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Emotion - 4. page

The Light Has Come

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The church is dark and still.
One small candle is lit. From the front of the church the light spreads from one person to their neighbor as the candles receive the light. Slowly the light spreads like clouds parting to reveal the stars beyond. The flickering light changes the room from darkness to the warm glow of wonder and awe. I assist my son to light his candle. He is excited to hold fire, reverence and excitement mix as he watches his flame. Nearby, I see the faces of my family lit softly. The church is now full with the multiplied light illuminating the community. I see the people in the room but I imagine the community of Christians worldwide celebrating in this moment. I also imagine those who have gone before, who have left their legacy of light, the legacy of Christ in them.

The world is dark and anything but still.
When evil and darkness seem especially cruel, I remember; The Light has come into the world and the darkness will not overcome it.

That is worth celebrating on Christmas and every day.

This Christmas Eve I will celebrate the birth of Jesus with my family and experience the wonder and light of the season. The candlelight service on Christmas Eve is a spiritual experience and tradition that warms and strengthens my soul. Spiritual experiences are individually powerful but they also greatly impact relationships. When we connect with our savior, celebrate His coming, and His continued presence in our lives our connection in marriage deepens.

What are your favorite spiritually significant experiences at Christmas time?

Nativity Stress

Copyright: ivonnewierink / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: ivonnewierink / 123RF Stock Photo

Despite the misleading “all is calm” nativity scene, conflict has always been a part of the Christmas season. In the Biblical passages containing the Christmas story (Luke 1-2) you can see plenty of relationship conflict. We tend to concentrate only on the nice parts of the story, when the stars shine and angels sing. I’m guessing Mary and Joseph remember the first Christmas as pretty stressful.

I get stressed when getting ready for holiday travel. I pack the car perfectly and then I have to add another “just one more thing” and finally, I’m expected to top it off by cramming in the gift bags without crushing the delicate tissue paper. Tension and conflict overcome my peace and joy.

Mary and Joseph were familiar with stressful travel. Before the first Christmas they traveled to his hometown of Bethlehem. Joseph had to pack the family donkey for the trip. I have no experience with donkeys or packing one for a trip with a pregnant wife, but I know at some point he was thinking “there is no way I can fit anything else on this poor donkey” and then he heard Mary say “just one more thing.”

Then after traveling to Bethlehem they had no place to stay and she was “great with child.” That would be a huge problem in our family. When our first child was due we planned for the birth for months including birthing classes and tours of the neonatal wing of the hospital. Joseph ended up taking Mary to a stable last minute. I’m not sure of the Hebrew word for procrastinator, but I’m sure Joseph heard it.

Somehow it helps me to think of Mary and Joseph as imperfect and stressed during the first Christmas. If Jesus was born into a chaotic scene like that, then the chaos I feel at Christmas time is ok too.

Not everything religious has to be orderly and stern, relationships are complex, loud, and stressful at times. My house is ok, even with my imperfect efforts and our imperfect marriage.

The miracle of Christmas is Jesus is here with us.

If you experience stress in your marriage during the holidays, you are not alone. To learn more about the top six sources of conflict and how you can move from conflict to connection in your marriage this holiday season, get Your Holiday Survival Guide!

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Stress and conflict don’t have to define your holidays. The solutions are simple, the resulting connection will be profound.

Click here

Healing Relationship Sore Spots

Copyright: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo

 

In my very first blog post on Make Some Wonderful (now nearly one year ago) I wrote about biting my cheek and how in marriage our emotional “sore spots” are difficult to avoid.

Click here to read the original post, “Ouch, That Hurts.”

“Sore spots” are the areas of our life most sensitive to criticism, usually due to past experiences of deep emotional hurt. Touching these sensitive spots can lead to an ugly fight or end one by going too far.

Marriage is simultaneously the most protective and most vulnerable place on earth.

When I meet with couples for marriage counseling I like to see them fight. Ok, I don’t really like it but your medical doctor doesn’t need to see the parts of your body that are feeling good.

When I see couples fight, I can see the sore spots that need care and attention.

The sore spots are often the ones being pushed, bit, and exposed in the fight. It can take some time to uncover the real wound and many couples are unaware of the extent of their own sore spots and those of their spouse.

Unlike the biting analogy in my first post, in marriage we tend not to re-injure ourselves over and over, it is our spouse we re-injure.

This has to stop.

After you have a fight with your spouse you can reconnect, stop the re-injuries, and end the pattern of interaction that makes the same fights come up over and over again.

  1. Express care for your spouse and their emotional health. Look them in the eye and slowly express your love for them and describe in detail three things you love about them.

  2. Acknowledge you may have hurt them and gently ask what hurt.

  3. Listen without becoming defensive. This is the key, and the hardest part. Hear them out, listen for their heart, not your defense.

  4. Express empathy for their hurt (validate their feelings) and reaffirm your love for them.

  5. Stop. Do nothing else. Ok, maybe a hug, but nothing else. No more words. Stop. It may feel like there has to be more for the argument to be resolved, a winner must be declared or your side must be heard now. Nope. Just stop.

The healing is in the connection. When you respond with care to hurt, you are fixing it. To heal past relationship hurts, you must build new emotionally healthy interactions. If you try to do or say more, the risk of getting sucked back into the same destructive pattern is too great.

The success of your re-connection depends mostly on the willingness of one partner to be vulnerable and for the other partner to respond softly toward connection and away from defensiveness. If this is too risky right now, wait until emotions have cooled a bit more and you have the emotional space needed. If your relationship is too contentious to have a conversation like outlined above, please get professional assistance. Find a counselor and start the healing.

You won’t always be able to avoid the sore spots in your marriage. But when you are well connected the emotional relationship injuries will be infrequent and less intense. When you intentionally heal past hurts, rather than continuing to cut each other, marriage feels great again.

 

What do you do after a fight to reconnect with your spouse?

Perfect Husband Training

Copyright: yuryimaging / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: yuryimaging / 123RF Stock Photo

When I started attending classes to become a counselor, I secretly hoped it would make me the perfect husband. What better husband training than a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling? I stepped into the the first class thinking this is going to be great, I’ll be surrounded by relationship perfection and quickly learn the secrets of an amazing marriage. I worked and worked at gaining knowledge, emulating my professors, and practicing counseling but perfection never came. I still make mistakes as a husband and father.

I’ve written about making mistakes in marriage before, check out my post “The 3 Best Phrases To Say When Your Spouse Makes a Mistake”

My wife Hollie and I are blessed to experience a wonderful marriage. We have our advantages but I mess up and when I do this is usually how.

1. I miscommunicate. This happens more when I’m tired. Marriage tip: don’t talk tired. It never goes well for me, the tone doesn’t come out right. I miscommunicate most often by omitting an explanation of my emotions. When I fail to use words to explain my emotions, I act grumpy and connection breaks down. Emotion is a critical part of communication. I fail to communicate well when I’m experiencing emotion like fear or feel vulnerable. When I feel inadequate, I react either by withdrawing, or becoming verbally demanding. When that happens I have to stop to consider my emotions, then I can accurately communicate again.

“6 Ways To Restore Communication”

2. I lack enthusiasm for things she likes. I remember one morning Hollie excitedly told me she was looking forward to spending the afternoon at “a super cute place to shop.” I wasn’t thrilled and I’m sure it showed in the tone of my response. I decided to do something else and I missed out. It wasn’t so much that I missed out on the shopping, I missed out on the opportunity to connect with my wife.

3. I fail to notice the effort she makes. It’s not that I’m not appreciative, but sometimes I really don’t notice. Other times my perspective is selfish. A few nights ago Hollie was working on fixing technical problems with my blog and I was annoyed she was not finishing as fast as I wanted. Oops. My ungrateful attitude missed her effort to show me love.

By the end of my graduate program in counseling I discovered counselors are simply regular people willing to brave the imperfect world, to meet people where they are, and really listen.

Turns out it’s a formula for a well connected marriage too. Two imperfect regular people willing to brave the imperfect world together, embrace each other, and really listen.

It’s common to struggle in the same ways even when trying to learn from the mistakes. I will likely fail in similar ways again in my marriage but I have found:

  • When I risk sharing my vulnerabilities, connection thrives.
  • When I pay attention to what she likes, she knows I delight in her and connection thrives.
  • When I see how she shows me love, connection thrives.

I love the great connection Hollie and I share. I’m going to do what I can to see it thrive.

What have you found to help your connection thrive?

How to Know if You Need Counseling

Copyright: diego_cervo / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: diego_cervo / 123RF Stock Photo

Do you need counseling?

That’s like asking a barber if you need a haircut. Of course I believe you need counseling, we all need a little counseling. The right counseling at the right time will make a tremendous impact on your life.

Getting counseling is like seeing your medical doctor. When you are injured physically, it’s important to see a doctor. They are the expert you need to aid in your healing. When you are injured emotionally, it’s important to see a counselor. They are the expert you need in times of crisis. Healing from an injury is profoundly meaningful. The stories of Jesus healing people are awesome because we all have injuries that need a healing touch.

You don’t have to be deeply damaged to benefit from counseling; doctors and counselors also help to prevent injuries. It makes sense to see your medical doctor on a regular basis to prevent medical problems. Likewise, it can be helpful to see a counselor to prevent problems from getting worse or to prepare for inevitable life transitions.

Deciding to get counseling is up to you, no one else can choose it for you. It takes a personal willingness to invest in your health to bring positive change.

You may be interested in the benefits of counseling but the timing doesn’t seem to work. Timing is everything right? How do you know the best time to go to counseling?

Some counselors imply now is always the perfect time to go to counseling. It’s simply not true.

Is now the best time for you to get counseling?
I don’t think so.
It never is.
Stop wondering if it’s the best time.
If you want counseling, do it. Find a counselor and get moving.

We all get support from those around us to some extent. Often that support is exactly what we need, other times it’s lacking. When you need an expert to help you address challenges you are facing, it’s a good time to find a counselor.

I want every married couple to thrive and experience deep connection. Counseling is great, but sometimes even quick reminders, relationship tips, or messages of encouragement can make a big difference. I hope to use this blog to share ways you can Make Some Wonderful in your marriage by providing solid guidance for great connection.

What do you need in order to improve the connection in your marriage?

Let me know what you think, I would love to connect with you on social media.

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