Posts

Have you ever made a joke about your spouse and they didn’t think that it was funny?

Has your spouse ever remarked on a “weakness” of yours and you felt some way about it?

Has your spouse ever made fun of you or put you down in front of your kids?

What are some of the common ways that we unwittingly put our spouses down?

1. You talk over or finish their statements when they are speaking.

It can easily become a habit to talk over your spouse or finish their statements for them. When you do this, you are sending the message to your spouse that you don’t respect their perspective and opinion. Additionally, this can minimize them in the eyes of others (family, friends, co-workers, children). 

2. You don’t consider/obtain their opinion or input when making decisions  (i.e., the kids, family vacations, or future plans).

Teamwork is important in marriage. It takes both parts of the couple contributing to make it as strong as possible. When one person makes all the decisions, it can lead to a myopic view of the situation. Having differing options and opinions can strengthen a plan. Like a well-woven tapestry, considering and respecting the input from your spouse creates a better and holistic problem-solving strategy.

3. You MINIMIZE their strengths while you MAXIMIZE their weaknesses.

When couples get together, they often say, “Where I am weak, my spouse is strong and vice versa.” After a time, it can become problematic when the focus changes to, “I really can’t believe that my spouse can’t do that.” For example: you may be very strong at directions while your spouse needs GPS to go anywhere, even places that they have been many times before. Sitting in the car as they set up the GPS, you think, “OMG, I should have just driven. They never know how to get anywhere.” You then share with anyone who will listen that your spouse is seriously DIRECTIONALLY CHALLENGED. From there you only seem to notice their deficiencies rather than their strengths.

4. You tease your spouse too much.

Whether it is about their hair, nose or the way they eat spaghetti, teasing your spouse can be a way to bring humor to your relationship. However, too much of a GOOD THING can become a problem. If you seem to nit-pick everything about your spouse even with a hint of levity, they may feel undervalued. Find ways to build up your spouse, not tear them down—even in JEST.

5. You constantly re-do tasks that your spouse has already done.

For many spouses, there are two ways to do things: MY WAY (THE RIGHT WAY) and your way. Your spouse may feel belittled as you refold the towel, remake the bed or reload the dishwasher. You inadvertently are telling them that their efforts are not wanted, needed, or appreciated. Because only YOU can do it, the RIGHT WAY.

Zig Ziglar said, “The first step to solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.” Recognizing that you may be putting down your spouse is the initial step. While your spouse does things differently than you or even parents differently than you, it is KEY to respect those differences. Making fun of them or negating the importance of your spouse in your life and in the lives of your children undermines your relationship. Remember that the two of you are a TEAM. 

✦ Each of you has a role to play to make your family the BEST that it CAN BE!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Pexels.com

Forgive and forget,” right? That’s what they say. But what happens when you can’t forget and you certainly aren’t ready to forgive? Have you ever felt like something was wrong with you because forgiveness didn’t come quickly, easily, or at all?

Read more

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Maybe you just aren’t feeling thankful this year. Maybe you haven’t felt thankful for a long, long time. Let’s face it, in a lot of ways, we live in some dark times. I’m with you. There is a reason that suicides go up during the holidays. There is a reason that this is the season for infidelity and divorce. So, what do you do if, honestly, you just don’t feel very thankful on Thanksgiving?

Read more

We sat next to each other on the hotel bed, the awkward silence between us laden with guilt, fear, confusion and trepidation. Something had transpired on the drive to our weekend getaway with my husband’s family, who had come into town for our youngest daughter’s dedication. A celebration, a joyous occasion, marked by a colicky 4-month-old, a whiny three-nager, the stress of planning an event, having in-laws in town and my recent diagnosis of Postpartum Depression.

Read more

You love your spouse, but maybe you don’t really like in-laws.

You heard but didn’t heed the warning: “Remember, whoever you marry, you also marry their family.”

After a few years of marriage (or less), you soon realize saying “yes” to forever with your spouse really did mean saying “yes” to forever with their family, as well as uncomfortable holidays and long weekends filled with awkward situations and tension for as long as you both shall live.

So, what do you do? How do you get along with people you don’t really like?

First of all, did you notice I said “get along with” and not “like?” The truth is, you may never like your in-laws. And that’s totally fine. You don’t have to. It’s just important to keep the drama and the tension to a minimum as much as you can for the sake of your spouse and your children (if you have them). Even though you formed a new family when you were married, your in-laws are the reason you have your spouse and new family to begin with. If nothing else, try to respect them for giving you your spouse. 

Secondly, be as empathetic as possible. Maybe your mother-in-law is mega passive-aggressive and a little odd, and your father-in-law is just kind of a jerk all the time. TRY (keyword here) to look past their glaring flaws and put yourself in their shoes. For instance, your mother-in-law may be passive-aggressive because she really just wants to spend more time with you but doesn’t know how to say it. Maybe she’s even a little intimidated by you. (Note: If you’re the daughter-in-law, this is NOT uncommon.. I mean, you did take her place as the prioritized woman in her son’s life, forever.) 

And, maybe your father-in-law is a little unhappy with himself or unfulfilled in his life. Maybe they’re both a little off because their marriage and relationships aren’t as healthy as they used to be and they have some resentment and anger to work through. Being empathetic doesn’t mean you excuse their behavior. It just means you take a different approach to understanding their motives and actions.

Third, tell your spouse about your uneasy feelings, but remember you’re talking about their parents.  Be vulnerable and open with your spouse every chance you get. But, when it comes to talking about their parents, keep in mind that there’s a fine line between stating your feelings and being critical of their family. It’s okay to say, “I felt sad when I heard your dad talk to your mom in that tone of voice.” It’s not okay to say, “Your dad is a total jerkface. I can’t believe your mom has stayed with him this long.” 

Be sensitive. The truth is your spouse more than likely already knows there are some odd bits about their parents. They did live with them during their most formative years. 

Fourth, set those boundaries with a smile. You and your spouse want to start a new tradition around the holidays, but your in-laws insist that you come visit them. Kindly and firmly say, “no.” If you want your in-laws to call before dropping by, tell them! Maybe you would prefer that your father-in-law not watch certain shows around your children. Let. Him. Know. Setting boundaries keeps things nice and tidy and leaves the guesswork off the table. ALSO, and this is very important, each spouse should set boundaries with their own family. So, you talk to your family and your spouse talks to their family. It’s much easier for a parent to have a potentially dicey conversation with their child than with their in-law.

IF your in-laws don’t like one of your boundaries, and they throw a big fit, let them. You do you and what’s best for your family. If they get so mad that they never want to see you or speak to you again, then that boundary worked out more in your favor than you ever imagined it could. Jk. Jk. But, seriously. You can’t change or control their reaction. If they act immature about it, it’s not your fault. That’s their issue.

Fifth, different doesn’t mean wrong. Everyone’s family has a certain way of doing things. It’s totally natural and normal for your in-laws to do things differently than what you’re used to, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And it also doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just means you’re different. For example, you grew up having a big feast on Thanksgiving. Your mom made awesome cinnamon rolls, a giant fruit tray and your dad made the best omelets you’ve ever tasted. But, your in-laws go to McDonald’s and grab Egg McMuffins. It may seem weird to you, and not as fun or exciting, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It’s just their way of doing things. Accept them for who they are and try not to look down on them for not living up to your standards or expectations.

Last but not least, texts go both ways. Pursue your in-laws. That’s right. You heard me. Be friendly to them. Make an effort. They’re your family, too. Sending a text every now and again to check in won’t hurt you, and you know it’ll make them feel loved (even if you don’t like them). Send them cards on their birthdays, invite them to big celebrations in your life. Let them learn more about you and your life. Who knows, you may just influence them to be a little more likable.

Marriage is hard and family is complicated. Both take a lot of work, but the reward of deep meaningful connection is so worth it in the end. While you may never reach a level of relational bliss with your in-laws, these six guidelines should keep the drama to a minimum and maintain the peace in your marriage.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

You’re in love with your total opposite. Is this your true love? Can your relationship last forever? Do you guys stand a chance? You’ve heard “opposites attract” and you’ve definitely felt that attraction, but you can’t deny how opposite you are either. (Your friends and family constantly remind you…)

Then, maybe in quiet moments, the nagging questions creep in…

How different is too different? Are we total opposites? Maybe opposites attract, but can opposites also drive each other crazy? Is there a point where you are so different that you are forced to concede that you aren’t compatible? Does it matter how different you are if both of you are willing to accept each other’s differences? Can there be a “balancing act” between the differences? He has this one t-shirt that he thinks is so cool and it’s all I can do to not burn it! THIS CAN NEVER WORK, CAN IT?

Calm down. Take a deep breath. These are (mostly) good questions to be asking! 

If we start with the idea that EVERYONE is already different from each other to some extent, then the next thing to understand is that the bigger the differences, the more you will have to work to function as one, to be unified, to be a team AND the more you’ll have to work to avoid conflict, arguments, and deal with disagreements. 

This is a key concept. Got it? Bigger differences equal more relationship work.

I’m using “bigger” here as in how important are the differences? (Personality and character, core values like religion or politics, issues like whether to have kids, parenting styles, or approaches to conflict, communication, sex and money.)

Some people get hung up on the little differences and don’t even consider the BIG ones. The little differences are the spice of life. Different taste in music or food. City or country upbringing. Cake or pie? (Pie of course!) Those kinds of differences keep things interesting. But there are Big Differences that can make things difficult down the road. Have you thought about those?

In theory, you’d think it doesn’t matter how many differences or how big they are if each of you is willing to do the required work. (“But we love each other!”) That sounds so nice.

In practice, people have limits, get worn out, or have certain things where their partner just has to be on the same page. Worse, sometimes you can’t predict the impact of the differences down the line. Listen, the rest of your life is a long time.

Give some serious thought to these next little pieces of wisdom:

First, marriage tends to magnify your differences, NOT minimize them. It certainly won’t make them go away. Oh, and you or marriage aren’t gonna “fix” him or her. If it’s a “thing” while dating, it will really be a “thing” when you get married.

Secondly, in general, while they are dating, people tend to greatly underestimate the impact of these differences, while, at the same time, overestimating their ability to look past them. (Read that last sentence a couple of times. I’ll wait.)

Why can’t they see straight? They have these big blindspots called “Attraction,” “Being In Love,” “Infatuation” or “But He’s/She’s So Hot! Then at some point, a few years into the rest of their life, they are like, “Wow, this is really, really hard!” (If children come into the picture, multiply the difficulty level by a factor of at least five.)

Here’s the thing, nobody is going to be able to tell you definitively, “You guys are just too different.” There is something there or you wouldn’t be dating, right? But here is some help seeing around those blind spots…

Are the differences in core values, non-negotiables, or just preferences?

I’ll use my 25-year marriage (That’s twenty-five years. A quarter-century!) as an  example. We. Could. Not. Be. More Different…

Her idea of a fun Saturday morning is re-organizing the kitchen cabinets so she can check that off her List of Things to Do. (That’s an illness, right?) Then she wants to proceed to the next things on her list, all equally as exciting to me. My perfect Saturday is watching some (pretentious) art-house movie, then analyzing and endlessly discussing the cinematography and the significance of the director’s color palette while listening to some obscure Icelandic band.

She is a grounded, list-making Doer. I am a list-averse, head in the clouds.

She is concrete. I’m abstract. She’s about accomplishments, I’m about … not.

All these are real differences, BUT we pretty much completely agree right down the line when it comes to religion, spirituality, and politics. We have the same non-negotiables of honesty and loyalty. We both wanted kids and wanted the same things for them. (But, man, if my life depended on buying a dress for her that she would actually wear, I’m a dead man.)

Do the differences complement or compete?

She is more of an extrovert who loves people and parties. I’m an introvert who is good at faking being extroverted. She loves the crowds on Black Friday. I hate them. But, if she has to return something and has lost the receipt, I will be called upon to talk our way out of that with the manager. I’m just good at that sort of thing.

See, when encountering differences, people often make a judgment as to who is better and who is worse. If you can avoid that kind of thinking and be more like, “Where does THIS come in handy? Where does THAT?” now you are complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Boom.

Are the differences an obstacle or an opportunity?

Religious differences are unique. Now, you can say that in this arena you’ll just agree to disagree. That’s sounds grown-up. Might work for you two. But It will be a thing with the in-laws. In fact, it will be THE thing. If you have children, you will have to pick which traditions they will be raised under. That can cause some serious tension! I’ve seen it. Just sayin’…

Speaking of children, it can be really good for them to have parents who are significantly different but model how to make that work and play to their strengths. Maybe the kids end up being balanced and learn valuable life-skills. Or maybe they grow up seeing their parents arguing all the time because they are so, so different. Are you guys arguing a lot now?

Are the differences a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed?

Some differences might get smoothed out a bit over time so they don’t rub each other so sharply. but they will always be there. These differences aren’t something you solve, they are something you learn to live with the rest of your life. You cool with that? 

I don’t have a wife who enjoys talking about philosophy, movies, music, books, art, or the beauty of the word “oblivion.” She indulges me and works at it and is a really good sport about it. I try not to wear her out and corner her with lengthy conversations about Southern Gothic authors.

She doesn’t have a husband who will ever be organized, be good about budgeting, will jump up to tackle some project around the house, will ever want to go jogging, or organize my day around a list of things to do. I know that stuff is important to her, so I work at it. We both have accepted these thingsWe had to grow into it… It was hard for a long time until we figured it out.

Are the differences equally valued?

This is important. For us, this has taken some time and been tough. When it comes to our differences, she likes to claim, “Hey, at least I get stuff done.” Then I say, “Yeah, but you miss out on so much beauty and wonder and will likely die from a stress-induced heart attack.” (Point, mine. Check THAT off your list…)

We have learned to play to our strengths. Who do you think makes sure that bills get paid on time? Who do you think helps our kid with his Shakespeare project?

Spending the rest of your life with someone doesn’t require uniformity – that would be boring. It does require unity. Whatever the differences, you will need to be able to stand unified. Unified against challenges, problems, hardships, the test of time, and even sometimes things like in-laws and often your own children. It’s gonna be you two against the world. Is there enough common ground for you to stand together?

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

For more resources, see our Dating and Engaged or Marriage pages.

Image from Unsplash.com

Have you been to the doctor’s office or emergency room and they asked you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10? I really stress out over this question and probably way overthink it. I want to know what a 1 or a 10 stands for so I can answer accurately.  If I am going to be healthy – physically and emotionally, I better answer honestly. People are counting on me.

After 31 surgeries in the past couple of decades, and surgery 32 right around the corner, I have probably been asked to rate my pain hundreds of times. Hundreds. By doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, physical therapists, mental health professionals. Sometimes it’s hard to pin an exact number to your pain, but you know when it’s there. What do you do with yours?

Over the years, I’ve learned the patterns of my pain. For me, physical pain usually leads me to emotional pain like loneliness or depression. When I’m depressed, I’m more likely to do something like skip physical therapy which then prolongs my recovery time which only makes me more depressed. And the downward spiral spins…

If I am going to have a healthy relationship with myself (and my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers) it begins when I answer these questions honestly…

How would you rate… your pain today Mr. Daum, on a scale of 1 to 10?

How would you rate your depression…

How would you rate your anxiety…

How would you rate your anger… 

How would you rate your stress…

How would you rate your loneliness…

It is so tempting to ignore or downplay our pain. Are you honest about yours?

Call in the Professionals.

Whether your pain is physical or emotional, know when to get help. Some problems are just bigger than you are. Don’t be a hero. Don’t let it paralyze you. Don’t let it make you do something you’ll regret. Don’t pretend your anger is a 2 when you are at a 9. There is nothing wrong with calling in the pros.

Laugh.

Seriously, laughter is the best medicine. Mock your pain by laughing at it. Take some of its power over you away. If the people around you see that you can joke through your struggles, it puts them at ease, too. (This doesn’t mean you don’t take it seriously, just that you won’t let it steal your smile.)

Perspective.

All the perspective. True, sometimes the pain that you are feeling is the Worst Pain in the Whole Entire Universe to you in the moment, BUT there is always someone out there who would trade problems with you in a second. That doesn’t make your problems magically go away, but it gives you perspective

Embrace the Pain.

This one is a tougher sell. Work with me here. There is a huge upside to pain. Whether it is physical or emotional, your pain is trying to teach you something. Pain is a strict teacher, but it teaches some of life’s most important lessons. Lean into the pain. Be open to the lessons. Be grateful for them…

Keep It Real.

If someone asks how I feel, I usually tell them. They asked. (You don’t have to dump EVERYTHING on them, but you’ll soon learn that your Brave Face doesn’t help anyone.) At least have one or two people in your life that you can be real with about how you feel when you are hurting or depressed or angry or stressed. These are people who will let you vent, not be dismissive, listen for a while, but then help you get centered and refocused again. These people are your angels.

Prevention.

Listen to this, the cool thing is that a lot of what keeps us healthy physically also helps keep us healthy emotionally. Good sleep. Exercise. Eating healthy. Getting out in the sun. Spending time with friends and loved ones. Gratitude. Check-ups with professionals. Listen: The absolute best pain, physically and emotionally, is the pain that you avoid.

On A Scale Of 1 to 10, How Honest Are You About Your Pain?

For more resources, see our Self-Care page here.

Image from Unsplash.com

What, exactly, were you expecting when you got married? Did you expect marriage and your spouse to make you happy?

Read more

I was irritated. More than irritated, I was ready to pounce at the next person who asked me a question, about anything. I was mentally and physically exhausted from putting in hour after hour at work, only to turn around and put in hour after hour at home, and I was over it. I was over my boss, over my hard work going unrecognized, over bearing the weight of the invisible mental load of motherhood and oh-so-over being told I was being too emotional about it all. In other words, I was suffering from BURNOUT.

ICYMI, “Burnout” is now an official medical diagnosis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). No, we’re not talking about just being stressed out. WHO classifies burnout as a condition caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

Yup, I had it all. Check, check aaaaand check.

Thankfully I stumbled upon Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, DMA. It opened my eyes to the science and reality of burnout and how to take care of myself by managing stress.

According to the Nagoski sisters, burnout is caused by chronic stress, not stressors. But what’s the difference? Stressors are external: to-do lists, bosses, all the challenges life throws our way. Stress is the neurological and physiological response your body has when you feel like you’re in danger (from a stressor).

For instance: Your boss called you out on missing a deadline at work. The stressor is your boss calling you out. The stress is the guilt, shame or embarrassment you felt from being called out.

The stress cycle begins when a stressor triggers our “flight or fight” response. It is literally our SURVIVAL mode. Think about it:

FLIGHT: If you were being chased by a lion, you would run to a safe place. Once you are safe, your body would relax. 

FIGHT: If you were being attacked by a bear, but you were pretty sure you could fight it off and win, your body would gear up to attack. Once you had won and the danger was gone, your body would relax.

When you’ve finally reached safety and your body relaxes, the stress cycle is complete.

But what happens when the perceived threat is insurmountable? You’ll never outrun it and you’re not strong enough to fight it… so, you FREEZE. 

And this, my friends, is where burnout happens. When we are stuck in a constant, never-ending state of stress, our bodies literally shut down and play dead in order to survive.

So is it possible to prevent burnout?

In order to fix or prevent burnout, we have to complete the stress cycle. That means, dealing with not only the stressor but the actual stress itself. If we hold our feelings in, power through the hard days, but never deal with the stress of the situation, then we keep the stress cycle open and ongoing, instead of closing it and allowing our bodies to relax.

Here are 7 ways to complete the stress cycle and prevent burnout:

  1. Physical Activity – In any and every form, physical activity is your BEST strategy to complete the stress cycle. You know the drill, 30 minutes a day. It can be anything that gets your body moving: running, swimming, dancing, kickboxing, etc.
  2. Controlled Breathing – Deep, slow breaths help regulate your body’s stress response. Try slowly breathing in for a count of 5, holding that breath for 5, then exhaling for a count of 10.
  3. Socialize – Casual, friendly interactions help signal to your body that you’re safe and that not everyone is crazy and that everything will be okay. Sigh.
  4. Laugh – Laughter is quite literally the best medicine! When’s the last time you laughed so hard your abs and cheeks hurt? Laughter like that can help shift your mood and increase relationship satisfaction.
  5. Affection – Finding a deeper connection with someone you love and trust is paramount. A hug or kiss is known to release a mix of the “feel good” chemicals: serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Yes, please!
  6. Cry – Have you noticed how you seem to feel better after a good cry, even if nothing about the situation has changed? That’s because crying is actually dealing with the stress you are feeling.
  7. Be Creative – Allowing yourself to channel stress into art is a great way to complete the cycle. Any kind of creative activity will encourage you to freely express yourself and work through some of those big emotions.

You’ll be surprised at how implementing just one of these methods every day will change the way you manage your daily stress and prevent burnout from happening!

It didn’t happen overnight, but over time I was able to deal with the overwhelming amount of stress I was under. After a lot of introspection (coupled with a cry-sesh here and there), I realized that I had stopped taking care of my well being under the weight of the responsibility of taking care of all the other people in my life. So not only did I start making time for yoga, an exercise that I truly enjoyed, I also started a book club with my close friends to give me an excuse and motivation to read more and get together with good company on a monthly basis. Honestly, it took a lot of effort to change how I managed my stress,  but changing my stress changed my entire life.

For more resources, see our Self-Care page here.

Image from Unsplash.com