How to Tell Your Kids You’re Having Problems in Your Marriage

Talking to Your Child about Your MarriageIn an ideal world, marriage would be continually blissful and if there just happened to be a disagreement, it would be a trite little thing resolved in moments. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. In our humanness, we are guaranteed to face conflict at some point in time.

Conflict within the home, especially, can have a lasting impact on our children. How we deal with this conflict and what we choose to do with it can determine how our children are affected by it.

Should we tell our children what’s going on?

We can expect to deal with disagreements in marriage and have marital conflict, let’s define ‘marital conflict’ as an ongoing strenuous point in your relationship. Although we might have ongoing disagreements, many times we feel conflicted about when to tell the children or even if we should.

Your children need the heads up if the conflict has been going on for a period of time and it is disrupting the marriage:

  1. To the point of going to counseling
  2. Sleeping in separate rooms
  3. Moving to separate places

Parents often think they’re doing a service to their child by hiding everything from them and one day surprise them with the news of one spouse moving out. This can be earth shattering to a child. Imagine sending your child to school one day and everything is fine and the next day they need to face school with the news their parents are separating.

Talking to your children in an age appropriate manner can help relieve some of the stress. They don’t need every detail but having parents on the same page with their children can be stress relieving.

How do we talk to our children about what is taking place within the home?
  • It’s important to realize that children rely on the home as being a stable environment. This helps your child thrive. Marital conflict does not mean you’re going to ruin your child, but there must be clear communication by parents.
  • There needs to be a clear message from both parents that the conflict is strictly between the adults and that your child is NOT at fault in anyway.
  • Sharing with the child, dependent on age – less details when younger, more when older – the basics of the conflict, what you as parents are doing to work through it, and goals for an outcome.
  • This is best done when everyone can sit down as a family. When children can hear the same thing from both parents and have assurance from both parties, they are less likely to  feel caught in the middle. This gives the child a sense of safety and security and allows the child to focus on their developmental goals – making friends, engaging in school and other activities – and not be consumed with the parent’s relationship. This is a vital piece for children.
Here are a few examples of dialogues for different ages:

Elementary: Remember this is best done with both parents present.

Susie, mom and dad want to talk to you about something that is going on. Mom and dad are having some trouble getting along and so we are going to sleep in separate rooms for a little while so we can work on getting along. This is between mom and dad and it is no one’s fault. We want to you to keep playing and having fun. If you have any questions you can ask either one of us.” (It’s best to have both parents talking during this discussion). “We love you and we’re so glad you’re a part of our family.”

High school: Again, best done with both parents present.

Tommy, we have something we need to share with you. Your mom and I have been not getting along for some time and are having a difficult time coming to a resolution. We are in counseling and seeking help so we can have the best marriage possible. In the meantime, we are going to be sleeping in separate rooms. This is not your fault or your brother’s fault. This is between your mom and I. We are here for you no matter what and if you have any questions you can feel free to ask at any time. We love you and we’re so glad you’re a part of our family.

Here is a more detailed process on how to talk with your children:

Allow your child to ask questions.

This is a scary time for them. By allowing them to ask questions:

  • It reinforces that they are very much a part of the family
  • Communicates they are not a part of the problem
  • Shows that there is open communication

Your child may or may not have questions immediately come to them. Let them know that you understand this and are available to them when those questions arise. Some parents may face children, specifically teens, who become distant or annoyed with the conversation.

This does not mean your child is disinterested but simply is using a defense mechanism to help themselves cope with the news. As a parent, be careful not to let this determine a response of ‘they’re not interested’, ‘they’re fine’, or ‘they don’t care. None of those would prove to be accurate.

Don’t make promises you cannot keep.

For example, don’t promise your children that everything will be back to normal or that a spouse will come back home if they have chosen to leave. There is no way you can guarantee this, even if it is what is hoped for. Being age appropriate honest with your kids will give them a greater sense of security than if you promise things you cannot deliver.

Put yourself in your child’s shoes.

If you were 6 or 8, 14 or 17, what would you need from your parents during this time? There’s an age old adage that says ‘hindsight is 20/20’. Your child may not know what they need specifically from you at this time. Help them put words to their needs by putting yourself in their shoes.

Keep nasty comments to yourself.

They are not helpful in any way, shape, or form. They are destructive not only to the child, the relationship with the child and the other spouse, but to you and your child. If the conflict arises to such a degree, there needs to be a clear understanding that defaming the spouse in front of the children is simply not okay.

If you need additional help communicating with your kids about your marriage, or help with your marital conflict, please contact me at The Relationship Center.

 

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Anxiety in Men: Common Warning Signs

anxiety

Anxiety in men is real and impacts life substantially.  However, it often goes unnoticed, by both the man and those who care about him.  When the “a” word is used, the response is immediate, “No, I am not anxious!”  The old saying is true: a man isn’t afraid, he’s just concerned.  As a therapist who specializes in working with men, there are common warning signs of anxiety I look for.  A man won’t use words like anxiety or fear, but he may identify as:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities and expectations.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.
  3. Being easily fatigued.
  4. Restlessness and inability to relax.
  5. Feeling unable to control or manage his worry.
  6. Becoming less effective/productive in work and home responsibilities.

*See below to learn more about each of the seven warning signs of anxiety in men.

  1. Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations.  Men are like pick-up trucks.  They are built to work and haul loads (life responsibilities).  In fact, just like a pick-up, if there’s no load in the back, their handling can get kind of wild (think of the way many young, single men live and behave).  While it’s good for him to carry a load, sometimes life’s load gets imbalanced or he is not effective in carrying it.  Generally, instead of recognizing this and communicating a need for help, he will struggle silently, growing more frustrated.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.  Like it or not, most men anxiety/fear with weakness.  Weakness is not something he is comfortable with, at least his own weakness.  Men will often make flippant comments about the box of tissues in my office, trying to joke with me about needing it.  Anger, in the form of irritability, frustration, being demanding/controlling, is a safe way for a man to express fear.  Anger gives the illusion of power and mastery.  However, it is ineffective in solving the real problem.  Think of it another way.  If a child is afraid or overwhelmed emotionally, they will often react with anger.  They feel powerless, and to deal with this, they are using angry outbursts to demand control.  It’s as if they are saying, “If I get angry, I won’t have to feel afraid anymore/If I have a choice between anger and fear, I choose anger.”   
  3. Being easily fatigued.  If a man loses the “zip” in his step or enthusiasm for life, it can be a sign he is struggling.  Anxiety is one of the most energy zapping emotions.  It has the effect of causing a man to expend several times the usual amount of energy to accomplish the same tasks.  I use the following example with men:

a b line

There are two points above, A & B.  The line takes me from A to B in the simplest, most efficient way possible – in a straight line.  Only the necessary amount of energy is expended in this example, but what happens if we add anxiety?

Anxiety makes a big difference, taking our once straight line and turning it into a phone cord.  Yes, the man is still able to get from A to B, but if we stretch out the line, it’s clear he has had to go farther and expend more energy to get there.  No wonder he is so tired.

  1. Restlessness and inability to relax.  Once we realize why our guy is so fatigued, it’s clear he needs to rest. The problem is, he can’t.  Strong feelings of anxiety keep causing him to feel as if rest is not a good idea.  He must remain vigilant, even if he does not have a good reason to.  Explaining this to loved ones is difficult.  In counseling, I use the example of a fire alarm.  Imagine if you are in a building and its very loud fire alarm is sounding.  It causes you to feel the need to act, to get out of the building, exactly what it was designed to do.  Now imagine a loved one was there in the building with you, but they could not hear the alarm.  They keep telling you to lie down and rest, maybe even take a nap, but it’s impossible.  You try to explain this to them, but they just don’t get it.  Hunger is only a burden to those without food to eat, but for the rest of us, it’s just a cue to go to the refrigerator.  Fatigue is only a burden to those who cannot rest.
  2. Feeling unable to control or manage his worry.  Some anxiety is normal and a part of life.  Too much can be an inescapable burden.  Most of us are working to manage our anxiety throughout our day.  It’s like we are juggling balls, and most of the time, feel pretty adept at doing so.  However, the man who is anxious feels as if he has way too many balls to juggle.  No matter how much he tries to manage them better he keeps dropping them.  Anxiety goes from being a normal life experience to a sign that something bad is about to happen.    
  3. Becoming less effective/productive in work and home responsibilities.  Too much anxiety has the net effect of making a man less effective in important areas of his life.  He is unable to concentrate his efforts and energies on the task at hand, leading to poor performance.  His problems are also beginning to multiply.  As his productivity lessens, his backlog increases and so does his anxiety.  An insurmountable obstacle is forming, which will cause him significant problems down the road.  Anxiety has worked to justify its existence by creating real, identifiable problems.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with anxiety, there is competent, caring help available.  At The Relationship Center, we have counselors who specialize in helping men with anxiety.  Give us a call today at 417-763-3309. 

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical
manual of mental disorders
(4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Winning a Fight With Your Spouse

Love & MarriageIt may not look like black eyes and bruises, but spousal disagreements are just a part of marriage. No one is ever looking to lose a fight, but what if there is a way for both parties to ‘win’. See, winning isn’t about proving your rightness or their wrongness, but making sure each party is heard and understood – working to come to a conclusion together. That’s what builds the bond of cohesiveness within a marriage.

Let’s take a look at six specific ways to win a fight with your spouse:

1. Ask for Time to Talk:

Just because something pops up into your mind doesn’t mean it is the best time to talk about it. Take some time to evaluate; have you both just had a strenuous day? Is someone sick? Is the baby crying? Ask your spouse if now is a good time to talk, share that there is something that has been on your heart that you would like to work out. If now is not a good time, schedule a time to come back and talk about the issue and resolve it. Letting it fester will only burn a hole in your heart and make you resentful towards your spouse.

2. Take Personal Responsibility:

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. The same is true for emotions across the board. Though our spouse can have influence over our emotions, we are ultimately responsible for the way we feel. With that being said, blaming your spouse for making you mad or sad or angry just isn’t going to work. Personal responsibility for one’s own emotions looks like “I feel hurt…” Coming from this stance not only gives validation to your heart, but can stop you from pouring gasoline onto already hot coals.

3. Be Respectful:

Being called names wasn’t fun in elementary school and it’s not fun in a marriage. Just because there is a disagreement doesn’t mean that it is okay to berate or belittle the one you chose to spend your life with. Being respectful also means you allow your spouse to feel what they feel. Not being easily offended by their emotions, which also means you’re not going to tell them that what they are thinking or feeling is wrong. Their experience is true to them just like yours is to you. Telling your spouse that they should not be thinking a certain way and trying to ‘win’ them over to your side is not respectful and will only create a larger distance between you.

4. Lay the Past to Rest:

By bringing up the past you state clearly that you have yet to clear the air on former issues. You’ve allowed a hole to fester in your heart in the form of resentment and now it’s seeping poisonous toxins. No one benefits from bringing up past issues. Using phrases like “always” and “never” also indicate you’re still stewing on the past. Once you and your spouse have discussed an issue, let it be.

5. Stay on Point:

If you have come to your spouse with a punch list of wrongs they have committed, then you have not done a good job of caring for your heart. Perhaps you’ve played the role of ‘serving spouse’ – you’ve quietly taken care of ‘wrongs’ committed by your spouse but in your heart you’re building piles of resentment. There is no benefit in playing this role and it creates space between you and your spouse. Tackle issues as they arise. Decide the one issue that is pressing, stick to it, and resolve it. It can feel overwhelming when your spouse comes to you with a list of 15 things you’ve done wrong. If there are more topics to be covered, schedule a time.

6. Check Your Heart, Check With God:

Take your heart and your hurt before God. Is this disagreement one that is affecting your marriage or is it a personal preference of yours? Making sure the towels are folded just right is not an indicator of your spouse’s love or dislike for you. It’s a personal preference that needs to be worked out within your own heart. Sometimes fighting fairly with your spouse can be difficult and needs outside intervention.

If you and your spouse need help in navigating fighting fairly, please know help is available. Click Here to schedule an appointment to talk with someone at The Relationship Center about helping you and your spouse strengthen your marriage.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Mistakes Men Make When Talking to Their Wives

As a counselor who specializes in working with men, Cracking a SafeI often sit with guys who are at their wits end in trying to talk to their wives. It’s an age old problem: How on earth does he talk to this woman?

She makes no sense to him, much of the time. He wants to have a good relationship, but this seems completely out of reach. Men frequently make a common, three step mistake in attempting to talk to their wives. The mistakes men make when talking to their wives is outlined here.

Step 1: Cracking the Safe

When I sit with men having relationship issues, it is often like watching an old fashioned bank robbery.

He is sitting at the safe door with a stethoscope, listening intently, as he turns the safe dial a little bit at a time, trying to figure out the combination. The man wants to be able to talk to his wife, and is convinced he must figure out the “combination” to do so. To him, it’s a simple trial and error method.

He’s come to session excited, barely able to contain the great news. It has finally worked! He shares with me after years of trying to figure out how to approach his wife about difficult issues, he found a way that seems to work. By “work”, he means she does not become overly emotional or escalate into a rage. Now, he has a tool he can pull out of his toolbox, as needed. No more anxiety and dread, he knows how to handle her.

Gradually, by trying various techniques, he will find a way that works and his problem will be solved, or so he thinks.

Step 2: Managing Her

With his new tool, the man is attempting to do something which is impossible for him, managing his wife’s emotions, behaviors, and attitudes for her. Let’s break it down using his logic: “If I do ________ she will respond with ________. Her response is dependent on and dictated by my action.” The logic seems very compelling, except it is fundamentally flawed. First, as mentioned previously, he is taking responsibility for her emotions, behaviors, and attitudes. These are her responsibility. She must be the one to handle them. Second, if his objective in responding the way he does is to illicit in her the response he desires, that is, by definition, manipulation. Ouch! She is not free to own her stuff and he feels trapped by her response.

Step 3: Seeking Stability

The ultimate goal is stability, not a real relationship. The man, without knowing it, is trying to exercise control over events to create the stability he desires in his life. In other words, if he responds in a certain way, he can and should have her respond to him in the way he wants. No meaningful intimacy or growth, for either partner, can occur in such an environment. Instead, it is a way of avoiding discomfort – that is the ultimate goal.

The Answer

Relationship is process, not solution driven. For men, this is difficult to wrap our heads around, but we must. We like lasting solutions and routine. However, the reality of a relationship is it is dynamic and changing. In other words, if we actually succeeded in what we were after, our relationship would lack excitement, adventure, and romance. We in turn, would probably lose interest.

Think of the idea of a process this way, if you decided to start exercising and eating right, you would do this on a daily basis. It would be a kind of lifestyle change. You would not look the mirror one day and say “Well, I look the way I wanted, so I guess I am done.” If you did, you would quickly return to the way you were before. You keep going in the process, seeing it as where you need to be and stop looking for the one answer or the destination. Your job is not to find out the exact way to approach your wife so she responds the way you want her to. Your goal is to have an ongoing, growing relationship with her.

The discomfort of friction is essential for both of you. Friction is the means by which we both smooth our rough edges and grow. Focusing all your efforts on avoiding friction will only create stagnation.

Often times, men need guidance in this process. If you do, get the help you need. Counselors at The Relationship Center are experienced in helping couples succeed in this process.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Women’s Fear of Intimacy in Communication

Communication is one of the most important aspects of marriage. Lack of communication is also thmost common complaint I hear when doing marital therapy. Feeling connected and close, as well as being able to converse with your husband is extremely important.

No Fear of Intimacy

In some situations, women may have difficulty having an intimate conversation with their husband due to fear of intimacy. When I use the word intimacy, I am referring to a close and affectionate relationship with another person.

Defined in this way, intimacy is allowing oneself to be known, cared for and loved, even the areas that you wish you could hide from others. It includes allowing yourself to be vulnerable with people that you trust. Below are some communication characteristics of someone who has a fear of intimacy and how they can be fixed.

Communication Characteristics

Avoidance

Someone who fears intimacy in communication will avoid conversations she believes will lead to serious topics. The person may avoid conversation unless it deals with tasks of daily living. For example, a woman who fears intimacy in communication may avoid discussing when she felt overlooked by her husband at a family gathering because she fears it will bring up unresolved issues from her past. Another example would be when a woman purposely busies herself  in order to avoid talking about difficult topics.

Passes Judgment

Instead of having an attitude of understanding, someone with fear of intimacy in communication may pass judgment on her spouse. Rather than listening to the feelings or information her spouse shares, she is concentrating on her opinions about what he has said. Thinking that your husband is lying when he says an emergency at work made him late for your date night would be an example of passing judgment without trying to understand. This type of judgment can:

  • Produce feelings of anger and being wronged
  • Cause distance between you and your spouse because of these feelings
  • Distance will prevent intimacy

Negativity

Someone who struggles with intimacy in communication may be overly negative in her conversations. Instead of trying to see the positive side of a situation, she sees the negative side and fixates on this. For example, a husband and a wife have a nice picnic planned for a sunny Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, when they get to the perfect spot, it begins to rain. As they try to find shelter, they slip in the mud and are able to laugh at each other. When they do find shelter, they are able to have a good conversation about their life together. Someone who fears intimacy in communication may see this experience as negative because things did not go as planned and she was not prepared for this type of conversation.

Excessive Control

Someone who always wants to be prepared for any type of uncomfortable conversation may try to exert control in any way possible. In trying to exert control, she may excessively control the areas where she feels she has control. This can give the illusion of being in control of situations for which you are fearful, but in reality that’s all it is: simply an illusion. For example, you may feel out of control and unprepared when speaking to your husband, but feel you have complete control over how your house is run. Due to feeling out of control in other areas, you may take this control over your home to extremes through needing to choose everything that goes in your home, needing everything to be spotless, or not allowing other family members to complete tasks because they did not follow your specific instructions.

Disengaging

When topics arise that she does not feel comfortable, someone who fears intimacy in communication may prevent herself from being engaging in the conversation. This may happen through day dreaming, thinking of other things, or physically removing herself from the conversation. If we go back to the previous example of the picnic, someone who disengages may not even have that good conversation with her husband. She may be thinking about her wet clothes, what to do with the food, how to get back to the car, or how she can leave the situation.

Focuses on Self

While focusing on yourself is not a bad thing, it becomes an issue when your thoughts are constantly about fear of intimate conversation with your husband. At an unconscious level, I see this present, often times, as an excessive focus on one’s own feelings, desires, thoughts, point of view, etc. It is a selfish way of thinking which insulates from intimacy. We are to care for ourselves, but not in a way that makes us the center of the world. Often times someone who experiences this fear of intimacy will be constantly thinking or preparing for these deep conversations when she rarely allows them to happen.

Focusing on self may or may not be evident to your spouse. For example, a woman experiencing this fear of intimacy may try to prepare herself mentally for any possible conversation with her husband that may be about a topic she does not feel comfortable discussing. There are limitless possibilities as to what conversations may come up and, therefore she finds herself more often than she would like in thought of protecting herself.

How Can You Fix These Characteristics?

Self-Analysis

It is difficult to make a change when you are unaware that there is a problem. Doing some analysis of yourself and your actions will help you understand changes that need to be made. Self-analysis may require insight from your husband, close friends, or family members. Ask others to make observations about your words, attitudes, and actions. It may also require the help of a professional, such as a counselor.

Commit to Change

It can be easy to say you are going to change, but actually putting those words into action is more difficult. Commit to change by telling your husband or trusted friend of your plans and ask them to keep you accountable. It may also help to write out a commitment statement of what you want to change as well as the steps you would like to take to make these changes.

Work on A Safe Relationship

It is important to work toward an emotionally safe environment in your marital relationship. Many women who experience fear of intimacy may not feel emotionally safe in their marital relationship due to a number of reasons. In order to work on intimate communication with your husband you have to feel safe when you are discussing important topics. The following emotional safety handout provides information about developing an emotionally safe relationship.

Communicate with your Husband

If you want to have intimate conversations with your husband you have to be willing to communicate with him. Your first step should be sharing with your husband your struggles and your commitment to change. This discussion must focus on yourself and not how you think your husband should change. Changing the subject to your husband would be an issue of boundaries in which you reach for something you cannot control. Starting off this change process without including your husband would defeat the purpose.

Give Yourself Grace

During this process, make sure to give yourself grace. It is difficult to realize that you may fear intimacy in communication with the person that you love. Identifying the problem and seeking change are the first steps to improving your communication with your husband.


If you or someone you know is struggling with marital communication, please contact us. The Relationship Center has therapists who specialize in marital therapy. We are here to help and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

References

Berry, R. A., & Lawrence, E. L. (2013). “Don’t stand so close to me”: An attachment perspective of disengagement and avoidance in marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(3), 484-494.

Harley, W. F. (2003). His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell.

Markman, H. J., Rhodes, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Ragan, E. P., & Whitton, S. W. (2010). The premarital communication roots of marital distress and divorce: The first five years of marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 289-298.

Smalley, G., Smalley, G., Smalley, M., & Paul, R. S. (2004). The DNA of Relationships. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Recommended Reading

Harley, W. F. (2003). His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell.

Smalley, G., Smalley, G., Smalley, M., & Paul, R. S. (2004). The DNA of Relationships. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

 

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Creating a Marital Timeout

Holes in the wall, screeching tires, clenched fists, and hateful words are just some of the indicators that a relationship has gone awry. Angry words and actions affect lives forever. How can you stop these reactions early before they are out of control?

Marital Time OutOften, the beginning of healing in a relationship comes by calling a “cease fire”. While calling this “time out” will not  bring healing by itself to your relationship, it will help to avoid further damage. I often use the “marital timeout” with couples who are new to therapy and cannot even have a conversation without it escalating out of control.

So how does the timeout work?

Unlike a timeout for a child, adults put themselves in timeout. As emotions start to rise, one spouse might say to the other, “I can tell I am getting angry and need a timeout. Let’s resume this conversation in 20 minutes or in the morning.”  Then, because the timeout has been discussed previously when both parties were calm, each spouse proceeds to a place to think about the situation.

During this time apart, I suggest each spouse go through The Care Cycle from the National Institute of Marriage outlined below.

Disagreements happen because one or both persons are having their “buttons” pushed. I suggest that couples print off The Care Cycle, move to a quiet place to process, and then come back to share what each has learned about themselves.

Here are a few things to consider when taking a marital timeout:

  1. It is not effective when used for the purpose of withdrawal (avoiding your spouse, alienating yourself without resolution, sulking, or using the silent treatment).
  2. It must always contain a specific time frame by when the situation will be discussed and resolved.

If couples cannot resolve situations within a week or two by themselves, I encourage them to see a counselor for help. Your relationship is too important to let it sustain prolonged damage.

The Care Cycle

Aware: Create Space

  • Physically remove self from situation
  • Internally give self permission to slow down
  • Take several minutes in this safe place. Physiologically, you may need 20+ minutes

Goal: Seek a quiet space for comfort, clarity, and objectivity.

Accept: Identify my own feelings

  • What are my emotions, buttons, and fears in this moment?
  • View my feelings as information
  • Adopt a curious rather than judgmental stance about my feelings

Goal: Validate and accept emotions, buttons, and fears.

Attend: What are my thoughts?

  • Did I do anything to contribute to my feeling?
  • Did I play back an old message?
  • Do I have memories of broken places?
  • Do I have negative beliefs about myself?
  • Am I dwelling on negative past experiences?
  • Is this feeling deeply familiar? When have I felt it before?
  • Am I judging or condemning myself?
  • Am I mind reading rather than checking it out?
  • Could I have possibly misunderstood?
  • Did I get myself all worked up?
  • Am I aware of any temptation to soothe/medicate my hurt? (with food, substances, shopping)

Goal: Discover the role you play in the emotional intensity of the situation.

Allow: Allow God to Enter

  • Ask yourself: What will bring life to this situation? What is the TRUTH?
  • What does God say to me (comfort, truth, conviction, value and worth)?
  • Allow Him to remind me I am the caretaker of the body/mind He has given me.

Goal: Between you and God, allow your wants to be met.

Act: Choose to respond instead of react

  • Will my response create safety within me?
  • Will my response create safety for my relationship?
  • How does God want me to respond?

Goal: Behave with honor and integrity.

 

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Overcoming Depression in Marriage: It’s a Team Approach

married couple

“Just choose to be happy,” intoned a well-meaning pastor.  Even as I type that phrase, it arouses anger.  Although I wanted to “choose” to be happy, I just couldn’t do it—no matter how much I felt guilty or quoted Bible verses. My body and emotions would not respond to “choosing” to be happy so in addition to being depressed (which I didn’t know at the time) I also felt like a failure as a Christian because I could not “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:13).

It appears that more people struggle with depression than ever before or maybe just more people are willing to talk openly about it. Depression not only impacts the individual, it usually deeply affects their marriage.

In my counseling experience, I have seen depression take its toll on not only the depressed person but also their spouse. At first the “non-depressed” spouse tries to pick up the slack by helping more with the housework, doing homework with the kids and making up for lost finances by working extra hours. Often the non-depressed spouse cannot understand the depth of discouragement, fatigue, and mental exhaustion their spouse is suffering from.  As a pastor’s wife and therapist who has struggled with bouts of depression, I have often felt misunderstood by my spouse and friends.  Maybe you are there, too, or you are just reading this article hoping for some practical tips on overcoming depression.

First of all, for those of you who are depressed or have a friend who is struggling with depression, there is hope.

Here are some tips for dealing with depression:

  • Admit there is a problem
    • Because I was a Christian and a pastor’s wife overly concerned with “image management”, it took months for me to admit I needed help. I was struggling on a daily basis with getting out of bed and the normal tasks of life such as child rearing, going to work and making meals before I finally went to see a counselor.
    • When simple tasks send you into a hysterical crying fit or confine you to bed, it is a signal to get help.
  • Take a Team Approach
    • Doctor:  Discuss your feelings of depression with your family doctor. They may recommend an anti-depressant. For many people consistently taking an anti-depressant will lift the dark cloud so therapy can be more successful.  Be sure to ask questions about the medication, including the sexual side effects.
    • Counselor/Therapist:  For many people, depression is not completely genetic or biological. It has root causes in previous or present life circumstances.  In my case, my mother died and within weeks we assumed a new pastorate in a different state where I had no support system. Research has shown that the best treatment for depression includes a combination of medication and counseling.
    • Spouse: Definitely include your spouse in these conversations. They are being affected by your depression and possibly have valuable insight into the situation to share with your doctor and therapist.
  • Exercise
    • For many people consistent exercise reduces feelings of depression especially if it is outdoors. Research has shown even three times per week for 30 minutes each day has a positive impact on reducing depression.  Even better would be to find an outdoor activity that you and your spouse enjoy and start today. Just a few ideas: riding bikes, walking, jogging, golf, skiing, cliff diving, mountain climbing and having sex (maybe not outdoors, though)!
  • Self-Care
    • Self-care often includes exercise, but it can include so much more. Every human being is created with the need for rest and fun. Because of hectic schedules, we often do not take the needed time to recharge and enjoy life. Schedule a walk with a friend, a drive to the lake, or a few minutes at lunch to sit outside and absorb the rays, the happy chemicals in your brain will increase and your body (and maybe even your spouse) will thank you.
  • Practice “Grace-filled” self-talk
    • Be curious about how you speak to yourself. Record your self-talk for a week. Are you kind? Would you speak to a friend like you speak to yourself? Do you have grace for everyone else but you? Process this exercise with a friend or counselor.
    • Allow yourself to be imperfect.

If you find yourself or a friend struggling in the area of depression and/or marriage, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  I have been there, and I care.

Rachelle Colegrove is a counselor at The Relationship Center in Springfield, MO. In addition to being a full-time therapist, she is also a licensed minister. Her passion is to help people become authentic in their relationships and reach their full potential.  Having come from a ministry background, she understands the pressure ministry adds to marriage and family life.  She enjoys life with her minister husband and two grown sons in Nixa, MO.

 

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Raising a Child with a Disability and Staying Happily Married

Family CounselingAugust, 23, 2011

This month’s SWAN meeting featured special guest speakers from the The Relationship Center Dr. Jared Pingleton and counselor Shaun Lotter, MA, LPC. Dr. Pingleton shared an inspirational message with couples encouraging them to recognize that the enemy is not each other, the problem is not the child – it’s the stress that is pulling a marriage apart that is the problem! He encouraged husbands to give wives a break, and to find ways to romance her…otherwise, “they’re going to be a mommy – and not a wife.”

He also encouraged wives to understand that men have an intense need to fix things, and that when they are unable to “fix” the problems, it can cause them to feel inadequate, which in turn can lead to withdrawal and avoidance. Counselor Shaun Lotter shared that in his counseling experience, one of the things that many families experience is guilt…wondering if they’ve done enough, or wondering if could they have done things differently. Counselor Lotter encouraged families to not feel guilty, but to seek help to find ways to cope with the guilt and stress.

Getting professional help to deal with the stress of raising a child with a disability is so important, there’s nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about. Your children depend on you to take care of yourself so that you can in turn take care of them. Dr. Pingleton stressed the importance of finding ways to “recharge your battery” pointing out how difficult it is to give to your children or your spouse when you are empty and have nothing left to give.

It was a wonderful session, full of great insight and helpful advice. The Relationship Center has trained staff equipped to help you and your spouse. Click on the link below to visit their website and find out more information. Don’t put off getting help if you need it. SWAN gives Dr. Pingleton and Counselor Lotter an

ENORMOUS thank you for taking the time to come visit with us and share such a wonderful presentation!

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

Five Types of Affairs

marital affair emotional affairsFew things in life hurt more than being betrayed by some one you love. When a spouse cheats either emotionally, physically with a sexual affair, or with infidelity through pornography the devastation is crushing.

Five Types of Affairs

  • Low rent rendezvous
    This is your typical one night stand and may be a one-time betrayal. These often occur in conjunction with drinking and anonymity. The core of the betrayal is based upon bad choices, poor boundaries, lack of integrity, and the opportunity to act. This exercise relational quiz can help you gain understanding about the destructive emotional dance you dance when fighting with your spouse.

    • An affair of convenience or opportunity. It is not something sought out, but rather occurs as the result of an opportunity that is presented.
    • The betrayer does not want to leave the marriage.
    • There is not an ongoing relationship.
    • Does not necessarily indicate more severe problems in the marriage.
  • Lonely hearts club
    Characterized by two individuals who believe they are “in love”. The betrayer believes he or she has “fallen in love” and feels powerless over powerful emotions. The betrayer may feel guilt, but feels they are unable to be happy in their marriage and therefore must / should / or deserves to be with the affair partner.

    • Unlike low rent rendezvous this type often does indicate a deeper problem in the marriage.
    • Betrayer wants out of the marriage.
    • Betrayer seems incapable of making decisions as to what they are going to do.
  • Looking for love in all the wrong places
    These affairs are committed by those with an ongoing patter of sexual betrayal such as frequenting topless bars and/or adult bookstores, viewing pornography, compulsive masturbation, prostitution, repetitive encounters with sexual partners, and other behaviors that are destructive to both the individual and to the marriage relationship. Interestingly, this category of affairs is not about the marriage, and often the betrayer will state they do not want their marriage to fail. Betrayers often feel hopelessly trapped by their behaviors.
    This type of betrayal is especially difficult for the spouse because their suffering is not just from the betrayal, but also from their inability to understand their mate’s behavior. What the addict has done seems so foreign the spouse cannot comprehend it. Or they are in shock when they discover the sheer magnitude of the compulsive behavior (like the man who visited more than 300 prostitutes).

    • It is common for the betrayer to have made past efforts to stop the behavior, and to have actually been successful for a season, only to relapse after they believed things were better.
    • Typically the betrayer wants to save their marriage, but has a compelling drive to look elsewhere to meet their needs.
    • Often these behaviors began before marriage, stopped after marriage, and then began again after the addict realized the marriage couldn’t meet the need met by the addictive behavior.
    • This article discusses the difference between porn-related sex and healthy sex
    • This article discusses the hazards of pornography
  • Having your cake and eating it too
    This is an affair where the betrayer is involved with a single person, but at the same time he or she does not want to leave their marriage. To them, the affair partner is a “soul mate”. These affairs frequently spring from relationships where two individuals share something in common they don’t share in common with their mate. It is as if this person develops two lives.

    • Individuals want to stay married
    • However, betrayers do not want to give up the affair partner
    • The betrayers life is divided into two very distinct parts; the relationship with the affair partner and their relationship with their spouse
    • You’re not my lover; you’re my friend
      This relationship is commonly referred to as the emotional affair. Although some would not consider an emotional entanglement an affair, this type of relationship can be just as devastating and destructive as a sexual affair. If a mate is closer to a friend than to their spouse, then it’s already an affair.

      • Boundary issues are a factor
      • Betrayer keeps secrets with their friend instead of their spouse
      • Betrayer wants to stay married but does not want to choose between the friend and their spouse

 

Adapted from Rick Reynolds 5 Types of Affairs.

While the pain of infidelity is devastating it doesn’t have to equal divorce. It is possible not only to heal from an affair, but also to have a stronger marriage after than before.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

Why you need premarital counseling

Ok, so you’re going to get married. You’re going to spend lots of money on a wedding, then spend THE REST OF YOUR LIFE with this person. Doesn’t it make sense to invest a little time and money into making sure you start your marriage off on the right foot? The Relationship Center can help. Call us to set-up premarital sessions and make sure you have a strong foundation to build your marriage on.

Problems don’t go away after marriage, THEY GET WORSE!

premarital counseling Before the wedding is the best time to address your concerns. Ignoring concerns and hoping things will get better after the wedding is A BAD IDEA.

Important Topics to Cover Before You “Tie the Knot”

  • Who does what? What are the role expectations?
  • How do we make decisions when we don’t agree on the solutions?
  • What is SEX supposed to be like and what sexual baggage are we bringing into our marriage?
  • How important are KIDS / How soon do we want them?
  • Marriage brings two families together – Are there in-law concerns?
  • COMMUNICATION – COMMUNICATION – COMMUNICATION- It gets tougher after the wedding.
  • MONEY – Who will make it? Who will manage it? How will we spend it?

These are just a few of the important questions a marriage counselor can help you start thinking about in ways that will save your marriage a lot of heart ache down the road.

PreMarital Counseling can help your marriage be a dream come true!

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling