When Julie was a child, she was bitten by a dog and developed a terrible fear of dogs. She desperately wants to overcome that fear. Today, she agreed to visit a good friend who has a small submissive dog. When she rang the doorbell, she heard the dog bark and fear gripped her.
What should Julie do with her fear that the dog will bite her?
Should she avoid the dog and return to her car?
Should she resist the fearful thought?
Should she distract herself from thinking about the dog?
Actually Julie should do none of the above.
The best thing Julie could do is face the fear and the anxious feelings. The more she tries to avoid or resist, the stronger the fear grows.
Instead, she should tell herself, “I feel really anxious but I can do this. I am sweating but I won’t die from this.”
Julie should stay in the doorway as long as she can. The key here is for Julie to tolerate that anxious feeling as long as possible. The more she can do this, the more she will tackle the fear.
When anxious thoughts come into your mind, identify them, and tolerate the momentary feeling. Then correct the thought with something more reasonable like, “Yes I am afraid but God is with me and will get me through this. I can take it.” As you correct the thought to something more reasonable and tolerate the feeling, the anxiety will most likely decrease.
I was riding on the airport tram the other day, when I noticed a mom with a two and four-year old. Both had smart phones in their hands and were completely unaware of what was going on around them. They were engrossed in their phones and had them practically in their faces.
The mom was just staring into space. She probably wasn’t thinking about how those screens were affecting her children’s eyesight.
Recently, a study by British researchers found that children and young adults are becoming “screen sighted,” or what we call nearsighted.
Since smart phones were launched in 1997, there has been a 35% increase in nearsightedness, thought to be related to the small screens and eye strain of viewing over time. Apparently, holding a cell phone 8 inches from your eyes versus the 16 inches used to view magazines and newspapers is creating vision problems. Over time, smart phone use can also create headaches and eye strain, so limited time on these devices is needed by all.
The biggest concern of course is that constant use of a smart phone takes away from the child’s face-to-face interactions needed for emotional development. Excessive screen time is the problem. The biblical advice of moderation in all things applies to technology use.
In this case, the mom could have engaged both kids in the fun of riding the tram, pointing out all the cool things you can see and feel as the train sped down the track.
The best advice is not to hand a cell phone to a toddler in order to occupy his or her time. Instead, interact with the child, tell imaginative stories, act out a story, engage in creative play, or provide a toy that can be manipulated with interaction—all better ways to stimulate healthy development.
“It seems like the minute I walk in the door, I can’t do enough. I barely say hello and you are shouting demands at me. I know it’s a crazy time of day, but could you at least give me a moment to breathe before jumping all over me?”
Sound familiar? We all get into with our partners. The question is, when you do, can you stay nice during an argument? You relationship might just depend on it.
When emotions run high, one of the most important things you can do is respond in a loving and soothing manner. Couples who do this usually have high trust in each other and can calm each other down. Then, they are able to have a somewhat constructive conversation.
The key is to lower the emotion that is about to boil over. When partners feel overwhelmed with emotions, conflict doesn’t go well. They get what we call flooded–unable to think and make relationship repair.
One way to lower emotion is not to criticize. Resist that temptation to let loose and try to stick with the facts.
“Honey, I need help with the kids when you come home. I feel overwhelmed and need you to take them out of my hair for about an hour” Notice, I left out, “Is that asking too much?”
Make your request and then assume your partner will be responsive. If he is not, then try to get his perspective before flying off the handle. Try to stay as neutral as possible and state your need. The partner needs to resist the temptation to become defensive. Maybe pause, breathe, and focus on staying calm. Once calm, try a little negotiation.
“I’m happy to help but I need about 10 minutes just to unwind, change clothes and take a breath. Does that work for you? I promise I’ll get to it and get the kids out of your way.”
Notice that this response is not critical. Both partners stay nice during the conflict. They still are emotional, frustration is felt, but they keep that frustration from escalating and turning into criticism. They focus on their needs and try to present them in a way that doesn’t cause defensiveness.
So next time a conflict arises, remember to stay nice. Keep yourself calm, present your request in terms of what you need. Have a little faith that your partner might respond and then negotiate.
Kim and Jack have worked together now for the past five years. Sometimes, in a joke, Jack refers to her as his “work wife.” They spend most of their day together, work on projects and go to lunch everyday. They know each other very well and lately have shared intimate talk about their marriages. Even they admit, they are probably closer to each other than their spouses.
In fact, last weekend, at a work barbecue, Kim talked to Jack’s wife about their kids. Jack’s wife was a little taken aback that Kim knew such intimate details of their family life. She confronted Jack on the closeness.
When Jack and his wife came for marital therapy, Jack was very defensive, insisting he had not betrayed his wife and she was making a big deal over nothing, that is…until I asked this question.
Is there anything you are telling Kim, or doing with Kim, that would make your wife uncomfortable to watch or know?
Jack stopped. He knew there were moments with Kim that would make his wife uncomfortable. He kept those from her because the closeness was becoming dangerous in terms of an affair. The barbecue conversation brought this closeness out of secrecy.
Jack was having a nonsexual affair with Kim. Instead of turning to his wife for emotional support, Jack had his work wife, Kim.
How do you know when a relationship turns from friendship to a sexless affair? Ask yourself these questions:
1) Do you share your friend conversations with your intimate partner?
2) Have you tried to pull back from that friendship only to find it difficult?
3) Has your spouse asked you to pull back and you have not?
4) Do you fantasize what could be in the friend relationship when things are difficult with your partner?
If you answer YES to any of these questions, time to pull back from the friendship. The two of you have crossed the line and have created an intimacy that is hurting your marriage.