Doing Life Together

divorce couple“Our marriage needs help but my husband won’t go to therapy.”

I’ve heard this statement often and it is usually filled with frustration, sadness and sometimes anger. A relationship is in trouble but one spouse refuses to get help.

If a marriage is going to be helped, both people need to go to therapy. Men are typically the ones who aren’t keen on the idea. For one thing, therapy tends to be talk-oriented, making some men uncomfortable since women talk more about their feelings.

So how do you overcome an unwilling partner when it comes to attending couples therapy? Here are 10 tips:

1) Stress the ACTION of therapy. The purpose is to make change and practice new ways of doing things, not simply talk. Yes, feelings will be discussed, but therapy involves action steps to change.

2) Talk ahead of time about the purpose of therapy. Therapy is not a place to fight or blame.  A good therapist interrupts the problem patterns and helps you have a positive experience in the room with the hope that news ways of behaving will carry over outside of therapy.

3) Talk ROI (Return On Investment). If you put the time and effort into marital therapy, the results are good. Trained therapist know how to move people from problems to success.

4) Focus on taking responsibility for your own behavior. The purpose is NOT to change the other person.

5) Discuss what changes you would both like to see. Be specific like improve your sex life, do more activities together, etc. Be concrete about what you expect to see at the end of the process.

6) Don’t threaten divorce or separation as a reason to go to therapy. Stay positive and go because you believe that changes can be made and the marriage can be better for both of you.

7) Find two or three referrals and discuss which one looks the best. Sometimes by doing the work ahead and having options, the other person will be more willing to go.

8) Remind yourselves that relationships are work because they invoke skills. If you want to get better at something, you often need a coach or mentor. A therapist can provide that function and help you be a better you!

9) Change your thinking from “I” to “We.” Think of yourself as a couple, not just two individuals with issues. What do you bring to the table that helps or hinders the relationship?

10) Stay humble. No one is good at everything. And many of us need help with our relationships. If you humble yourself enough to say, “Yes, we need help,” the possibilities are endless.

child phoneA mom asks:

The other day I was so embarrassed because my child whined around when I was trying to talk to another mom. When our children whine, it really bothers us. We want to turn that whining to gratitude. How do we make that happen?

When you want to extinguish one behavior and then replace it with a positive one, you begin by labeling the inappropriate behavior. For example, “Kayla, right now you are whining, that needs to stop in order for mom to listen to what you are saying or need.”

If she doesn’t stop, ignore the whining and restate the expectation-you will only respond when she stops whining. Do not pick her up and don’t engage her until she stops. If a request is involved, ask her to restate it politely.

If you are consistent with withholding your attention for whining and giving attention only when she is not whining, the behavior will eventually end.

Then, at other times of the day, model gratitude by periodically verbalizing things for which you are grateful. Read books about thankfulness and practice thinking of things you are thankful for while you are driving around in the car. Make it a game—who can come up with the most things to be thankful for in the day. You can also memorize scriptures that talk about thankfulness like Psalm 100 and provide a small reward for this.

The point is that you have to intentionally teach children to look for things for which they are grateful. Eventually, they will notice on their own and point them out to you. Keep modeling this as well. Kids learn best by watching their parents. Grateful parents create grateful kids.

sleepAre you irritable? Difficult to live with because you are constantly tired? Time to look at your sleep habits and do something about them.

If you are tossing and turning consider these 8 tips:

  • Women take an average of nine minutes to fall asleep at night compared to 23 minutes for men. IF you are male, get an early start on winding down!
  • The effects of caffeine can last up to 8 hours after you indulge. So maybe skip the after dinner coffee with dessert.
  • Adjust your weekend hours of sleep. So many of us stay up later and sleep in on weekends, but this throws our sleep schedule completely off. It is better to keep your sleep and wake schedule the same on weekends.
  • There is so much activity in your home that you find yourself eating dinner late in the evening. The problem is that heavy or large meals eaten within a couple hours of bedtime can keep you awake. Eat earlier or eat a very light meal at night.
  • If your bedroom is toasty hot, turn down the temperature. A dark and cool bedroom helps you sleep better.
  • If you watch TV to try and fall asleep, this may not work as the bright lights can signal the brain to wake up!
  • Your schedule leaves very little time for exercise so you do what you can at night. If you exercise too late, your body is wound up, ready to go. Try to get exercise in earlier in the day so it doesn’t keep you awake.
  • Too much to think about and remember? Write it down. If you put the issues on paper, you are less likely to toss and turn thinking about them.
  • If you nap during the day, it can make you less tired at night and throw off your sleep pattern. Stop the naps.
  • Too much on your mind? Try to switch gears and relax, letting go of anxious thoughts. A racing mind keeps you awake. End your day with prayer and meditation. Read the Bible and quiet your mind. Cast your cares on God and settle your mind on His goodness.

Make a few changes and see if your mood improves. The lack of sleep is one of the biggest problems with kids and adults when it comes to irritability. Just a few changes could make you a better family member.

stressed womanJulie was handed her biology test in class. While she studied for the test, the material was difficult. When she saw the red C at the top of the exam, she began to cry. Racked with anxiety, she couldn’t believe she barely passed the test. The stress overwhelmed her. One has to wonder why?

This is just one example off what most of us would consider mild stress than seems to put our teens in a panic and struggling with anxiety. I offer one of possibly many explanations for this. Parents!

Before you stop reading and think, great she is blaming us for teens’ poor coping, stay with me. I am a parent guilty of this as well. While our teens have to be responsible for how they react to minor difficulties, we have to take some ownership regarding how we prepare them for such times.

Consider this possibility. Have you helped your teens too much?

Ask yourself these 5 questions:

1) When my teen is stuck, do I jump in and find the solution? Or do I watch them struggle and figure it out without my intervention?

2) When they fail, do I minimize the failure and try to make them feel better or do I allow them to sit with that failure and work through the feelings?

3) When they are upset, do I listen and encourage them to problem-solve or do I get angry at whatever happened to upset them and blame others?

4) When there is a problem, do I immediately defend their behavior, make excuses or do I allow them to feel the consequences? 

5) Do I believe failure can build character and am comfortable watching them struggle for a time? Or do I feel compelled to rescue them? 

Hopefully, you see that in our quest to be helpful and good problem-solvers, we may be denying our teens the development of these specific skills. If you want to prepare your teen to cope better, consider pulling back from intervening, becoming a good listening ear and empowering them to work through their problems.