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Archive for the ‘Healthy Living’ Category

We Don’t Need “Mother” and “Father” Anymore?

SOURCE:  Amy K. Hall/Stand to Reason

The Huffington Post celebrates the idea that non-traditional families are breaking down our understanding of gender differences: “We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents.”

Gay and lesbian couples and single moms and dads by chance or choice embody changing ideas about sex and sex roles, they are also transforming the gender based definitions of parenting. They are challenging us all to reevaluate the terms of marriage. Along with single parents raising children, they are also transforming the nature of parenting — and showing how Americans have transcended the gender-based definitions of parenting. We aren’t mother or father anymore; we’re just parents….

Yes, the terms “mother” and “father” do still usually convey a biological distinction between who inseminates and who gives birth, but the rise of donor insemination and surrogate pregnancies open debate even on that.

Whether we acknowledge it willingly or not, the differing social roles the mother-father nouns once designated are rapidly converging. Certainly, there are still things that fathers undertake more than mothers, such as teaching a child to ride a bike. Some things often seem to fall more to mothers, such as arranging childcare. But each parent can, and does, tend to everything.

The differences between the sexes are more than just biological. And they certainly go beyond preferences for particular tasks. All you have to do is reflect on your own experience to see that this is so.

Did your father tend to enforce standards? Did your mother encourage emotional intimacy?

Did your father push you to mature? Did your mother tend to nurture?

The list could go on and on because the differences between the sexes are as deep as who they are, what they value, and how they relate to people. These differences show themselves not merely in the tasks each sex chooses, but in how each approaches any particular task. Of course either parent can do any task, but what they teach their children in and through the completing of each task will be different.

Men and women are complementary. The lessons learned from both parents are valuable and unique to the strengths of each sex, and children are in desperate need of both. The obscuring of this is not something to celebrate. But it’s exactly what must be done in order to promote same-sex marriage, so you can expect to see more of it.

5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Shaunti Feldhahn/Family Life

A few small actions carry surprising power in building a lasting relationship.

Not long ago, the marriage of some close friends—I’ll call them Daniel and Jessica—suddenly imploded. We did everything we could to stand with them in their crisis to speak hope for their future together. Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t survive.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with Jessica one day. Through her sobs, she said, “He worked so hard for a year to take us on that amazing vacation to Hawaii. But all I really wanted was for him to put his arm around me at church!”

Huh? Do you think in the midst of all her pain that she was thinking clearly? Actually, I do.

I could fill in lots of other details, but ultimately the pattern is a sadly common one. You may have seen it too. Daniel was a godly, well-intentioned husband who showed his love in several ways, including working long hours to provide for his family and to do nice things for them. You see, for him, providing is love.

Unfortunately, he didn’t realize that what he was working so hard for wasn’t what Jessica most needed—and in some ways was actually robbing her of the closeness she needed the most. (And of course there were ways she didn’t know she was hurting him.) What she needed most, more than all the expensive vacations in the world, were a few simple, specific day-to-day actions.

But as simple as loving gestures in public? you wonder.

Yes! My research on happy couples showed that an extraordinarily high percentage of them were (often without realizing it!) doing a few little specific actions that were making their spouses feel deeply cared for. Jessica, as it turns out, is like nearly all other men and women in her deep rooted desire for these surprisingly meaningful gestures.

Day-to-day actions

Clearly, a few small actions won’t fix deep relationship problems. But for most of us, a handful of simple day-to-day actions increase the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don’t. There’s just enormous power in that!

For nearly every man or woman, the same few small, gender-specific actions not only matter but have a huge impact on a couple’s level of happiness. But these little actions take on even more power when accompanied by those that matter to your spouse individually.

Let’s begin with the few small actions that the surveys indicate matter a lot to almost every man or woman—what we might call the Fantastic Five.

When individuals were asked on the survey if a particular action made them happy, the affirmative response numbers were staggeringly high for five specific actions for each gender, even among the struggling couples. Close to 100 percent of all husbands and wives said these actions mattered, with between 65 and 90 percent of all husbands and wives saying these actions would deeply please them.

In other words, you are very likely to make your spouse feel deeply cared for if you make a habit of doing the same five things consistently.

The Fantastic Five for him

A wife will have a big impact on her husband’s happiness when she does the following:

1. Notices his effort and sincerely thanks him for it. (For example, she says, “Thank you for mowing the lawn even though it was so hot outside.” Or, “Thanks for playing with the kids, even when you were so tired from work.”) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.

2. Says “You did a great job at __________.” This deeply pleases 69 percent of all men.

3. Mentions in front of others something he did well. This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.

4. Shows that she desires him sexually and that he pleases her sexually. This deeply pleases 85 percent of all men.

5. Makes it clear to him that he makes her happy. (For example, she expresses appreciation for something he did for her with a smile, words, a big hug, etc.) This deeply pleases 88 percent of all men.

The Fantastic Five for her

On his side, a husband will have a big impact on his wife when he does the following:

1. Takes her hand. (For example, when walking through a parking lot or sitting together at the movies.) This deeply pleases 82 percent of all women.

2. Leaves her a message by voice mail, e-mail, or text during the day to say he loves and is thinking about her. This deeply pleases 75 percent of all women.

3. Puts his arm around her or lays his hand on her knee when they are sitting next to each other in public (at church, at a restaurant with friends, etc.). This deeply pleases 74 percent of all women.

4. Tells her sincerely, “You are beautiful.” This deeply pleases 76 percent of all women.

5. Pulls himself out of a funk when he’s morose, grumpy, or upset about something, instead of withdrawing. (This doesn’t mean he doesn’t get angry or need space; it means he tries to pull himself out of it.) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all women.

Keys that unlock any door

Did you notice that all these happiness-inducing actions are simple, learnable, and doable by any wife or any husband? If you put each of the five biggest little things to work every day, I’m betting your marriage will improve—in some cases, radically.

And here’s more great news: All these small but powerful actions matter regardless of what the person’s love language is. For example, most wives (82 percent) are affected when her husband reaches out and takes her hand, regardless of whether physical touch is her thing.

There’s no looking back for our friends Jessica and Daniel. But I’m so thankful that God is good. He is always at work to redeem our broken hearts—and I know He’ll do it for our friends. Still, a corner of my heart mourns the heartbreak that might have been prevented if they had truly understood the power of doing these best little things.

We all know that small, thoughtful acts are not a magic cure-all for every marriage problem. But having talked to so many who nurtured much happiness with simple but powerful actions, I know all of us can build that all-important foundation that helps us believe that our mate notices and cares.

Because as it turns out, believing that the other person cares is far more important to building a happy marriage than most of us ever realized.

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Adapted from The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, by Shaunti Feldhahn

The Benefits of Positivity

SOURCE:  John Townsend

One of the most beneficial, quickest and cheapest things you can do for yourself, your life and your leadership is to engage in positivity. Positivity is the habit of doing what is necessary to maximize your positive outlook and emotions. This can make a significant difference in outcomes that matter to you. Here are some of the benefits:

• Increased energy
• Better concentration and focus
• Healthier relationships
• Improved problem solving
• More creativity

There is a ton of research on positivity, and one finding is that we need to have 3 times the positive emotions as we do negative emotions to optimize ourselves. Think about that: in your last 24 hours, were your feelings of love, happiness, ambition and joy triple those of the anxiety, anger and sadness you felt? Most of us don’t have that ratio in our experience.

It’s also true that negative feelings are an important part of life, and are actually very helpful to us. We need anxiety to avoid mistakes, anger to protect the good, and sadness to honor our losses. But we also need healthy doses of the positive. Here are some tips to help your 3:1 ratio:

1. Intentionally “think positive” in the morning, afternoon and evening. During your day, look at the good as well as the crummy aspects of your situation, for example: “I like what I do for a living and it helps the world”; “I am so grateful for my friends and family, and who they are as people”; “I have good goals that mean something to me.” This isn’t being in denial or a Pollyanna at all. It’s experiencing all of reality, not just one side of reality.

2. Engage in positive activities. When we do things we enjoy, our brain secretes substances that act as a natural antidepressant. We feel energy and hope. What do you love to do, that you haven’t had time for lately? I had lunch with a well known celebrity couple yesterday, whose time is much in demand. I asked them, “So what do you guys do for fun?” They looked sheepishly at each other and said, “Nothing, we’ve been so busy.” I challenged them to take some “me” time and they jumped at the fact that someone external to them was actually giving them permission. It can be working out, stamp collecting, painting, rowing, or going to shows. But do something that actually “feels good.”

3. Maximize your positive relationships, and minimize the negative ones. We literally become whoever we spend time with. Relationships feed us lots of ingredients for life, the same way the soil feeds nutrients to a tree. But negative attitudes, complaining, blaming and helplessness will slow things down. Make sure most of the people you hang out with are fundamentally positive people. We all have a few people in life who struggle greatly, and we owe it to them to love and support them. But don’t make that your entire relational world.

I’m “positive” that you will see things change quickly with these three tips. Best to your life and leadership!

Marriage/Relatonships: Does Love Cover A Multitude Of Sins?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick/AACC

A woman struggling in an emotionally destructive marriage once asked me, “Doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins? (1 Peter 4:8).  She continued, “Who am I to hold my husband’s sin or blindness against him?   The Bible teaches us, ‘It is good for us to overlook an offense’ (Proverbs 19:11).  Shouldn’t I just keep quiet and minister to him, and pray that he will see God’s love in me?”

Many counselors working with those in destructive marriages struggle with this same question.  Jesus makes it clear. We are not to judge or condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1,2).  God instructs all his followers to forbear with and forgive one another.  We know we all fail one another (James 3:2), and we know that Jesus tells a person to take the log out of their own eye before attempting to deal with the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). To bring up each and every offense in any relationship would become tiresome indeed.

Love does cover a multitude of sins but not all sins. Paul tells believers that we are to distance ourselves from those who claim to be believers yet live immoral and destructive lives (1 Corinthians 5:11). He instructs us to warn those who are lazy (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and that we ought not participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).  Paul also encourages believers to restore someone who is caught in a trespass (Galatians 6:1) and James exhorts us to bring a brother back who has wandered from the truth (James 5:19), When someone deeply offends us, Jesus says we’re to go talk with them so that our relationship can be repaired (Matthew 18:15-17).

Yes, we ought to forgive and forbear, overlooking minor offenses hoping others will do the same for us. And, we are to speak up when someone’s sin is hurting them, hurting others, or hurting us.

Serious and repetitive sin is lethal to any relationship. We would not be loving the destructive person if we kept quiet and colluded with his self-deception or enabled his sin to flourish without any attempt to speak truth into his life  (Ephesians 4:15).  Yes, we are called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love, however, let’s be careful that as Christian counselors we do not put a heavy burden on someone to do something that God himself does not do.  God is gracious to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have close relationship with both. He says our sins separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 5:25).

When someone repeatedly and seriously sins against us and is not willing to look at what he’s done and is not willing to change, it is not possible to have a warm or close relationship.  We’ve at times misrepresented unconditional love to mean unconditional relationship. Jesus’ conversations with the Pharisees are examples of him challenging their self-deception and pride so they would repent and experience true fellowship with him (Matthew 23). He loved them, but they did not enjoy a loving or safe relationship. Jesus never pretended otherwise.  Let’s not encourage our counselees to pretend and placate. Jesus never did.

A marriage or relationship that has no boundaries or conditions is not psychologically healthy nor is it spiritually sound.  It enables a repeatedly destructive spouse to continue to believe the lie that the rules of life don’t apply to him and if he does something hurtful or sinful, he or she shouldn’t have to suffer the relational fallout. That kind of thinking is not biblical, or healthy, or true.  It harms not only their marriage, it harms everyone involved.

For the welfare of the destructive person and his or her marriage, there are times we must take a strong stand.  To act neutral in the matter only enables the person’s self-deception to grow unchallenged. Scripture warns, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:18).

The destructive person desperately needs to see God’s love, but he or she also desperately needs to see himself more truthfully so that he can wake up and ask God to help him make necessary changes. It’s true that we are all broken and in desperate need of God’s healing grace.  The problem for the destructive person is that he or she has been unwilling to acknowledge his part of the destruction.   She’s been unwilling to confess or take responsibility or get the help she needs to change her destructive ways.  Instead she’s minimized, denied, lied, excused, rationalized, or blamed others.

Confronting someone and/or implementing tough consequences should never be done to scold, shame, condemn, or punish. As Christian counselors we have one purpose—to jolt someone awake with the strong medicine of God’s truth or the reality of tough consequences.  We hope that by doing so, they will come to their senses, turn to God and stop their destructive behaviors for the glory of God, their own welfare, and the restoration of their marriage.

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Leslie Vernick, M.S.W., is a popular speaker, author, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and relationship coach with a counseling practice in Pennsylvania. She is a best-selling author of seven books, including The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and her most recent, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Leslie currently serves on the Board of Directors for Lighthouse Network, a Christian mental health outreach ministry. She received her Master of Clinical Social Work degree from the University of Illinois and has taken postgraduate training in biblical counseling and cognitive therapy.

 

Your Attachment Style Influences the Success of Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT/Gottman Institute

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who was emotionally unavailable? What about someone who was emotionally exhausting?

People give up on finding “the one” after experiencing a relationship or two with someone who has either style. Self-doubt sets in and you think, “something must be wrong with me.”

To understand this phenomenon you must first understand attachment theory, one of the most well researched theories in the field of relational psychology. Attachment theory describes how our early relationships with a primary caregiver, most commonly a parent, creates our expectation for how love should be.

Our view of ourself and others is molded by how well these caregivers were available and responsive to met our physical and emotional needs. In our adult relationships, our attachment system is triggered by our romantic partners.

The attachment alarm

How are we triggered? Think about the availability of your primary caregiver.

  • Were they neglectful, always there for you, or inconsistent?
  • Who did you go to when you had a problem?
  • Was there someone there you could really count on?

You can start to identify your own attachment style by getting to know the four patterns of attachment in adults and learning how they commonly affect couples in their relating.

According to attachment theory, you have a secure attachment style if a caregiver was responsive and available to you as a child, making you feel safe and secure. Creating a secure attachment is important for dating to create a healthy relationship. In a secure relationship your partner is there for you and has your back. If you are an insecure style (and you choose someone with an insecure style), you will continually be triggered and never feel safe or secure in your relationship.

If your caregiver was unresponsive, you form an insecure attachment pattern. An insecure attachment style manifests in three main ways.

Anxious Attachment – develops when a caregiver has been inconsistent in their responsiveness and availability, confusing the child about what to expect. As an adult, this person acts clingy at times and finds it difficult to trust their partner.

Avoidant Attachment – develops when a caregiver is neglectful. These are the children that play by themselves and develop the belief that no one is there to meet their needs. As adults, they typically label themselves as very independent.

Disorganized Attachment
– develops from abuse, trauma, or chaos in the home. A child learns to fear the caregiver and has no real “secure base.”

All of these styles influence the way you behave in your romantic relationships and how you find a romantic partner.

So, this begs the question, can one change their attachment style to a more secure way of relating?

Changing your attachment style

The answer is yes, but it takes hard work. Often therapy can be incredibly helpful. Being aware of your attachment style and the choices you are making in a partner are crucial. A quality therapist will guide your development of the awareness necessary to discern whether you are reacting to past wounds.

We tend to recreate unhealthy relationship patterns from our childhood in our adulthood. As much as people may dislike it, the familiarity is comforting. You may even confuse the feelings of relationship chemistry with what is the familiarity of your early life experience.

You can challenge your insecurities by choosing a partner with a secure attachment style, and work on developing yourself in that relationship. By facing your fears about love, you can build new styles of attachment for sustaining a satisfying, loving relationship.

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Recommended resources

The following books will help you to understand attachment theory and how it impacts your relationship.

Levine explains how the three attachment styles create the types of relationships we end up in as adults and how to break those patterns to have healthier relationships.

What Makes Love Last: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by Dr. John Gottman

Trust and attunement are the foundation of a secure and healthy relationship.

Learn how to recognize and avoid “blind spots” in dating so you can find lasting love.

Your Brain on Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin, PsyD

Tatkin shares the complexity of attachment styles and how to love an emotionally unavailable partner so they can be more available, and how to love an insecure partner so they feel safe.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson

Johnson offers seven vital conversations that help partners work with their unique insecure attachment styles to create a more secure and meaningful relationship.

Is Self-Care Selfish?

SOURCE:  Taken from the Prepare-Enrich Newsletter

Spoiler Alert:  It’s Not!

Self-care is taking time to care for yourself in whatever what makes sense for you. We often overlook self-care by thinking that it’s something only selfish people do and isn’t that important. However, the more I intentionally practice self-care, the more I see the positive impact on my relationship and I know it’s not a selfish act. Most importantly, I’ve found it allows me to be more present in my relationships because I took the time to make myself feel whole.

The problem with the idea of your partner being your “other half” is that you are unable to invest any part of yourself into your relationship if you aren’t whole. By reframing my thoughts around self-care, how loving and appreciating myself can create a stronger connection in my relationship, I have been able to overcome the negative stigma of “selfish self-care.” It’s important for me to take care for myself for mine and my partner’s sake.

Why Does Self-Care Matter

  • Increases your emotional/mental well-being
  • Allots time for you to take care of your physical self
  • Gives you the energy to care for others
  • Feeling positive about yourself gives you a better outlook on your relationship and life in general

How to Practice Self-Care

Simply take time to do something you enjoy, something that feeds your soul and inspires you. Here are some ideas:

  • Journal – write down your daily thoughts in the morning or at night
  • Volunteer – give back to others using your talents
  • Cook – develop a new recipe, make your favorite dinner
  • Be creative – draw, write, rearrange your living room
  • Pamper yourself – get your hair cut, take a long shower, get a massage
  • Spend time with family – look at old family photos, play a game
  • Go outside – take a walk, jog, or go for a run
  • Be active – go to the gym, practice yoga
  • Eat what you want – drink water, eat your veggies, and eat your cake too (in moderation)
  • Sleep – go to bed early, allow yourself to sleep in, take a nap

11 Qualities Every Truly Happy Relationship Has In Common

SOURCE:  Brittany Wong/Huffington Post

Marriage therapists share their top relationship must-haves.

Chemistry and physical attraction may have brought you and your partner together, but you need more than a spark to maintain a happy, lasting relationship.

With that in mind, we asked marriage therapists to share the one quality they believe couples need to develop in order to stay together for the long haul. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Compassion

“You have to be able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Compassion toward your partner allows him or her to feel respected, appreciated and cared for and it fuels the connection, intimacy and partnership. Think of it as the essential food that every healthy relationship needs.” ― Carin Goldstein, a marriage and family therapist in Sherman Oaks, California 

2. Compromise

“So many couples believe that a lack of problems, or the ability to anticipate and avoid them, is a key to a happy relationship. But in my experience, it’s not so much about avoiding problems so much as it is about being able to solve them together. Problems are always going to happen, just as life does. Knowing you can face them together keeps a relationship strong and healthy.” ― Alicia HClark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.   

3. A sense of humor

 “The strongest couples I’ve met have the capacity to laugh at themselves. When a partner can laugh about their own messiness or their wish to have the table set in a certain way, they can communicate what they want without turning their partner into the enemy. Laughing at ourselves instead of judging makes the journey entertaining instead of a constant battle.” ― Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California

4. Trust

“As a specialist in infidelity, I can tell you that trust is the most important thing in a marriage. It takes years to build and a second to break. But it’s more than just sexual fidelity. A spouse is trusted with so much: fears, vulnerabilities, painful wounds from childhood. In a good marriage, a spouse discloses these innermost thoughts and trusts that it won’t be used against them in future arguments.” ― Caroline Madden, a marriage therapist and the author of After A Good Man Cheats: How to Rebuild Trust & Intimacy with Your Wife  

5. Positivity

“We all need to be praised and appreciated but we so often get the opposite ― criticism ― even from our partner. Positivity is needed in relationships, especially ones that have grown past the honeymoon stage. Whether it’s a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘I love you’ or a specific compliment for something done, we all need to hear it. When we praise our partner we strengthen our connection, bond and love.” ― KurtSmith, a therapist who specializes in counseling for men 

6. Intimacy

 “Sexual and emotional intimacy is the bright shiny star of relationships. Intimacy is the difference between your relationship with your barista and your relationship with your spouse. You build intimacy over time. Intimacy is the feeling of belonging and being loved. It’s the feeling of being known and understood. It’s the feeling of being accepted and appreciated. If you have ever experienced or heard someone describe their relationship as hollow or empty, it’s probably because it’s lacking intimacy.” ― Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah

7. Mutual respect

“Life tends to throw some unexpected curveballs along the course of a relationship. The one quality that consistently helps couples through adversity or tragedy is mutual respect. Self-esteem is essential to feel secure and satisfied with yourself so it makes sense that a high esteem and respect for your partner is an essential ingredient in a lasting relationship, both in joyous and challenging times.” ―  Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center

8.  Presence

“Being present is more than just putting down your devices and paying attention ― it’s showing that you’re deeply interested in the inner life of your partner and want to make their world better in any way you can. Being present means freely giving your partner the gift of your full focus and being there for them in a way that’s deeper than just being physically present. It means seeing things from their point of view and not just your own.” ― Debra Campbell, a psychologist and couple’s therapist in Melbourne, Australia

9. Love

 “You need to love, honor and cherish one another. These vows are what keep people together happily over the long term. Here’s a brief rundown on what each mean: ‘To love’ means you demonstrate your love. Love is a verb ― an action word. There is no other way to show your spouse you love them except through action. We love through physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service and gifts. ‘To honor’ is to respect the one you love. You approach them in conversation in a way that shows you want the best for them and don’t want to harm them. ‘To cherish’ means to show your S.O. how much you value them. You treat them as the special person they are – your one and only.” Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas  

10. Understanding

“There’s no problem you can’t resolve when you’re listening to each other and acting like a team. Create regular times during the week when you can talk uninterrupted and don’t let a week go by without a date night. Keep listening and understanding each other. Every ounce of listening effort will pay off tenfold.” ― M. Gary Neuman, a psychotherapist based in Miami Beach, Florida

11.  Friendship

“Couples who are good friends know each other well, give each other the benefit of the doubt and are fond of one another. When you take the time to strengthen your friendship, you’re more successful long-term. Making friendship a priority will help you weather any storm that comes your way.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois

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