The Biggest Problem to Marriages

If I were to take a poll and ask everyone what is the greatest barrier to their marriage, what do you think would be the top answer?  Some might say money and others would say communication.  Still there might be some that would say sex or extended family.  What if I were to argue, that though all these answers are good, they are not the top.

Now, there are some of you that read on marriages a lot.  So, you already thinking that I am off my rocker.  I mean, all the books out there describe the three top reasons for marriage conflict as money, sex, and communication.  Granted, these are some of the top reasons why marriages struggle and eventually crash and burn.  However, there is one issue that trumps these every time.

The biggest problem to marriage is resistance.  In his book, Pressfield (2012) talks about the many factors that contribute to our resistance.  One of the items he refers to when he talks about resistance is fear.  Fear is a sign of resistance.  I had a friend post something on Facebook today…wow…really…a fiend posted something on Facebook???!!! Okay…right…

No, this friend posted some real.  They were amazingly brave by revealing their inner soul, where life was killing them and they couldn’t find a way out for many years.  However, now they are getting the help the desperately needed.  Today, this person broke of the restraints of resistance and choose to live.

Resistance is not something out there that we are fighting against.  No, the resistance is inside of us.  We just like to make it seem like it is someone else’s issue because then we have someone to blame for our own shortcomings and failures of not obtaining something in life that we wanted.  Resistance is the twin to procrastination.

Procrastination doesn’t say to the individual they are never going to do something.  No, it just convinces the person they will do something about it tomorrow.  However, tomorrow never comes and before they know it resistance has won.

In your marriages, what is the conversation you have wanted to start with your spouse but you have been too afraid?  What is the adventure that you have wanted to take, but were too afraid of what your spouse might say?  What are you letting lay dormant in your life, but by doing so is killing you from the inside out ever so slowly?

I am here to convince to let it out.  Begin fighting the feeling of resistance and instead start living once again.  As you begin to step out, you will experience the shackles falling from your ankles.  You will begin to believe in what you were called to do and will have the reserve to begin pursuing it once again.

Promise me…no…promise yourself that you will not let resistance win the battle.  Rather, you are going to fight against the rest of your life.  Building something that you will be proud of in the end, and those around you will be able to gain hope because they have seen someone else make it to the top.

Reference:

Pressfield, S. (2012). The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles. New York, NY: Black Irish Entertainment, LLC.

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Some Helpful Tips on Resolving Conflict

It seems there are those that are worried in their relationship when they face conflict.  Is conflict bad?  I guess it depends on how each of you face conflict in your relationship and how it is dealt with.

One of the things I have learned is that there are five different conflict styles (Pace, 1983).  Each conflict style has its pro’s and con’s and we can find ourselves using each one in different scenarios.  However, more often then not, we flow in one more than any other.  These conflict styles are as follows, with a brief description of each:

  1. Avoider – this is when the problem is ignored for any reason.  One of the words often found with this group is “Nothing.”  The person will say this in order to steer clear of any confrontation due to some internal and external triggers.
  2. Accommodator – this strategy is used to placate the other person involved as to ensure the relationship stays in tact.  The people usually use words like “Yes, dear” in order to appease the other person.
  3. Compromiser – is characterized by someone trying to make a win-win scenario out of any conflict.  The word often overheard with these people is “Compromise.”
  4. Competitor – this group knows there are two types of people and they want to be indentified as a winner, not a loser.  The word often overheard with this group is “Why” and this is because they want to know the other person’s reasoning so they can tear it apart in order to win the fight.
  5. Collaborator – wants both parties to walk away satisfy with the result of the conflict.  The word often heard from this group is “Research.”  They want to research and discover all the options before coming to a conclusion that way both feel heard and understood.  Together, they come to a conclusion about the conflict.

Now, as we read through this list I want to point out one thing.  No one is born a Collaborator; this is something that comes with practice.  We all want (and I hope desire) to be a Collaborator; however, we usually will find ourselves in one of the other categories.

As we come up against conflict in our relationships, I feel its important to remember that conflict is a good thing.  It teaches us where we need to grow in order to love and support each other better.  Here are some tips on how to deal with conflict better in your relationship.

  1. Do not use words like “never” and “always” – this is not true, no matter how much you might want it to be to prove a point.
  2. Use statements like “When you do [fill in the blank]…I feel [fill in the blank]…”  This takes away the defensive mechanism in the other and allows them to really hear what and/or how you are feeling.
  3. Respond to the other person using empathic reflective responses – showing them you listened.  This is done by saying something like, “What I hear you saying is when I do [what they mentioned] it makes you feel [what they mentioned]. Is this right?”
  4. After each of you listens to the other person, try to come to a mutual resolution.  This is where each will have to give and take, so just know that going into it.

References:

Pace, R. W. (1983). Organizational communication. Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Topics vs. Issues

Have you ever found yourself fighting with your spouse about something so ridiculous you don’t even know why you are fighting?  Many of us find ourselves there…and if you haven’t yet…you might one day soon.

topics_issues

The reason why this happens is something that I discuss with those that I am about to marry.  Please note: When I say “marry,” I am not talking about me specifically marrying someone, but rather me officiating a couple’s wedding.  I feel if we don’t get that out of the way, you might be thinking that I am marrying someone new several times a year…LOL!

What I explain to the couples is that we often can find ourselves frustrated with things about our relationship.  These items we are frustrated about are so deep and personal that many times we fear bringing them up with our spouse.  As items come up that are close to the heart of what we are really frustrated about appear, we attack those with our whole being.  Our hope is that our loved one will be able to figure out our frustration is not really about the item we are discussing, rather it something much deeper.  We hope they will be bold enough to ask us the right questions to get us to open up about our true hurts.

However, more often then not, our spouse will not be able to interpret our true issue.  So, in turn, this just aggravates us all the more and drives our frustrations and hurt deeper.  The deeper this goes the tougher it is to discuss our true issue.

All this means that we stay on the Crazy Cycle (Eggerichs, 2004), fighting over the topics and never truly getting to the heart of the matter (aka the issue).  To flesh this out, this is what it would like in your relationship…

Your spouse enjoys his work buddies and he is has now begun spending at least one Friday night at the bar after a long day’s work.  However, now he is spending two nights per week out with the guys.  His wife begins to question whether she still finds her attractive because he seems to want to spend more time out of the house then within it with her.  So, when he comes home a little late one night she attacks him for this inconsideration.  He has no idea what happened, but he is starting to feel like he can’t do anything right.  Therefore, he spends more time away from the house in the environments where he feels like he excels – which is either at work or at the bar with the guys.

When feelings like this come, we need to be honest with our spouse and get to the issue rather than trying to argue about the topics.  What are your issues?  Make a pact that you will quit fighting over the topics and dive deep to the issues.

References:

Eggerichs, E.(2004). Love and respect: The love she most desires, the respect he desperately needs. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

The Gift of Happiness

During this Christmas season, we all want to find happiness.  What is true happiness though?  Is America the happiness we all are searching for…I mean we all know that our Declaration of Independence states that we all have the right to pursue happiness.

Can we find happiness?  Can our marriages (or relationships) bring us the happiness?  Here are my answers to these questions…  Yes, we can find happiness, but our marriages/relationships cannot bring us happiness.  I know this might set some of you back.  However, let me explain.

Happiness is something we have to find within ourselves.  We cannot expect anyone else to give it to us.  I found this out about six years ago when I began to realize that my old “happy-go-lucky” self had left.  I was now the “don’t cut me off or I will cuss you out” guy.  I began to wonder how did I get to this place where I was frustrated more often then not and was not happy with my life.

After careful consideration, I began to realize it was because I was giving power to everyone else in my life.  I was letting them determine whether I was going to be happy and/or satisfied with my life.  I was like a golden retriever throwing balls to people waiting for them to pick them up and throw them back.  However, they would just let the ball lie at their feet.  By this analogy, I am meaning that I would do things for others only to wait for them to do something back for me…or…I would go above and beyond for someone only for them to recognize what I had done.  In both of these situations, nothing would ever happen to suffice for what I was looking to get.

This was also illustrated by certain aspects in my life.  I thought I would be happy when I got married because I would have found someone that thought of me the way I thought of myself.  If you have been married…you know this feeling only lasts anywhere from about 9 months to no more than three years.  Then I thought when I bought my house that I would be happy.  After buying your home, it seems that all you can see is the projects that need to be done and the issues with the house.  Needless to say, buying a house did not bring happiness either.  Then I thought when I had kids, that would surely bring me happiness.  HA!  Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and they do bring me happiness…but they also bring along with them frustration.

When I began to take back the power of my life, I found myself starting to find happiness again.  I need to find happiness within myself.  Happiness is not found in any gift that is outside of ourselves.  We can only find happiness by choosing to be happy.  This Christmas, take sometime to determine to be happy.

Why Me?

Christmas time should be a time where we come together and are filled with joy.  However, there are those that regret this time of the year.  Some of the reasons why they regret this time of the year is they do not get along with family, the are financially deprived, and/or they hurt because of people they have lost.  Granted, this list is not all inclusive.

What do you do if you are one that struggles through this time of the year?  This first response we might find ourselves uttering is “Why me?”  This is not a negative response; rather, this actually is a great response.  What is the first thing an alcoholic must do in order to overcome their disease?  They have to admit they have a problem.  The same is true for those that find themselves struggling.  They must come to some conclusions on why they are feeling this way.

After coming to some conclusions, they must begin creating some solutions to these issues.  For instance, lets say you struggle with the way your family makes you feel.  One of the ways to fight against this is to find some items you can hold fast to in order bring clarity to your situation.  Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

When life is gloomy, we must remember that the battle is within.  Eleanor’s quote reminds of this as well.  We are in control of how others make us feel or how we let others define us.  I know this is easier said then done, but we cannot let others label us.  If you struggle with this, then learn to write out a list of your great qualities and keep them where you can see them.

The next thing we have to remember when it comes to the holidays is that we are in control.  There is nothing wrong with being honest with yourself.  The old saying is true that we cannot select our families.  This being said, if being around your family brings back to many bad memories, then do not be around them.

I know this is difficult because this is something I have to deal with as well.  My mother and I have some issues, but I will not bore you with the back story.  After several years of dealing with the negative way she was treating me, I had to stand up for family and myself.  As much as it hurts, I had to choose my family, and my sanity, over a relationship with my mother.

My hope is that one day I will be able to reestablish a relationship with my mother.  However, there are some things she needs to do before that will happen.  In finishing this post, I want to point out that no one can blame others for their life.  We are the makers of our lives, so if we don’t like the way it is turning out, then we must begin rewriting our future.

The Christmas Letdown

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year.  This could be that my birthday is in December, but I believe it is more than just that.  I believe it is the way that people interact with others.  It is also a time where more people are willing to talk about their spiritual journey.

One of the aspects of Christmas is gifts.  We take all this time trying to find the best gifts for those that we love.  We try not to go over budget…well…preferably.  We look forward to the joy our loved ones share when they open their presents.

This brings us to an important question.  Have you ever found yourself letdown after opening a present from a loved one?  I am sure, if we were to ask our loved ones, we would find they were letdown by gifts they received from us as well.  What do you do in these moments?

When it comes to our spouse, there is nothing wrong with being honest.  However, this does not mean that we should be cruel or vindictive.  It is very important to remember that it is the thought that counts.  When we open a gift that we would never use or wear, then we need to be honest.  Let’s face it, if we keep the gift then they are going to expect us to wear or use it, so at one point they are going to know the truth.

Be open with why you do not like the particular gift.  People can connect with feelings, so share them   and you might be amazed.  People can argue against logic and/or reasoning; however, they cannot fight against how someone feels.

In the same fashion, when someone comes to us and lets us know they are not satisfied with a gift that we bought them, do not take it personally.  It is not about you – even as much as we want to make it about us.  We need to allow others the ability to return the gifts that we got them and not take it personally.  Again, in the end, what we want most is the other person to be happy and satisfied with what they receive.

The one thing I have noticed as my wife and I have been married for over 15 years is that our tastes have changed.  Early on in our relationship, I could buy her clothes without her even seeing them, and she would like 90% of what I bought her.  Now, I have her show me what she likes and I still will only get it right about 30% of the time.

In the end, Christmas is not about the gifts.  It is truly about the connections.  This Christmas, lets keep that as the focus.

What is a gift you have received that was a letdown at Christmas?  Do you still have that gift?

The Claws of Philosophy

If I were to ask you what your philosophy of life is, what would you say?  Now that you have answered this question (or at least have pondered it), have you pondered how this affects other parts of your life?  Take for instance your marriage…how has your philosophy affected your marriage?

This is something that I recently began to really ponder in my own life.  It is truly amazing how much our philosophies impact all areas of our lives.  This whole aspect of my philosophy of life came about last week when I was listening to someone share their life’s story.  I began to wonder what my philosophy was when it came to life.  One day, last week while at lunch, I decided to sit down and write out my philosophy.

After that hour, I began to really see why I am in the place I am at in life.  As I began to extrapolate this belief to other areas in my life, I also saw how it affects them as well.  This belief oozes its claws into all aspects of our lives – whether we see it or not.

It is important for you to take time to discover what your philosophy of life is as well.  If you have never done this exercise, I highly recommend taking the time.  If you have done this before, but it has been awhile.  I would encourage you to revisit your philosophy and see if it still fits your beliefs.

If you notice, like I did, that you have a negative aspect to life, then take some time to rewrite what you want it to be.  Since that day, I have been taking time each day to rewrite what I want my philosophy to say about life.  Please note: just because you write it out does not make it your philosophy.  I am learning that I need to recite my philosophy constantly in order to really change it and make it my mine.

It takes time to unpack what we believe and then repack what we want to believe.  During this time, we fall back and move forward.  I know it can be frustrating…trust me.  You might be wondering how much energy does it take to change.  I have found that it is easier than we think, but still it takes a lot of focused effort.  The effort to change is as simple as setting your alarm in the morning and getting up to it without pressing the snooze button.

To finish this post, I want to share what I am learning.  Everything with our philosophy comes down to what we believe about our potential.  To change our potential you have to believe you can do it.  When you believe you can, the energy you put forth towards your potential increases.  Your heightened action will give greater results, which then pushes your belief higher.  This keeps cycling in an upward progression.  However, the opposite is true as well.  If you give less energy, then your you will have less results, which will then lower your belief in yourself and your potential.