Posted in General

Misconceptions about marital therapy

Yet another great article on the Gottman Institute website has been posted. The Gottmans are the gurus of marital research and therapy whose collective work has been positively impacting marriages for four decades! They influence countless marital counselors who attempt to assist people in the improvement of this amazing union called marriage. Please read the attached article about the stigma and misconceptions surrounding marital counseling.

It’s Time to Stop the Stigma Around Couples Therapy

Are you taking a reactive, rather than a proactive approach to any marital problems you may be having? Don’t allow common misconceptions to prevent you from pursuing a long-lasting, fulfilling marriage.

 

Anger isn’t all that you’re feeling

photo credit: edenpictures Mad Look via photopin (license)

Have you ever found that your marital arguments go nowhere…well, nowhere that’s useful or constructive? Do you ever find that your anger intensifies to the point of character attacks toward you partner or “hitting them where it hurts?” Well, welcome to a common malady wherein your anger amps up because you feel unheard and largely misunderstood by your spouse.

Let me tell you a story. One beautiful summer evening, Bob and I were at home getting ready to meet some friends for dinner. He pulled out a shirt to wear and decided that its wrinkled condition wasn’t bad enough to warrant not wearing it, so we finished getting ready, he in his wrinkled shirt and me in a perfectly summery outfit, and left the house to meet our friends. When we arrived at the restaurant, one of our friends met us by playfully poking fun at Bob for having a wrinkled shirt. Bob’s sarcastic response was, “Yea, Lori’s great at ironing.” In my case, for whatever reason, my response was steeped in anger because that was the emotion right in front of me; that’s the emotion that was “easy” to access.

Thankfully, this is NOT a true story (I’m so grateful that Bob would NEVER do such a thing!), but the point that follows remains. I think a great many women (at least) would be able to understand that I would feel as though Bob threw me under a very large bus, causing my anger to be salient, BUT, if I want Bob to truly understand me, understand what I really feel, I would have to become vulnerable and tap into the emotion that’s fueling my anger. If this were a true story, perhaps I’d feel woundedness. Perhaps I’d feel guilt because I feel I SHOULD have ironed his shirt. Embarrassment is also a possibility. I may have felt all of the above. In ANY true scenario, once I discover the feeling that’s deeper than my anger, I can then GENTLY expose my raw heart to Bob allowing him to understand the underlying feeling. If I remain on the level of guarded anger, he’ll never know what I feel deep down and we’ll never grow beyond that surface level of intimacy.

Anger is valid and cannot be minimized, but by becoming vulnerable and mining for what’s beneath the anger, we allow ourselves to be heard and understood by our spouse, which grows our intimacy. We are hopefully better understood (and understand ourselves better) after such an encounter and perhaps in the future, we won’t allow our anger to become our first response.

Is there a great deal of anger in your relationship? Do you find that it seems to be the only way you and your spouse communicate? Consider what’s fueling your anger and become vulnerable enough to share it with your spouse.

 

Perception trumps intention

photo credit: Neil Coulter via photopin (license)

photo credit: Neil Coulter via photopin (license)

I have advised countless couples that come into my office for counseling that their INTENTION in word or deed toward their spouse is far less important than their spouse’s PERCEPTION of what was said or done. I say this not to minimize a possibly positive intention, but to assist the couple in realizing that their actions have to be considered through the lens of the other couple member.

This notion is especially true when we’ve spoken or acted in ways toward our spouse for years without an ill intent, but then realize that they don’t see it as such a benign word or deed. Once this is realized (sometimes through the help of a marital counselor), we then MUST attempt to step into their shoes to feel what they might feel.

Here’s a practical example and application. If my husband perceives that I’m parenting him, even if I had zero intention of doing so, his perception remains. If he can then articulate that perception, then it’s now my responsibility to understand his perception in order to apologize and attempt to improve our future interactions. If this doesn’t happen and negative perceptions continue and become entrenched, the problematic interactions are much more difficult to repair.

We DO need to have the best of intentions toward others, most of all our spouses; however, we also need to understand that his or her perception of any interaction will be the thing we’ll need to examine, discuss and attempt to heal, if necessary.

How well and how often do you attempt to see things through your spouse’s lens?

 

I’m a lady with sex in mind

Wives can be a lady AND an exciting sexual partner. It’s true! What goes on in your bedroom can be wild, fun and downright HOT, but the minute you step into the world, you can be classy, courteous, agreeable and all the things that make you, YOU! (…and you can even think SEXY thoughts about your marriage bed while out in the world!)

Women tend to wear MANY hats. We are wives, mothers, sisters, friends AND lovers. We can play all of these roles and still have sexy thoughts and wild bedroom behavior. We’re sexual beings that were created to enjoy sex. It’s not dirty or obligatory and thinking of your spouse in a sexual way in and outside the bedroom is one way to keep your sex life vibrant.

So be all that you are in this world. Be the lady you strive to be AND go ahead and wear those undergarments that make you feel desirable! Go ahead and think about the next sexual encounter with your spouse! Your marriage bed will be all the better for it!

Have you had a sexy thought about your spouse today? 

Mutual Marriage: Final thoughts

Photo by Roger Price from Flickr

Photo by Roger Price from Flickr

I’ve spent the last few months briefly outlining a biblical case for mutual marriage. The series has primarily addressed marriage from a theological rather than a practical perspective, but there is one practical topic that needs to be addressed briefly as I conclude the series. That is the topic of decision-making in a mutual marriage.

Love in the afternoon

I know. Right-before-bed sex may be the only romp you ever seem to squeeze into the end of a very long day or week, but sex doesn’t have to always occur at night, after you’ve cleaned up from dinner, helped with homework, made lunches, given baths, read stories, when you’re exhausted and right before your head finally collides with your pillow. Love in the afternoon sounds a lot more appealing to me.

With such a busy life, it’s easy to see how sex could be pushed to the bottom of your to-do list, wherein it becomes a quick, not-all-in task. Since sex is important to grow a couple’s intimacy, it needs to be a priority. On Saturday afternoon, take the kids to grandma and grandpa’s house and then go home and have long, enjoyable, wide-awake sex that perhaps takes place OUTSIDE the bedroom (some research and people themselves say orgasms are better under these circumstances)! If taking the kids to someone else is too much work, take advantage of nap time or gasp!…the television (it won’t kill [too many] brain cells if it’s kept to a minimum).

If sex in the evening is all you CAN fit in, even if it’s between all the evening rituals and a much-needed night’s rest, then get to it. Be sure, however, to place love-making closer to the top of your priority list than to the bottom of it. Make sure your schedules can at least fit in an occasional round of afternoon (or morning) delight.

When do you typically have sex with your spouse? Have you looked at ways to make your sexual life more interesting? If not, why not?

Mutual Marriage: Loving as a servant (Ephesians 5)

I was struck when I first saw this commercial for Gatorade with Robert Griffin III, particularly by the slogan: “Greatness isn’t given, it’s taken.” This mentality is very prevalent in American society. Like many American values, however, it is quite contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus made it clear that greatness is found in being a servant, in putting the needs of others ahead of our own. If more spouses would apply this teaching to marriage, I believe most marriages would be much healthier.

If you win, your marriage loses

photo credit: Bride Goku via photopin (license)

photo credit: Bride Goku via photopin (license)

Have you ever noticed how most of us really want to win, to be “on top” and not be wrong, whatever the cost? Man, how I want to “win” a disagreement! I want to be “right.” To be “wrong” feels uncomfortable and can threaten my delicate ego. In life, this win-at-all-costs mentality is harmful to others and ourselves and is quite frankly…unGodly. In marriage, it’s downright TOXIC.

To be “right,” your partner must be “wrong.” Typically, we argue over something that requires a solution and attempting to win an argument, not only takes the focus off the solution, but it pits you against your mate, making you combatants on opposing teams. It gets you nowhere…nowhere that’s helpful or increases intimacy. If you’re winning, your marriage is losing.

When we purposefully work toward a solution with our partner, we consider both couple members’ opinions, while taking defensiveness and competitiveness out of the equation. Both parties “win” because you’ve (potentially) reached a solution together AND increased intimacy.

I still like to “win” an argument, but if I keep in mind how valid my husband’s opinion is and how important it is to focus on a solution instead, our marriage wins. Even if my ego takes a hit, I have the opportunity to avoid introducing toxicity into my marriage and that’s a win-win, which should always be the goal.

Are you maintaining your need to be “right?” What might that be costing you, your partner and your marriage?

Mutual Marriage: Paul the subversive (Ephesians 5-6)

photo credit: Saint Paul via photopin (license)

photo credit: Saint Paul via photopin (license)

There are so many ways in which our modern society blinds us to what is really going on in scripture. Our culture is so very different from the culture in which the biblical authors wrote. Too often we project modern ideas onto biblical topics and end up drawing improper conclusions. The apostle Paul, for instance, is too often labeled as a sexist and a misogynist because people misunderstand not just what he wrote, but why he wrote it. When understood in the context of his culture and audience, Paul was extremely progressive.

Posted in General

ALL men aren’t…

Photo credit: Ann Larie Valentine (Flickr)

Photo credit: Ann Larie Valentine (Flickr)

I’m sure you’ve heard these sorts of complaints (and have perhaps uttered them yourself): Men are lazy. Men are unable to find something that’s right under their noses. Men only “want one thing.” Men are babies when they’re sick. From this list, we could conclude that men are pretty dang awful. I don’t know about you, but I find that men are pretty dang great! Of course, my man is the greatest of all, but that might be another post.

First things first…to say “men are _________,” we’re, perhaps unintentionally, asserting that ALL men have that quality. Wow! That makes for some pretty broad statements. You might be tempted to say that these statements are relatively harmless. Ok then, let’s flip it around. Women are too emotional. Women are bad drivers. Women are not as bright as men. Women are weak. Ouch. Doesn’t seem as harmless now. Are SOME men so-called babies when they’re sick? Maybe. Are SOME women “bad” drivers? Perhaps.

Secondly, when we make those stereotypical statements, we paint a picture of men that is not only inaccurate, but harmful to our men because those attitudes can cause us to behave in such a way wherein we’re not valuing what our men bring to our lives and to society. It leads to a lack of appreciation for who they are, how hard they work and their unique perspective on things. To give an example, if I looked at Bob’s desire for sex (& his expression of that desire) as him “wanting only one thing,” it could leave me feeling as though I’m not much more than an object to be used when he wants that “thing.” In reality, he was created with that level of desire and HIS desire for sex with me is a compliment, leaving me feeling wanted and beautiful. He desires ME.

As women, let’s do our best to fight these stereotypes, especially when it comes to our own men. Let’s change the conversation. My man is hard-working. My man is NOT a baby when he’s sick. My man is one smart cookie. My man does a good job at making me feel wanted. Most men are great! Spread the word!

How do you talk about your husband, in public AND in private? In what other ways might you be contributing to the spread of stereotypes about men?