Better Communication Can Lead to Increased Intimacy

Better communication skills will always help in a marriage. Three goals in communicating with a spouse, or significant other, are to build a solid foundation for growth by establishing safety, trust, and intimacy. The three goals also need to happen in that order. If the couple tries to build intimacy without first building safety and trust in their conversations they will not have a sound foundation on which to build intimacy. Sex might not feel as satisfying if the couple tries to build intimacy in the bedroom, failing to understand that intimacy is always built outside the bedroom and enjoyed in the bedroom. Intimacy outside the bedroom begins with communication and decision-making where both husband and wife are heard and considered. Knowing that the other is listening and willing to receive influence from the other builds a safe environment where one may speak their mind without rebuke. That type of conversation helps the marriage to grow, fosters safety and trust, and grows intimacy. Wanting to spend time together and do things together also builds trust. Showing the other person that “I make you my priority” by how you treat them is a wonderful trust builder. Who doesn’t want to be the priority of their spouse? Building a good relationship foundation of safety and trust will help intimacy to grow in ways that might amaze you. Here are some healthy relationship tips to increase intimacy:

 

  • Better communication leads to better understanding

  • Safety and trust in communication first, intimacy will follow

  • Listen fully to each other, consider what was said, then reply

  • Arguments never move the relationship forward, discussion does 

  • Plan events together including dining and shopping trips

Institute a regular date night and plan it together

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How to Assess Your Relationship's Health?

This year loveisrespect.org took a healthy relationship poll among teens and young adults. They talked to many folks about what a healthy relationship looks like. They say that a healthy relationship is expressed with respect, equality, safety and trust. Many people believe that jealous and controlling behaviors are the same as being very passionate about their partner. This is not the case! Each partner should have an equal part and “say so” in the relationship.  They should feel safe and be able to trust each other fully. Respect is the other major part to a healthy relationship. When you cherish and value your partner you will be more likely to be able to handle the tough times. When disagreements arise try these tips from loveisrespect.org!

 

  • Speak Up. In a healthy relationship, if is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it instead of holding it in. 

  • Respect Each Other. Your partner’s wishes and feelings have value, and so do yours. Let your significant other know you are making an effort to keep their ideas in mind. Mutual respect is essential in maintaining healthy relationships.

  • Compromise. Disagreements are a natural part of healthy relationships, but it’s important that you find a way to compromise if you disagree on something. Try to solve conflicts in a fair and rational way.

  • Be Supportive. Offer reassurance and encouragement to each other. Also, let your partner know when you need their support. Healthy relationships are about building each other up, not putting each other down.

  • Respect Each Other’s Privacy. 

 

 

If you have been wondering if your relationship is healthy you can visit the website and take the Relationship Spectrum survey. It will help you determine if your relationship is healthy or if it needs some work. You can find it under the “Relationships 101” tab. 

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month so be sure to talk about healthy relationships with your teen!

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Rethinking Loneliness

Loneliness is a common feeling of being on your own and without the emotional and spiritual support you need from others. Feeing lonely or alonecan result from life situations or your perspective on life and yourself. Here are some tips to shape how you see your loneliness. 

  • Know that Loneliness is a State of Mind, Not a Life Sentence

Realize thatloneliness is normal and accepting the fact that you can’t feel love and fulfilled all the time, can make periods of loneliness more tolerable.Sometimes just being by yourself can be relaxing and a time to recharge.

  • Learn How to Like Yourself

It is usual for people who dislike themselves to wrongly imagine that other people will also dislike them. Expecting to be disliked and rejected, they tend to withdraw from people, thus perpetuating their loneliness. 

Work to break the bondage of chronic loneliness by remembering your worth is not found in the perception of others or in what you do or accomplish. 

  • Avoid Dependency on Another Human for Your Own Happiness

To put responsibility for your happiness in someone else’s hand is a scary thought, unless that person happens to be always available, never fails, never changing yet never boring, all-wise, all-powerful, immortal, and is always unselfishly devoted to maximizing your long-term happiness. People, not matter how well intentioned and loving they are, can disappoint and fail to meet our every need. 

Much of the pain of loneliness is nothing more than pining for things that we don’t have or will never havefrom the people around us. It’s hard to accept some things we have always craved that we will probably never have. 

  • Exercise & Take Care of Yourself

A good, brisk walk several times a week can be surprisingly effective in picking up your spirits and making your world a whole lot brighter. It produces chemicals in the body which are natural antidepressants 

  • Fake It Until You Make It

No matter how unhappy you are, the very act of smiling triggers the brain to release chemicals that make you feel better. A smile also brightens your face, improving your looks better than almost any makeover. Moreover, smiling is a magnet that attracts people to you. 

People instinctively sidestep a person whose unsmiling face suggests he or she might be grumpy or angry or preoccupied. It makes them wary, heightening their own fear of rejection. 

  • Maximize the Advantages of Solitude

Make the time alone your solitude time to exercise your spiritual disciplines and as devotional or meditation time spent thinking about things beyond your physical conditions, needs and life situations. We all have a need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

  • Avoid the “Poor me” Syndrome

It is alright to feel lonely. We were made with a need for human companionship. Use your loneliness as a motivation to get out of yourself, be with others and do things for others. 

  • Focus on Giving, not Receiving

In our desperation to fill the emptiness inside us we can fall into the hole of subconsciously becoming obsessed with our needs and discounting the needs of those around us. Try to be a person of deep compassion.

We reap what we sow. So seek to give to others what you would like someone special to give to you. It is in giving that you receive. 

  • Don’t Give in to Desperation

It is terrifyingly easy to sell your soul in a crazed attempt to find a quick fix for loneliness. Your actions decide whether loneliness leads to honor or shame. To become entangled in unwise relationships is to sentence oneself to life-long regret. Not only is loneliness a test of character, it is a challenge in which there could be no higher stakes. 

Act in haste and you could move from temporary loneliness to permanent remorse. Take time, and be led toward relationships that will be meaningful, fulfilling and productive.

  • Turn Being Alone into a Blessing

See your time alone differently as an opportunity to grow as a person.

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How to Make the Most of Being Single This Valentine’s Day

It’s the time of the year where you do not have to look far to be reminded of love in its greatest form - chocolate, teddy bears and flowers. A prominent struggle for singles during this time is feeling less than. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a relationship, every one in a relationship wanted to be in one at some point. However, it becomes a problem when your relationship status becomes the only lens through which you gauge your value. Below you will find a few suggestions to help shift the focus this hearts-all-over-the-place Valentines from “It’s awful being single” to “I’m going to make the most of being single.” 

 

  • Take a break from social media. Avoid it at minimum February 14th but maybe even the day before and couple of days after. 

  • Write love notes to family and friends. Have fun with it! Make them cheesy, funny, sincere - whatever would mean the most to the recipient 

  • Hang out with other single friends. You don’t have to wait for National Singles Day to get together intentionally with other singles. 

  • Plan a trip 

  • Watch Episode 5.18 "Blood Drive" of The Office 

  • Buy yourself flowers, chocolate, jewelry, or new clothing item. Just because you don’t have a significant other, doesn’t mean you have to go without a Valentine’s gift! 

  • Plan or host a dinner with your family or loved ones

Get a massage/pamper yourself 

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Take a Time Out: The Importance of Conflict Resolution

When emotions are on the rise in a conflict or argument, attempts to resolve the situation can often become counter-productive. In the heat of an intense discussion, we are prone to resort to maladaptive behaviors like yelling, blaming, stonewalling, or avoiding. These behaviors make it even more difficult for productive communication and understanding to take place.This is when it is important to call a Time Out so that the conversation does not unravel and become destructive. A Time Out is an opportunity to cool off, regroup, and plan what and how to communicate thoughts, feelings, and expectations. However, it is

important to have ground rules to make the Time Out most effective. 

 

TIME OUT RULES

 

1. Anyone can bring up any issue at anytime. There are rarely going to be perfect times to talk about the hard things. If you are always waiting for the “right time” to bring up issues, the conversations will get backlogged and many of them may never get discussed. So it is important to initiate discussions as early as is appropriate and possible.

 

2. Anyone can call a Time Out at anytime. It is normal for emotions to get heated as miscommunication, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations unpack. Everyone gets frustrated, angry, and defensive at times and defaults into unhelpful patterns of conflict. When this happens, it is time to call a Time Out. 

 

3. Agree on a maximum Time Out limit. Follow up is key to resolving the conflict. A Time Out is not an opportunity to get out of talking about the hard things. It is essential to always circle back around to the conversation and try to come to a resolution. My recommendation is having a 24 hour Time Out limit. This gives ample time for both parties to sleep on the issue, process, seek advice from a mentor, and so forth, before coming back to the conversation. You do not have to use the full 24 hour time limit. If after a couple hours you are ready and able to re-engage in the productive conversation, that’s great! The time limit is there to prevent conflicts from going unresolved for days, weeks, months, and years. 

 

4. Engage in calming and relaxing activities during the Time Out. This may seem intuitive, but often times when we come out of an intense conversation or argument and tend to replay the events in our heads, dwell on the things that made us most upset, or rehearse further arguments in our imaginations. This only serves to circumvent the purpose of the Time Out because it heightens the negative emotions already present. So be intentional with how you spend the Time Out. Practice activities that are distracting and self-soothing for you. 

 

5. Whoever called the Time Out calls Time In. It is important to respect one another’s request for Time Out. When the person who called the Time Out is ready to pick up the conversation, it is their responsibility to let the other person know—whether it is in two hours or twenty hours. However, if the person who did not call the Time Out feels they still need time before jumping back into the conversation, then they are free to ask for another Time Out, in which it would then be their responsibility to notify the other person when they are ready to talk. 

 

6. Use some form of Structured Communication. In sensitive discussions it is helpful to use a type of structured communication, such as the Speaker-Listener Technique. Structured Communication is aimed at giving both parties the chance to express their points of view in order to increase understanding and consensus. 

 

7. Repeat as needed. Some topics are more emotionally charged than others, and therefore, may require multiple Time Outs and Time Ins, in order to fully work through the conversation. 

 

Communication can be messy and hard, but these rules can help you make the most of your Time Outs by giving you the space that you need to deal with emotions and order your thoughts.  

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Sleeping Longer, Sleeping Better

Sleeping Longer, Sleeping Better

“Are you tired all the time? Then you may be suffering from a lack of sleep or a lack of quality sleep…Good, quality sleep is important for good mental health and productivity in your work, your family and your relationships.”  -Larry Barber, LPC-S, CT -

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Building Intimacy

One of the biggest struggles that faceslife partners is building intimacy. Oftenpartners confuse intimacy with sex. That may be due to the expectations created by movies and television. Intimacy is always strongest and healthiest when built outside the bedroom. When it is strong and flourishing, it can be taken into the bedroom and enjoyed.  Throughout the life partnership, it is important to continue to nurture that intimacy. Here are some great ways to do that:

Say please and thank you. It is easy to take a partner for granted, and basic courtesy is often the first thing to go.  

Be nice. Treat your partner kindly. Just as courtesy is often ditched, so kindness may be thrown out the window. A quick test for this is to ask yourself if you treat people in your place of business better than you treat your partner.

Hugs, kisses, snuggles, hand-holding– these are all intimacy building blocks.  

Look at each other when speaking. It’s easy to think that you are too busy to slow down and actually focus on the person with whom you spend your life.  

When you are eating together, sit across from one another. This allows you to look into each other’s eyes. When we do this, our brains connect in ways they cannot when sitting shoulder to shoulder. By the way, this can only happen in person, not using platforms such as FaceTime or Skype.

Develop tech-free zones. My recommendations are the dining table (including restaurants), the bedroom, and the car. These are places for focusing on one another.  Be present with your partner and enjoy the conversation.

Share your day. Don’t do this as soon as you walk in the door. Give each other timeto decompress. After greeting one anotherwhen returning home, wait an agreed upon length of time, coming back together when you are able to focus on one another. Avoid “How was your day?” and ask emotion-based questions such as, “What was the most surprising (or funniest or most disappointing) thing that happened today?” These questions will bring opportunities to share your experiences, and thus yourselves, with one another.

Establish a weekly date night.  Guard that time, protecting it from other commitments.Take turns planning fun things to do on your date. Enjoy a delicious meal, play a game, watch an old movie, go for a walk in the park. Continuing to share special experiences with one another just as you did before your partnership is an excellent intimacy builder.

Find the 8 year old in each other. What makes your partner feel like he or she did as a child? What brings a sense of wonder? Find that child in yourself, too. Play together, have fun together. Enjoy one another.  

Building intimacy throughout a life partnership takes more time but is an investment that brings the reward of a solid relationship able to support a flourishing sex life.

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Healthy Relationships

Have you ever wondered if you were in a healthy relationship? What does it even mean to be in a healthy relationship? While every relationship works differently and there are things people like and don’t like, there are certain attitudes and behaviors that when present lead to healthy relationships on both sides. 

  1. Both sides are able to let go of the need to be right all the time. Listening to your partner and trying to understand the other person’s view while showing you are willing to consider a solution to the problem, does not mean you are saying they are “right” and you are “wrong”. This goes back to the old say would you rather be “right” or would you rather be happy. What good is it to be “right” if your partner holds a grudge against you for it? Being in a healthier relationship is not about finding what is right for the individual, but what is right for the couple. 

  2. Personal growth and change are encouraged. One thing guaranteed about life is that things are going to change, including your partner. They will not be the same person you were with 20 years ago and that’s ok. Learn to change and grow together and encourage it in your partner.

Each person takes responsibility for their own happiness. Make sure you have other things that satisfy you in your life in different ways besides your partner and encourage them to do the same. You like sports but they don’t? Find a group of outside friends to watch it with instead of forcing them to something they aren’t interested in. 

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Saying No

It's the beginning of a new year which lends itself to new resolutions, lofty goals, and our hopes of shedding the worst parts of ourselves. These are all good things of course, as it's healthy to use the calendar turning to reflect on what you can change and improve upon in the coming 12 months. 

However, I want to offer a different sort of resolution. Instead of adding more exercise, more reading, better relationships, increased travel, healthier grocery shopping, and more dates with your spouse- let's talk about how to say 'No' to the noise and fluff that you can do without this year. Life is full of "STUFF", stuff you're obligated to do, stuff you're responsible for, stuff you guilt yourself into doing, and stuff you feel trapped to do without. I get it, STUFF is everywhere but it doesn't always have to be. We are capable of taking an active role in our lifestyle rather than passively letting the STUFF rule it. The first step in this is learning to say no to the stuff. Half of the STUFF tends to get in the way of the things we actually care most about; family, kids, friends, and loved ones. We often fill our calendar with the demanding yet less important things and then have no margin for the things that matter most. It doesn't have to be this way.  

Try this:

  1. Sit down for 30 minutes and journal what are the most important things to you. What time do you allocate for those things each week? How does this time compare to the things that aren't important to you?  

  2. Begin brainstorming about how you can shed down the list of things that are less important to you.  

  3. Practice saying no to these things and remember you don't need a long explanation. Just be honest, straight forward, and stick with your gut.

Living intentionally is hard in today's world, but it is possible. Start this year fresh by matching what's important to you with your most precious time.

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Appreciating our Past Choices

It's easy to be negative about past mistakes and unhappiness. However, it's much more healing to look at ourselves and our past in light of experience, acceptance, and growth.  Our past choices are part of us- they do not define us. It's okay to make mistakes. Learning from our past choices is how we grow. Our past mistakes, frustrations, failures were necessary lessons. Sometimes hard and painful, but necessary.  We can learn so much from the choices we make- we just need to be open to allowing ourselves to be kind about them. We need to remember that we all make "mistakes" but that does not mean we are inherently bad people. There is a quote from Maya Angeluo that reminds me about kindness in looking at past choices. it says,

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

Your past choices are your past choices. They do not need to weight you down or make you feel heavy. You did what you knew and you can grow from there.

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