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Practicing Gratitude In Our Relationships

Would you describe your life as joyous?  Do you actively practice gratitude or count your blessings?   Joyful people are typically grateful people – the act of practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives, as well as our relationships.

Gratitude is an attitude of thankfulness.  This state of mind can apply to gratitude for tangible or intangible things – such as a home, a job, a new car, physical health, and the relationships in our lives.  People who have high levels of gratitude and practice gratitude in their lives tend to have more peaceful and harmonious expereinces than those who do not.

The experience of gratitude is always here-and-now. We can give thanks, and feel blessed in the present moment.  Settling into the present moment, we reveal our authentic being and are able to connect with what we are truly grateful for.  When we choose to practice being present and grateful often, we will see and feel a shift into a joyous state in our present situations.

Many relationships suffer from neglect.  In our busy lives we create time for email, phone calls, paying bills, errands, cooking, and our children’s busy schedules.  Often times our attention to our partner – personal, exclusive, caring, loving attention – gets pushed aside as we go along with our hectic schedules.

Gratitude plays a significant role in the elevation of our relationships.  Expressing our appreciation for one another is perhaps more important than anything else we do together.  When we do so on a regular basis, our relationships are strengthened and empowered. Relationships improve when there is purposeful recognition of the various contributions each person makes – the preparation of a meal or the upkeep of the household.  To thank one another for simply being in our lives is also enough to make a difference.  When the practice of gratitude fills a relationship, both individuals and the relationship are continually renewed.

Simple And Fun Ways To Practice Gratitude

- Keep a gratitude journal.  Get into the habit of writing down what you are thankful for either in the morning soon after you wake up or at night before you go to sleep.  Or both times – the more practicing of gratitude, the more joy!

- Say something out loud each day that you are grateful for.  Many families say a prayer at dinner, following it up by saying something you are grateful for is a fun way to practice gratitude – also you would be saying it aloud for your loved ones to hear and give them the chance to appreciate your gratitude.

- Tell your partner how you appreciate what they do, day in and day out, along with the small specifics.

- Put extra thought into showing your gratitude towards your partner.  Perhaps pick up a bouquet of flowers or plan to make them one of their favorite meals.

 

Small thoughtful gestures and a little everyday gratitude towards your partner can yield a great deal of happiness and help strengthen relationships.  Practicing gratitude is a joyful window into seeing what is going on in your spouse’s and children’s lives.

 

 

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Staying True To You in Relationships

Relationships can often be complex and yet remain wonderful at the same time. Having a connection with another person is a feeling that most people long for and search for. Finding it can often mean absorbing it like a sponge. A person loves the way it feels so much that they can often get consumed by it. What happens then?

The one mistake people often make when they get into a relationship is that they forget that there are two people within the relationship. One person can often forget that they have their own hopes and dreams as well. So they walk down a path doing what their partner loves, supporting their partner to the point that they forget about themselves, in the end forgetting who they are as an individual.

Taking some time for yourself to do the things that you love to do is not a bad thing. Each person needs their own time and their own space. You both need to do the things that you love and remember that even though you have separate goals it doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve them together.

Having personal goals within a relationship doesn’t spell D-O-O-M. In fact, maintaining those goals and going for them can actually make you a better person, which means a better partner within the relationship. Your goals can be large or small ones. It could be something as simple as you want to walk 7 miles a week. That doesn’t mean your partner has to be by your side for those 7 miles, although that would be a bonus. It means you have a personal goal that you want to accomplish because it will make you feel good, but most importantly it’s something that “you” want to achieve for yourself. Having personal goals enriches you as a person. Again, remember that when you are a better person for yourself then you are a better person for the relationship over all.

You never want to look back on something and wonder what if. You also don’t ever want to let go of the things that you hoped to achieve before the relationship, because then you may look back and resent the relationship on some level. Plus if your partner is constantly achieving their goals and dreams while you put yours on the back burner for them, it can often build a wall between the two of you.

Take time to remember even the smallest things like your hobbies. If you love to garden then take some time to plant the things you love and tend to your garden. Perhaps you love working in the wood shop and building things. If so, then take some time to do that. Doing the things you love can be therapeutic and actually recharge you.

The bottom line is to always remember that there are two of you in a relationship, but it’s also important to remember that a relationship is made up of two “individuals.” Each person has their own goals, passions, dreams, and desires. Remembering that will make you a better person overall. In the end, the result is a stronger relationship that can withstand the test of time.

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LIFE in Relationships

When a couple first gets together everything is new. There’s an excitement that can make the relationship feel like it will never end, like things will never change. However, as time goes on and life gets in the way, the dynamics of the relationship changes and we have to look at the sudden distance that has surfaced.

The closeness that was once there seems to have withered away. The gentle hand-holding or even the casual public displays of affection are becoming a memory. Where has the time gone and why is the relationship fading? You ask yourself, is the end approaching, do I need to get relationship tips from someone specialized? You know you love your partner and you know that each and every day wouldn’t be the same without them in it. So if that’s the case, then why do you seem further apart?

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the relationship for what is it. In most cases the relationship is not over even though it may seem that way. Instead, you simply need to breathe a little life back into your relationship. The foundation has always been there, but over time so many things have gotten in the way and the two of you have forgotten about the basics that brought you together in the first place. That love and ultimately that connection need to be remembered because it’s those things that make you the couple that you are.

Remember these great little tips to breathe life back into your relationship:

L – Laugh

Laughter is one of the best remedies when it comes to rebuilding a connection with the one you love. Take time to be silly. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, laughter makes you feel good.

I – Instill

Instill confidence in one another by remembering the best qualities that you bring to the table. Why do you love the one you’re with? What was it that made you fall for them? If it was his/her sparkling personality then remind them of how special that is. Instill confidence in them that they still make your clock tick.

F – Forgive

Forgiveness is hard to do but if you’re holding onto any anger, hostility or resentment then in order to truly make a fresh start you need to forgive them. It’s the only way you can truly wipe the slate clean. Without it, you never will truly reconnect.

E – Embrace

Don’t ever forget that there is power in a single touch. When you’re hurting or sad, a simple embrace can feel so good and make everything seem ok. It also reminds you of how good it feels to be so close to the one you love. Take time to hold one another and remember that connection and how good it feels. Sometimes the best remedies don’t involve words but more of a touch.

Breathing life into your relationship doesn’t mean years of counseling and therapy. Sometimes you just have to remove all the obstacles and get to the heart of what used to be and what can be again.

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Fostering A Healthy Relationship

In terms of Maintaining A Healthy Relationship, in this article we are going to discuss how to foster a great relationship with your partner.  Maintaining a healthy relationship takes time, energy, and work.  With these guidelines to lead as an example, relationships can not only maintain, but also blossom.

Have A Solid Friendship – Ask yourself what kind of friend you are being to your partner.  Apply the same openness that you have in your other friendships to the partnership.  Think about the “get what you give” philosophy – if you want a good friend in your partner, then be a good friend to them.   Provide encouragement and support to your mate to make them feel special and show them that they make a difference in your world.

Know Your Partner – Your partner possesses qualities that make them special to you, as well as a unique person in their own right.  Your partner likely has areas of sensitivities and vulnerability, in addition to their preferences, interests, and values.  Being aware of what makes them “tick” and engaging in behaviors that nurture and support those special qualities can enhance the intimacy and vibrancy of the relationship.  Remember what you honor and respect about your partner.

Strive For Emotional Intimacy – Emotional intimacy has been described as “unbridled mutual self-disclosure” – which implies a willingness to share from the heart.  It means getting in touch with and letting the other person know our feelings.  It is also being authentic; it is through emotional intimacy that relationships grow.

Make Time To Be Together – Cultivate passion and intimacy.  Make time for dates and romance while treating that time together as special and sacred.  Find strategies to create time together that work best for you as a couple.  Some couples devote the first 15 minutes of their morning or last 15 minutes of their evening “their time”; others have a standing date night.  A daily ritual that you both can look forward to being together, while being uninterrupted, will help intimacy and attachment grow.

Let Your Partner Influence You – Many issues in relationships have nothing to do with the “facts” and everything to do with the feelings about the issue.  We are emotional beings, emotions are bound to rise up, especially in our relationships.  It is important that you both understand each other’s positions.  Some issues have no solutions and oftentimes understanding and mutual respect are all that you really need.  Couples learn to simply contain the issues and not let them escalate through positive communication and empathy.

Solve The Solvable Issue – All couples will likely have a few issues that will never be resolved fully, due to difference of opinion and background.  What is important is to develop a dialog with your partner about this set of irreconcilable differences.  Treat them as you would if you were coping with a chronic bad back or trick knee – you don’t like them, you wish they were not there, but you learn to work around them by talking and learning how to live with them.  Having patience will be helpful in these situations, as well.

Create Shared Meaning – As a couple, having some concept of what you both think a relationship and a partnership are supposed to be would be useful.  Perhaps write down your definitions of a successful relationship and do your best to live up to those definitions.  Focus on the fundamental things that are going to make a difference in the long run.  Create specific goals as a couple, and also individually, on how you want to improve your relationship, and then follow through with them.

Maintaining a healthy relationship requires, well, maintenance.  Using these tips and tools will help keep your relationship in balance and maintained.

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Behaviours in Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

In this article we will go over the behaviors that intensify conflict along with the behaviors that diminish conflict.  There are many areas in which differences may appear in our relationships.  We may find that we disagree about politics or religion, or we may have different styles of communication which could become problematic over time.  Healthy relationships expect and allow for differences – in a healthy relationship, you will find ways to work through them together.

Behaviors That Intensify Conflict

Criticism – Negating or blaming your partner in issuing a complaint.  “You are so inconsiderate when…” is a criticism that could provoke defensiveness in your partner.

Contempt – Scorn, disrespect, or disgracing your partner.  Some forms of contempt underlie verbal abuse.  “You are so dumb…”

Defensiveness – Denying a problem or denying your share of personal responsibility for problems in the relationship.

Stonewalling – When a partner is stonewalling in communication in a relationship, they are usually using delaying or stalling tactics, refusing to answer questions, doing what can be done to hinder or obstruct a discussion, or bluntly refusing to cooperate with their partner.  This behavior usually drives away and rejects their partner.

Flooding – Overwhelming the other person with a bombardment of words or emotional outbursts that do not allow a true dialogue between the two of you.

Behaviors That Diminish Conflict 

Set Boundaries – Boundaries are the limits we set to protect ourselves.  Some examples of boundary-setting for conflict are:  No name calling; no use of obscenities; no yelling; no going to bed angry; and, keep past arguments in the past.

Clearly Communicate Your Needs – If you want or need something from your partner, it should be your responsibility to communicate those needs clearly and directly.

Identify And Own Your Feelings – Using “I” statements helps describe your feelings.  For example – “I feel upset when you forget to call and tell me that you will be late for dinner.”  Describe your emotional reactions to behaviors and events.  Try not to attack the person or personality of your partner.

Learn The Art Of Negotiation – Every relationship we have with each other has a give and a take.  When you have differences, find ways to come to an agreement together that you can both be satisfied with.

Drop Your Assumptions – Step back from judging or assuming that you know what the other is thinking or feeling.  When we assume we know why someone said or did something, and then proceed with that as “fact”, it causes us to react to our assumptions rather than understand the facts of the situation.

Consider The Other Person’s Point Of View – Do not lose sight of the other person’s perspective – learn to value it.  Listen and acknowledge the other person’s concerns, then talk about why you perceive the situation differently.  Encourage your partner to explain their feelings and make assurances that you want to understand their perspective.  Then make an honest attempt to listen and honor their perspective.

Create Win-Win Solutions – Sometimes when dealing with differences or conflict in a relationship, we can get ourselves locked into position of needing to be “right” and make the other person “wrong”.  With your partner, forget “right” and “wrong”; the question should become whether or not what the two of you are doing is working in the relationship.  The disagreement then is transformed into a problem that the two of you can work on together to improve.  Be flexible; be open to new approaches in addressing conflict in the relationship.

Maintaining a healthy relationship takes time, energy, and work.  With these guidelines to lead as an example, relationships can not only maintain, but also grow.

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Maintaining A Healthy Relationship

Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship is something that can be done throughout the year.  In this article, we will go over the stages of relationships, as defined by Harville Hendrix.  Harville has crafted relationships into five significant stages.  As you read over them, begin to think about where you are currently in your relationship.

Stages of Relationships  

Romantic Love – Couples begin marriage in a state of romantic bliss.  During this euphoric phase, which usually lasts the first to third years or marriage, newlyweds wear the proverbial “rose-colored” glasses –  life and love are perfect.  Differences tend to be discounted and faults are few.  This is the time that spouses seek the intimacy they crave.

Disillusionment or The Power Struggle – This second stage is disappointment time, often with faultfinding.  Partners realize that the other’s behavior is irritating or even hurtful.  This stage can be frightening and it is when many couples see divorce as the only option.  Often, the lack of effective communication skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to compromise and negotiate leave many couples stuck indefinitely in this stage.  Also, the battle of wills occur, and to successfully leave this stage each individual must find a way to adjust to the ways of his/her partner.

Cooperation: Knowledge and Awareness – Stage two can leave the couple feeling stung and hurt by the damage rendered by the turbulent times.  If the couple perseveres and is willing to learn the communication and negotiation skills to navigate the power struggle, a new sense of acceptance and willingness to change enters the relationship.  Learning new relationship skills, and cultivating creativity within the relationship often accompany this shift in thought.  Partners take responsibility for their own problems and shed the illusion that their partner is the key to their happiness.

Acceptance – Stage four is often called acceptance, commitment or mutuality.  You and your partner realize that regardless of whom you are with, there will be problems, so you might as well stay in the relationship and work them out.  Togetherness just feels secure, and there exists a heightened sense of belonging.  The unhealthy patterns that dogged their relationship seem like ancient history.  This acceptance is the bridge to ultimate transformation and a love that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.

Transformation – Couples who put in the time and effort reap this final reward.  Intimacy is second nature.  The attitude is “we grow together.”  This is also called “co-creativity.”  Stage five couples develop a web of meaningful relationships that support the marriage and deepen the joy.  In this final stage, couples know what the fairy tales neglected to mention: Love is hard work.

Were you able to identify where you currently are?  In another article we will go over the behaviors that intensify conflict (and behaviors that diminish conflict) along with how to deal with differences.

 

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Commitment Stages

Real life relationships are not like those in fairy tales or romance novels. If that happens to be your expectation, you could be setting yourself up for some serious disappointment. Stages of relationships can be both good and bad, depending on the couple and the dynamic under which their relationship operates. One of the most important aspects of building a strong stages of relationships is in facing reality and the manner in which you approach that reality. If you have your head in the clouds and do not (or cannot) accept that relationships change and face this reality, then you are in for some major shock and your ability to adapt and maintain a healthy relationship could be inhibited.

Depending on the research you uncover and who is being asked, there are varying opinions as to the number of stages of relationships, as well as what those stages are and what they consist of.  The exception to the rule is that our recognition is of the evolution of stages in committed relationships, not merely those who are dating or simply have a physical arrangement.

The 6 Stages of Commitment

  1. Infatuation – This stages of relationships is about romantic love, fantasies, and hope. The relationship is fairly new, you’re head-over-heels in love, and you either do not notice your partner’s faults or choose to justify or ignore them because of your deep emotional attachment and vision of the future.
  2. Adjustment – Those fantasies begin to subside and you begin to see the reality – real life, you partner’s faults, things that annoy you, etc. At this point, you begin to consider these things, adjusting to them as facts of life, learning to cope or voice your opinion on the matters.
  3. Conflict – As reality sets in, conflicts emerge. All couples inevitably have disagreements. It is how you handle these disagreements, how you react to one another, and how you learn to live in harmony despite your differences that matters most. This makes a huge difference in the future success of the relationship and the level of fighting a couple will experience.
  4. Re-Examination – During this relationship stage, reality and conflicts have come to a head, and it is time to decide which differences you can live with, if you see a future with your partner, and to decide whether to stay with your partner or cut your losses and move on. During this stage, some emotional and physical withdrawal is normal. However, it is also the stage where the risk of separation, divorce, and even an affair is at its highest. A separation can be good for some cou0ples, helping them to consider things very carefully and to develop both individually and as a couple. This is really not the time to run to divorce court or into an affair, even if these things commonly occur at this stage. If the relationship has any chance of recovery, it is important to work on development and to honor your commitment.
  5. Reconciliation – If the relationship survives re-examination, the next stage is a recognition of interest and love. Couples want to be closer and to work on reigniting that fame they had in the beginning of their relationship. At this point, they learn to live with one another’s differences and have learned how to gauge reactions, deal with conflict, and to compromise. This is the beginning of acceptance and a point where the relationship may be stronger than ever before.
  6. Acceptance – Few couples ever actually reach this stage. Full acceptance means you have successfully navigated through the other stages of relationships, are still together, have created some balance between couplehood and individuality, and while conflict still occurs, have learned how to handle conflict and to choose your battles wisely. You are not only lovers; you are a partnership, and a strong one at that.

All couples experience these stages of relationships in some form, though some to a lesser degree than others. There is no specific chronological order; however, it is difficult to justify how these relationship stages could evolve in any other order. Additionally, while some experts claim there is a specific period for each stage, this too is a questionable claim. Some couples remain infatuated for many years until certain changes occur. Couples who experienced little conflict may find themselves fighting more down the road. The bottom line is that relationships evolve, and this evolution, if handled properly, can create a stronger bond and a lasting love.

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Transforming Everyday Relationship Issues

Marriage is not pleasant all of the time, but certainly you will have more happier than sad times. It is natural to have those moments where you question if this is the right situation for you – your partner will do the same. There are, however, those situations that never make it work, like cheating or deal-breaking behaviors. But, believe it or not there are marriage problems that are considered “good” problems that will not mess up your relationship and should never be considered deal breakers.

Fantasizing about Others

A lot of couples who are looking for answers to what makes relationships work are concerned about their fantasies or their partner’s fantasies for someone other than their significant other. Believe it or not, these fantasies are nothing to worry about – in fact, they are healthy. Having an imagination allows you and your partner to open up more emotionally and physically with one another. Of course, you should not act on these fantasies.

Going Out with the Guys

Many women get defensive or feel their husband is leaving them out when they go out for guy time. Interests and maintaining friend relationships outside of the marriage are key in finding what makes relationships work. This break from the relationship allows each partner to miss one another, engage in activities and release any steam that could create tension down the road.

Arguing

You may have fights, but fights do not mean your relationship is over or even close to over. Fighting is a way for partners to share how they feel with one another – meaning you both trust one another enough to get it all out in the open. As long as you both do not attack one another, productive arguing can strengthen your marriage. Also, avoid recycling old arguments – meaning try not to bring up an argument that happened last week. Once it is over and resolved, it is done.

Being Too Tired for Sex

Intimacy is important in any relationship, but there are times one or the other may be too tired to engage in sex or other intimate activities. Today’s couple is often over-scheduled and it is not uncommon to have limited time for intimacy or anything else. Try scheduling a time for intimacy rather than waiting for that magical “spark” so that you have fun – it is something to look forward to and you get that testosterone and mojo moving again.

A healthy marriage can be full of “good” problems. Often couples assume these good problems are detrimental to the success of their relationship and they begin to pull away. As long as you are open, honest and willing to work through your issues, you and your partner will understand what makes relationships work faster than any other couple in the neighborhood.

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Communicating With Family During The Holidays

Happy Holidays!  This week’s post is about family communication, which tends to be more prevalent during the holidays.  Building healthy families is about learning to communicate openly, honestly, and sensitively to maintain relationships that can withstand the challenges that families often face.

All families experience problems at one time or another, especially during the holidays when people tend to be under more stress due to extra events and added expectations (click here for how to manage stress during the holidays).  Differences of opinion and disagreements are a normal part of having relationships with people, especially with the ones you live with and call family.  It is likely that you are not exactly the same – you probably come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences.  Keeping that in mind will help to keep the situation calm when differences arise.

Setting The Stage For Great Family Communication

Share Your Feelings
When you communicate how you feel, you create an atmosphere that encourages and allows others to respond in a kind way.  Often times, if you do not speak up about whatever it is that you feel, it will not get addressed and could possibly build up into something more stressful down the line.

Listening and Understanding
Paying attention to one another is of essence to understanding one another.  Having non-verbal cues in communication is important; how what you do not say with words can be more vital than the words you do say.  Take notice to what your partner or child (or other family member or friend) is communicating through their facial cues and posture.  Also ask questions to receive the best clarity.

Be Flexible
As with any changing and or forming relationship, flexibility is important to keeping the relationship on track and satisfactory to all parties.  Once you have said what you needed to say and have heard what your partner needed to say, begin to practice changing for the situation to get better.

Show Your Appreciation
Tell the other person how grateful you are for them and all the wonderful things and feelings that you get to experience because of them.  Having gratitude is often the key to a more successful relationship, especially when it is acknowledged by both parties.

Above all, the holidays are meant to be a special time with friends and family.  May your holidays be blessed with joy, laughter, love and successful communications!

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What Makes Relationships Work?

To achieve optimum physical and emotional health, we must have rewarding and enjoyable relationships in all locales of our lives. Humans function best when they have an understanding and accommodating relationship environment. Single people search for the ideal mate, and those who have a partner seek ways to make the relationship work. This relationship advice allows you to nurture your relationship and find a balance in your life so you and your mate will be better satisfied.

Rules, Roles, and Rituals
Many of society’s social and cultural rules and taboos have already been broken down. Some of these guidelines are not even feasible for a multi-cultural society, much less a modern relationship. However, to have emotional security and safety in our relationship, we must have boundaries and rules. For many couples, relationship needs go unstated, leaving one or the other partner guessing. An principal rule to have is that each person expresses what is needed from the other. Another rule that is a crucial part of this relationship advice is that you respect what your partner requires, compromising when necessary and negotiating when possible.

Roles must be well-defined and distinct in a successful relationship. Each person is essential to the other and should have an individual role in the liaison. While age and sex determine some tribal roles, ability and inclination determine today’s modern ones. Once past the initial part of dating, gender roles become more evident. Some men and women grow up in ‘traditional’ homes, while others are reared in gender-bender environments. Make sure that you understand what your partner expects your role to be and express what you feel comfortable doing. Many times, a person’s sexuality depends on his or her role within a relationship.

Another vital piece of relationship advice is realizing the rituals that bind you together as a couple. These rituals are a glue that bonds two people together. In trying times, rituals tend to be forgotten. So, make an effort to consciously keep these personal practices going. Also, every now and then, make up a new one and stick with it. Incorporate sexuality and erotica into these personal rituals.

Commit to Love
Once you have committed to love the other person, be sure to actively express this love frequently. While infatuation is the spark that begins a lasting relationship, deciding to love the other person allows your devotion to maintain. If you refrain from expressions of love, the devotion could dissipate. Also, be mindful of your partner’s sexuality. Choose times for love-making when your partner is ready.

Establish and Maintain Trust
Trust should be established on all levels. This mutual trust should allow you to understand and respect one another and should be founded in loyalty and respect. Be sure to keep your word and fulfill your promises. This will allow your partner to feel the much needed security for which he or she longs.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The best piece of relationship advice available involves communication. Communicate about everything and anything. Have conversations that allow you two to share your wishes, needs, hopes, and dreams. Be sure to encourage your partner’s ambitions and goals, celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and discuss values and beliefs regularly.

Sex and Relationship Advice at Midlife
When you have been with the same individual for a while, it is critical that you get to know your partner once again. Sex and relationship advice at midlife may sound silly to some, but middle-aged couples often find their relationships dull and unfulfilling. An essential thing to do is to check in with your partner on a daily basis. Make sure he or she is aware that you are truly interested in hearing what they have to say.  Also, keeping sex exciting allows for the two of you to maintain a healthy relationship. Try new sex positions, watch erotica videos together, and explore toys and alternative devices.