your daily routine find yourself depleted or tired and in need of a pick-me-up. I wonder if that’s part of the reason the Starbuck’s drive-thru near my house is just as busy in the afternoon as it is in the morning.
In fact, many of us live our lives this way and we forget that each day is a new day with new possibilities and opportunities. We need to renew ourselves daily so we can experience life each day and experience God’s mercies that are new every morning.
Here are three ways you can renew yourself daily:
- Create a renewing morning ritual. Roosters crow, the neighbor’s dog barks, birds chirp, and what do we do? Slowly roll out of bed, moan, and drag ourselves to the bathroom. Not too inspiring, is it? Create a morning ritual that wakes you up and gets you excited. I realize the non-morning people may have just rolled their eyes! This may be a morning prayer or a morning meditation that you do first thing when you wake up. You could also have a motto you say upon rising, like “I’m awake, what a gift to be alive today!” Or you could jump out of bed and say, “Thank you!” On a more morbid note, there are a lot of people (an estimated 150,000 according to quora.com) in the world that did not wake up this morning, and we forget that just waking up is worth some thanksgiving. For you crazy people out there like me, jump in a cold shower for a few seconds (of course, consult your doctor if you have any medical conditions that could be affected by this like heart problems). This will really wake you up and it delivers some adrenaline to get you going.
- Change your breathing. One of the easiest and best ways we know to help renew ourselves at any time of the day is to take deep breaths! If you are like me, you rarely stop and think, “How am I breathing today?” If you are stressed out your breathing is usually shallower and you are anticipating something you are more than likely holding your breath more than you realize. Our breathing is part of what communicates to our body what’s going on around us (is it safe out there or not?), so it’s important to remind our bodies that it’s safe and okay to grow and live well. I recommend taking at least 2-3 breaks during the day and taking six deep breaths (inhale through the nose and exhale out the mouth, if possible). Sometimes I will have clients do this in session to reset and get into a more relaxed state. Even with a few deep breaths a lot of tension can be released.
- Connect with God and others in a meaningful way. Even as an introvert, I find that if I stay in my own little world all day and don’t reach out and have meaningful connection in a day, I feel isolated and less energetic. Making sure I have a conversation, even if brief, with someone that I enjoy, can help renew and strengthen me during the day. I believe it has something to do with feeling part of something greater than myself. Take some time each day to have a renewing conversation with someone. If you are married, I hope you are in a marriage where you can have meaningful conversation and share life. When reading the Bible it seems clear that we were created to live in community with others and that in community we are at our most powerful. Also, and maybe even more important, is connecting with God in a meaningful way each day. Pray, meditation, thanksgiving, praise—find a way each day to connect with God past just the prayers at meals or in moments of desperation. As Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Today, try these way to renew yourself. Who knows what might happen with some renewed energy and purpose in your day! Get out of the monotony of life and wake yourself up to the world of possibility that is around you, even in difficult circumstances. Give your anxieties and worries to God and experience the life you were called to live.
One of my greatest joys in life is to help others find more joy and passion in their lives so they can live amazing lives. I love helping people break the patterns that are breaking them and keeping them from experiencing what life and their walk with Christ has to offer. You can contact me at New Vision Counseling if you would like to work with me.
In addition, we have other great therapists at New Vision that are more than happy to help you on the same journey. I encourage you to seek out help if you are feeling like you are in a place you don’t want to be emotionally or spiritually, whether that is in your individual life or in your relationships. Please reach out and get on your journey to better living and relating to yourself and others. We can be reached at (405) 921-7776.
Vows with Power: Adding Commitments to Your Marriage After the New Wears Off
By: Summer Smith, LCSW
March 18th, 2018 was one of the most special days of my life. I stood in a beautiful chapel, in front of my family and friends, and exchanged vows with the man of my dreams. The week before, I took my time and wrote a paragraph full of meaningful promises that I felt were most important in the success of our marriage. As our very first anniversary approaches, I’ve learned that those promises were indeed meaningful, but I could have said so many more specific, purposeful things that might have drawn a clearer road map for our happily ever after. For example, I could have said, “I promise I will do the dishes when you cook the dinner”. I could have vowed, “I will take the kids to school if you will pick them up” or “I will hold your hand at every opportunity”. As I’m writing this, my knight in shining armor is in the kitchen, on his third, excruciating hour of assembling a filing cabinet for my new office. Perhaps one of his more constructive vows on our wedding day might have been, “I commit to assembling whatever you order on Amazon without cursing at it or destroying it in the process”. That one might have come in handy this evening, though I must say, the filing cabinet is in tact and I never heard any four-letter-words that weren’t printed on the instructions. I’m so proud!
It’s no secret that marriage in reality is drastically different than the expectation we had at the altar. However, if we approach it the right way, it can be far better than we imagined! Here are some ideas for updating your vows and renewing your marriage, no matter how long you’ve been in it!
Identify Your Problem Areas
If you’ve got even a few months of marriage under your belt, chances are you’ve already noticed some problem areas. Perhaps your spouse has an annoying habit that used to be cute but is now overwhelming. Maybe you’re learning that when your husband is upset with you, he shuts down or that your wife uses critical language to influence the behavior she wants from you. It’s possible one of you has inadvertently taken on the role of initiating sex, but is starting to feel resentful that the sex is never initiated by your spouse. Whatever the less-than-ideal areas in your partnership, big or small, identify them with your spouse and then begin open discussion with ideas for improvement.
Replace Vague with Specific
On our wedding day, we said “For better or worse, for richer or poorer”, but what exactly does worse mean for you and your spouse? What is rich in your book and what is poor in hers? As you begin to identify the problem areas in your marriage, explore very specific strategies for improvement. Instead of saying, “I will try to touch you more often”, say “I will kiss you every morning before I leave and hug you every day when I return home.” Instead of, “I’ll be more mindful of our budget”, try promising, “I will not make a purchase over $300 without consulting you first.” Specific, measurable commitments give us a clear path to follow and leave less room for interpretation. These types of promises are easy to execute and make it easy to know whether you did or did not deliver!
Some Templates to Get You Started
If a blank slate seems too daunting, consider some of these pre-written promises to get your wheels turning. I surveyed multiple married people who shared some of their current problem areas. From those, I created some phrases that might give rise to resolution. Some of these are from my own marriage and have been incredibly helpful. It’s so refreshing to have some specific, measurable rules for navigating this love game we play together every day! Feel free to adopt any of these or get creative with your own!
I will pray out loud with you every day before we leave for work.
When you are talking to me, I will put my phone down and give you my full attention.
I will communicate when I’m angry or hurting instead of shutting down or shutting you out.
I will not argue with you in front of our kids.
I will initiate sex with you at least once a week.
When I need or want help with a task, I will ask for help out loud (and specifically) instead of expecting you to pick up on my cues and read my mind.
I will not watch pornography, because our sex life is sacred and even visual images of others is a violation of what we have.
Even though I’ve taken the role of bill-paying, I will discuss our budget and financial status with you every week (on this scheduled day & time).
I will not put myself in a high-risk situation, because our marriage is a treasure that must be protected and cherished. (Discuss what you each believe to be “high risk” situations.)
I will not make big plans or decisions that affect our household without at least a phone call or discussion with you.
I will give you two compliments or affirmations per day, because I know that is important to you.
I will reach out and touch you a minimum of three times per day, no matter what mood I’m in.
I will make a point to participate in things that are important to you, even if they are of no interest to me.
If I’m going to be late, I will call you.
I will ask you on a date every single week.
If I’ve had a bad day at work, I will stop at the front door and say a prayer before I come inside, asking God to restore my positive attitude so my family doesn’t suffer the consequences.
Say Your New Vows Out Loud
After you’ve discussed your problem areas and settled on some specific strategies for improvement, schedule some alone time with your spouse and say these new promises out loud. Take each other by the hand and sincerely declare your commitment to changing these things. Take an additional step and write them down somewhere, so that you can revisit them regularly and make sure they remain in the front of your mind! Even better, consider posting them somewhere that you’ll see them every day, like the dash of your car or on your bathroom mirror. (Those folks who created the wall art that says “Always kiss me goodnight” were on to something!)
Consider Professional Help
If you set out on this journey with good intentions, but suddenly the discussion about problem areas turns into an all-out brawl about why you even got married in the first place or “If you think I’m so critical, then I’ll just stop talking to you altogether!”, then it’s possible you could benefit from a mediator of sorts. Often times in relationships, our personal insecurities, emotional “baggage” or past trauma make it difficult for us to accept constructive feedback because it invokes shame or triggers subconscious issues we didn’t even know where there. We are a product of our experiences. Our childhood relationships, no matter how healthy, can shape the way we interact with our spouse. Past, unhealthy romantic relationships can play a role in our interpersonal functioning as well. The same goes for long-term patterns of unhealthy behavior in your current relationship that have gone unchecked. If any of these things are interrupting your ability to productively renew your relationship, then don’t hesitate to call a professional marriage counselor. A third party navigator with expertise in human behavior and relationships can be a game-changer! If you’re not yet married, but plan to be soon, call a marriage counselor for pre-marital counseling. This is an amazing way to set specific rules and expectations before you even get started!
Treat Your Marriage Like a Treasure
Finally, remember that your marriage is sacred. It is important. It deserves protection. Matthew 19:6 says, “They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate”. Specific rules and procedures should be in place to prevent the loss or destruction of this treasure of yours. You place your valuables in a safe and your money in a bank. How will you protect your most sacred union? Write the procedures for that today!