We are designed and created for relationship; therefore without it, life seems meaningless. Having healthy and thriving significant relationships with others are vital to living a healthy life. It is through relating to others that we really begin to understand ourselves. It is vital to our emotional and mental health to know someone else cares for you, because it is through relationship that our deepest longings can be met and satisfied. A person who is loved and trusted by at least one other human being has a better chance of facing the world with little fear. There is reason why God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him” (Gen. 2:18). Therefore relational psychotherapy is an approach that helps people believe and understand that relationships play an impactful role on how a person views themselves. Often times if a person feels depressed or anxious the root comes from tension or breakdowns in either a relationship or the inability to connect with another person.
We need to be connected with others, in fact the wellbeing of our emotional and psychological sate require it. The concepts that relational psychotherapy walk through consists of helping a person understand that maintaining satisfying and fulfilling relationships matter. Being disconnected ultimately leads to depression, anxiety and other disorders. Relational psychotherapy helps a person see how they may be unconsciously sabotaging a deep connection with someone. This therapy helps individuals find value in themself so that they can shine their authentic, real self. A relationship is successful when a person can be himself or herself. The root of the problem is often found in the past, as past relationships tend to determine how we respond and act around people in the present. The altered lens you see relationships started somewhere. Even though the past is where the root can be found, the root may have come from a variety of factors such as culture, race, class or gender, these are all dynamics that can affect a person’s view of relationships.
One of the most important pieces of relational psychotherapy is the relationship between the individual and therapist. As the individual and therapist work together a strong, collaborative and secure relationship begins to form creating the perfect model for future relationships the individual can begin to develop. Relational psychotherapy ultimately helps a person discover relational awareness and gives insight on how they operate in relation to others and how it is affecting their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Relational Psychotherapy can reestablish the gumption to fully live life, to have revitalized mental and emotional energy, motivation to build satisfying relationships, have a greater desire to connect rather than push away, become open to trust another individual and have a better self-esteem. There is power in relationships, there is power when people join together to encourage, strengthen and love one another. It reminds a person that they are not alone and that others have struggles as well but those obstacles are best overcome when done together.
The reality is we need to have a right relationship with God and with one another; it is then that we can live abundantly. Jesus says it this way, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b NIV). Relationship brings meaning and worth to life. We NEED each other!
When you first saw the word “Bondfire” your mind may have immediately associated it with bonfire. In fact, have you ever sat around a bonfire or campfire and became so mesmerized by the flame that your heart began to soften and it became easier to connect, even “bond” with the people you are with? There is something about the warmth and the flickering light that brings people together. This same concept is shown through Bondfire, a Masterheart community. There is so much power that can come from a group of people who put their heads and their heart together to either better themselves or the world around them.
As human beings we are created for relationship, for community, and whether we know it or not you are most likely apart of some sort of community already from social media, to clubs and meetups. Wherever you look there are all kinds of peer support groups from every topic, hobby, and religion. What tends to bring people together is the sense of being “like-minded.” However, what makes Bondfire® special is that it speaks to the matters of the heart, it brings together a group of people with the sole purpose of seeing transformation and a more authentic life being lived out. When ‘heart-minded’ people come together, a special vibe where not only new ideas emerge, but people experience some kind of accelerated awakening, inner transformation or change. Miracles happen and people experience a supernatural kind of healing.
The human heart is ultimately what gives your body life, it is what gives your organs and tissue the oxygen and nutrients it needs, whether it’s healthy or unhealthy, it affects every part of you. This is true with our physical self but also our “inner self.” The heart, being our soul, spirit and mind, can affect how we operate in our emotions, our thoughts, and our connectedness with others. Therefore, connecting with the heart can leave us feeling vulnerable. So, the framework of a Masterheart community is to create a safe container, a place of security. This space allows you to feel safe to explore what is real and true for you ‘in the moment’, experience your emotions fully and deeply, be more aware of what your heart is saying and receive the benefits of walking together with others. This experience can be deeply transformational with a lasting effect in your life. “The heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30 NIV).
The Relationship Society offers a 4 month MasterHeart Group facilitated by relationship coaches, therapists and experts that will engage you into some of the deeper, emotional currents of your relationship, starting with your relationship with YOU (within) and explore the deep waters and mysteries of your WE (relationship). Bonding with people and having a deep sense of connectedness with another human being is a lost art and the current paradigm of relationship is in need of a major redesign. People are unsatisfied in love; people don’t know how to make relationships work. The Relationship Societys’ Bondfire Project®—A MasterHeart community, is a chance to grow and to transform the way you view relationship.
So Bondfire®, like a bonfire, offers a space for people to join together and see their deepest hearts’ desire be ignited into a mesmerizing flame that brings light to the world.
When you are so in love with someone and you constantly look at each other with googly eyes it’s hard to imagine ever fighting. However as time passes by you may find yourself in the middle of a lovers quarrel. Loving someone doesn’t mean you won’t fight with them, in fact the opposite is true, it’s inevitable. Conflict will arise, and emotions will run high but it’s how you respond to each other that will depend if you fight fair or fight dirty. Fighting fair leads to productive arguing, while fighting dirty can damage a marriage. Therefore learning how to combat conflict by approaching it appropriately and wisely rather than avoiding it can help build a healthy relationship between you and your spouse. Fighting fair means you remember that you’re on the same team and you’re working through your dispute with love, not harshness. So let’s discuss how to fight fair.
Attack the problem at hand, not one another
The temptation, when you’re in a heated argument, is to let your tongue fly, from name calling to bringing up past mistakes. It is human nature to want the upper hand by pushing all the “right” buttons but really all it’s doing is derailing any chance of having a productive argument and only causing escalation. Therefore it’s important to focus on the issue at hand, without bringing the other person down, and work to resolve it before going down a rabbit trail of problems and then forgetting the original argument. As you deal with the issue avoid using generalized, broad sweeping words like “always” or “never” because these words are not only unfair but most likely untrue, instead use specific examples. Remember you love this person and “love is patient and kind…and it keeps no record of being wronged” (1 Cor. 13:4&5c)
Listen and Don’t Interrupt
If an argument consists of who can yell louder, no one is being heard and no one is listening. In fact if you are fighting fair you shouldn’t even have to yell because you both are attentively listening to one another. The only way a problem can be resolved is by fully hearing and understanding what it is first. When you are a great listener, you are slow to speak, which means you are more in control of your response. Refrain from listening only to respond, and don’t interrupt, instead seek to understand, even ask good questions that will bring you closer to a resolution. It is only when you are able to attentively listen can you find the true emotion beneath all the frustration and anger.
Be quick to apologize and forgive
Humbling yourself and recognizing when your wrong and that you’ve hurt your spouse by taking responsibility and apologizing is the greatest way to drop all defenses. Even though at times apologizing can be the hardest thing to do, it’s often the easiest and quickest way to resolve a conflict, as long as it’s done properly. If your heart is not behind it, your spouse will know, so to do it properly you must acknowledge their feelings and the hurt that was caused, take responsibility, and seek forgiveness. Whether you are asking for forgiveness or your spouse is seeking yours, be quick to forgive, don’t hold grudges, and be willing to move on.
Fighting is going to happen, no couple is perfect and no couple fights fair every time. However knowing how to fight fair and implementing it in your own relationship will ultimately bring you two closer. There is power in knowing how to best respond to your mate. Fighting fair will help you get to the solution of any argument much quicker and with less yelling.
God gave married couples a precious gift when He created sex, because sexual intimacy deepens the bond between husband and wife. Sex within marriage is designed to bring intimacy, comfort, oneness and pleasure, but it’s also meant for procreation and to protect against the temptation of sexual immorality. That is why Paul states, “ Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer” (1 Cor. 7:5a). However every marriage has its high and low points as life brings a combination of responsibilities, children, and different stressors that can weigh heavy on us, which can result in a disconnected marriage. Therefore, whether you realize it or not your sex life may begin to suffer as more and more time passes by without you and your spouse connecting intimately. So with that said, are sexless married couples doomed to fail? The quick answer is not necessarily, but it may raise some red flags.
What causes the lack of sex in a marriage?
There are many reasons as to why sex may fall to the wayside in a marriage, and not all of them will hinder the relationship. For instance, a lack of sex may not be a problem for couples that both have low libidos and feel they can have fulfilling connectedness in other ways. A couple may be able to withstand long periods of a sexless marriage if one spouse has a health issue that affects their sex drive. For other couples sex is not necessarily a high priority, however depending on why your marriage is sexless may determine if it’s in danger or not.
If you have mismatched libidos and one initiates while the other is constantly turning them down it can take an emotional toll making the higher-libido spouse feel rejected and less desirable, while the lower-libido spouse feels inadequate as they struggle to meet their partners sexual needs. A sexless marriage could also be a sign of deeper issues within the relationship, which may include criticism, frequent arguing, and anger. Or the short answer might be children, and your dry spell may be a result of exhaustion and hormonal changes if pregnant or breastfeeding. No matter the reason not making love with your spouse can have an affect on your marriage.
How being sexless can affect your marriage
Sexual intimacy is an important piece of how God designed marriage; in fact God’s word celebrates it as an act of meaningful love between a husband and wife. This is why Paul in 1 Corinthians says refraining from sex must be mutual but also for the sole purpose of growing in your relationship with God because he then continues with, “Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (vs 7:5b). Therefore the lack of sex in a marriage could result in unhappiness, distance from each other and unfulfillment. This could result in the enemy gaining a stronghold on your marriage. Each individual may experience low self-esteem, marriage may feel unstable and the constant blaming and fighting may cause bitterness to take room. Then you have those who seek to be satisfied elsewhere leading a spouse to commit infidelity. God created us as sexual beings and marriage is meant to be that safe and pure place to indulge but when it’s lacking, the enemy will seek to cause division. So take heed if you notice your marriage is becoming sexless.
Rekindle your sex life
Sometimes all a couple needs to do is just get naked, while for others it may take a process of learning how to love their spouse again. Thankfully God cares about your marriage and your sex life. He is the one that brought you two together, so laying the brokenness of your marriage before Him will help you take steps forward. Be honest with one another, and instead of sweeping it under the carpet, try to discover where it all began and what issues you both may need to resolve to feel connected again. If it takes a while for the mood to strike begin with scheduling sex and sticking with it. If the act of intercourse feels like too much right away try to kiss for longer intervals until your fully making out.
Yes, a sexless marriage can survive, but why survive when it can thrive. Allow God to do a work within your marriage and put sex back on the table.
Betrayal, deceit, and unfaithfulness are just a few words to describe the harshness of an affair. Regardless if the infidelity was physical, emotional or online it is a betrayal of trust that violates what marriage promises: faithfulness in action, emotion and affection. If an affair is one of the leading causes of divorce is it even possible for a couple to recover from such treachery? In short, the answer is yes! However working through an affair is tough work and will take tremendous effort, energy, and vulnerability from both individuals. It’s a sensitive topic that will need to be preceded with caution, but in order to heal, talking cooperatively to one another is required. Infidelity swings a hefty punch at a marriage and even though it can be quite traumatic for the betrayed a full recovery is possible and can result in both sides having learned and grown. At the front of an affair coming to light it may seem impossible to overcome, and impossible to forgive but thankfully you don’t have to do it alone as scripture states, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with Good everything is possible” (Matt. 19:26).
How the betrayed can move forward to recovery
The initial reaction to a person who has been betrayed is often shock and rage. You begin to feel doubt and dismay and may ask yourself questions like: Why did this happen? Will I ever be able to trust my spouse again? Will my spouse cheat again? How will I ever forgive this? Is our marriage over? Even though it may seem hopeless there is still hope.
Learning that your spouse has been cheating on you can result in great emotional trauma, which can cause physical and emotional strain on your body. It can lead to difficulty in sleeping and eating, depression and the inability to carry out daily responsibilities, and/or resentment can take root resulting in anxiety and anger. Therefore when recovering from an affair you must take care of yourself by eating nutritiously, getting as much sleep as you can, exercising to relieve stress and by simply taking deep breaths throughout the day.
Emotionally, you must embrace the way that you feel because healing comes when you are able to get out your feelings of abandonment, worthlessness, rejection and disrespect by talking it out. Therefore seeking support from a counselor, pastor, or mentor is vital to your mental and emotional health. Having a good support system will help you have the confidence to have open and honest communication with your spouse without allowing unchecked venting and rage get the best of you.
Spiritually, you must cling to the source of strength, God. Seek His guidance, wisdom and truth by immersing yourself in His word. Allow space for God’s presence and peace to permeate your entire being and keep Him at the forefront of every decision you make. True forgiveness is a process and a journey, and really only comes from the help of God. Choosing to forgive doesn’t mean you forget all the pain you endured but it does show the state of your heart. Since God sent His son and forgave us we too must be willing to forgive others but remember it is a process and God will walk alongside you the entire way.
How the betrayer can move forward to recovery
Whether you voluntarily revealed that you were having an affair or you were caught, if you want your marriage to recover, it is vital that you completely and permanently end all interactions with the other person. Shame, guilt, embarrassment, grief, and depression may be the result of your unfaithfulness and whether you believe it or not your feelings too matter. You too must take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Seek out trusted advisors (that are same gender) that you can speak your heart to and begin to recover. However to begin the healing process and possibly salvage your marriage you must accept responsibility for your actions. Do not make excuses as to why you were unfaithful just own it!
Since the trust bond has been broken commit to doing all you can to rebuild that trust. Moments by moment, choice by choice, remain consistent, don’t be defensive and become a person who truly is trustworthy. It will be a potentially long process for your marriage to get back to good health, and throughout you will need to be patient and quick to listen no matter how long it takes your spouse to recover. Throughout the process run to God and allow Him to wash you clean of all unrighteousness, learn to forgive yourself, and seek forgiveness from your spouse.
There is hope for your marriage! Recovery and restoration are possible! In fact it’s possible to come out on the other side strong and better than before.
The first instinct of a parent is usually to shield their child from any harm. It’s easy to believe “ignorance is bliss” and the best way to protect our children is by not telling them anything, but children are often intuitive. They pick up on things, emotions, and can tell when their parents are carrying a weight whether they can vocalize it or not. As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded and has altered many of our children’s routines it has caused children to wonder, ask questions and maybe even worry. Similar to adults, children too worry when they are left in the dark. Therefore it’s important, before a child seeks answers else where, for parents to become their safe haven by discussing with them the impacts of the virus while reassuring them in a way that doesn’t cause worry. Here are some ways to have a conversation with your child about COVID-19.
Be available to answer any questions
With so much unknowns going on around your child he or she is bound to have some questions. However it’s wise to ask this question first, “What have you been hearing about the coronavirus?” This question will help you understand what they might already know or clear up any false information. Then create a space for your child to ask questions by opening up the conversation with, “Do you have any questions about the virus?” Give your child an opportunity to be heard and to understand the facts. Encourage your child to ask any question they may have but if they ask one you don’t have an answer to, help them accept uncertainty. Even though we may not have all the answers we serve a big God who knows all and who offers us hope and peace. Remember this truth, “ For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7 NKJV).
Be comforting and speak calmly
Before engaging in a conversation with your child about COVID make sure your own anxieties are in check. If your child senses any fear and panic they too will begin to take on your emotions. Be sure to be calm and collected when discussing the virus with your child. Reassure your child by explaining that most people who get sick have cold or flu like symptoms and that it’s mainly adults who catch it. Speaking calmly will give your child a sense of peace and comfort knowing “if mom and dad aren’t too worried, I don’t have to worry either.” Be honest and truthful to your child and bring comfort if any fear or worry rises up within them. Let them know you are here for them.
Give your child a sense of control
No matter if you are an adult or a child it is always comforting when you feel like you have a little bit of control of something. So offer this control by teaching children how to protect themself and why certain mandates have been put in place. Teach them that getting plenty of sleep and regularly washing hands especially before eating can help there bodies stay strong and healthy. Explain that washing hands for a solid 20-seconds or the length of Happy Birthday will not only protect them but others as well. Another way to keep yourself and others safe is by wearing a mask. Reassure your child that hospitals and doctors are prepared to take care of people who are in need and that scientist are working diligently at developing a vaccine. Encourage your son or daughter that all the changes that have been happening are to keep everyone safe.
It is normal to feel a little stressed when a lot of changes happen all at once. However for a child having the comfort of a parent can make all the difference. Keep the line of communication open; make yourself available for your child. As you walk alongside your child stand firm on this truth, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Some of the best things about being a teenager is finding different ways to socialize, whether that’s hanging out with a friend group at school, being apart of sports, or shopping for the next school dance. Being with friends is a huge part of being a teenager, not to mention all the milestones a teenager looks forward to, like driving, prom, and graduating. Once COVID hit all of this was stripped away and many of the activities a typical teenager enjoys was either postponed or cancelled, limiting, what teenagers do best, socializing with their friends. Being confined to their home, many teens have been impacted emotionally; feelings of depression, anger, and even boredom have begun to weigh heavy. So let’s discuss some ways you can best parent your teenager during these hard times.
Teens often feel invincible, which may make it a bit difficult for them to comply with new mandates. Therefore it is important that they understand that social distancing, wearing a mask and regularly washing their hands apply to them too. These mandates are in place to not only protect them but to protect others as well because it’s not really a matter of how you are feeling and that you may feel fine. The danger is when a person is asymptomatic and they are carrying around the virus without knowing it. Even though your teen may be comfortable taking the risk of getting sick, to be with their friends, help them see that if they end up getting COVID they will have possibly infected everyone they interacted with that they did not social distance from or wear a mask around, which includes their family. Even though your teen is young the coronavirus is still unpredictable and affects people differently, from mild to sever symptoms, no matter the age. Therefore it is vital that your teen has a clear picture of this virus and it’s important that, you as the parent are there for them to answer any questions, bringing them comfort.
Support a Healthy Routine
No matter what age you are it is can be frustrating to change up your routine. However it’s important that your teen plans out a new schedule and routine that helps them maintain a healthy lifestyle that keeps their mind and body engaged rather than letting time aimlessly pass them by. Your teen will be able to cope better during such a stressful time if they are getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, and regularly exercising. This will help your teen maintain a positive mood and fulfill academic expectations. Encourage your teen to get active, whether you go on family hikes, walks, or bike rides. Maybe this is an opportunity to get active with your teen, maybe try running together or take an online workout class, regardless remind your teen sleeping all day is not an option, it’s important to remain active.
Include social connections within your teens schedule by allowing time to connect via Zoom, Facetime and social media. Even though screen time should be monitored it’s also important to know this is their way to feel connected. Encourage your teen, during this “down time” to learn or do something new like finding a fun recipe and making it for the family. A new routine can include new memories and precious moments together.
Be Mindful of your Teen’s Mental Health
If sulking about being home with parents and siblings becomes a regular occurrence with your teen a conversation may be helpful. Acknowledge their frustrations, and maybe sharing your own feelings, may help your teen not feel alone. Listening to their heart and validating their feelings can have a positive impact on your teen. Help them understand that you want to work together at making this situation more bearable. Regularly check in with your teen asking them how they are doing and how they are feeling in their low moments. Be mindful of any emotional changes such as: acting out, irritability or being tearful, changes in sleep or eating, and if they are isolating more often. Have direct conversations with your teen about their mood and mental health.
As difficult of a season this is…this too shall pass. The best thing you can do as a parent for your teen is to simply be available.
Being in a deep relationship with another person that results in love, support and comfort is something that is embedded in us as humans. From the moment we are born and placed in our parents’ arms we begin to form an attachment that will determine whether or not we become secure or insecure in relationships. The way we view others and our self is molded and formed by how available and how well our parents or primary caregivers responded to our physical and emotional needs. Since we are such relational beings our early aged relationships have a direct impact on how we attach ourselves to others in adulthood. Romantic relationships, like marriage, can become a trigger for an attachment style we may not have been previously aware of. Depending on how a person grew up will determine if they fall into a secure or insecure attachment style. These different styles help explain patterns of challenging behaviors in a relationship.
1. Anxious Attachment: This style develops when a person grows up with a caregiver that is inconsistent or unpredictable in how they respond and how available they are, causing a sense of confusion in the child about what to expect. This person becomes someone who values their relationships so much that they can become clingy, while being anxious and worried that the person they love is not invested. Since this person tends to struggle with the fear of abandonment, safety and security become something they long for most. They attempt to remedy their anxiety by offering a great amount of attention, care and responsiveness. They are desperate for love so they tend to exhibit a high need for approval.
2. Avoidant Attachment: When a child grows up with a neglectful parent and a belief that no one is available to meet their needs they take on independent qualities. This person would often times describe themselves as being strong, independent and self-sufficient. Even though they have a high self-esteem they can exhibit a lack of trust towards others and may struggle with intimate and emotional connections in relationships. They tend to solely rely upon themselves and suppress any worries they may have.
3. Disorganized Attachment: This style is developed when a child grows up in an abusive, traumatic, and chaotic home. This child has no secure foundation and learns to fear their caregiver, which results in instability and questionable behavior. This person has a constant battle of desire and fear fighting within them because they long for intimacy and closeness while struggling to trust and depend on others. Since the fear of getting hurt is so prevalent in this person they are quick to put walls up and avoid any strong emotional attachment.
4. Secure: While the other attachment styles are characterized by the difficulties of having a healthy relationship, being secure implies that a person is comfortable with building and interacting in a relationship in a healthy way. This person feels comfortable depending on others while others depend on them. There is balance, honesty, and an emotional closeness. A secure person is quick to thrive in their relationships.
When someone in a marriage suffers from one of the attachment styles it can bring about some major hardships within the relationship. Marriage is most successful when there is balance and expectations are met, this includes being together as well as being away from one another. However if an attachment issue rears its ugly head within a marriage, whether it’s an issue relating to feeling suffocated from a spouse, like you aren’t needed, or your spouse won’t let you in emotionally, it can be detrimental. Therefore knowing your struggles and attachment style you may lean towards, can benefit your marriage as long as you are willing to take steps to reverse your natural way of thinking by recognizing the stronghold, learning to eliminate the insecure bonds, and being willing to be vulnerable with your spouse.
Remember, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Phil. 4:13).
“ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?” This may be a reoccurring phrase you yell at your spouse in the heat of an argument. It can be frustrating when you are trying to pour out your heart and your spouse is tuning you out. In order for a relationship to thrive good communication must be learned and with good communication comes good listening. Listening is an integral part of how you understand and perceive others and vice versa. The only way you can fully understand a situation is with a listening ear.
Thoughtful listening is like a superpower, that anyone can have as long as they work at it, because it’s a way of listening that comes from the heart. Thoughtful listening is empathic and compassionate, it is the most effective way to listen and can bring a feeling of safety in a relationship. It promotes healing. Although in the heat of the moment when your blood pressure is rising because your last button was pushed it can be easy to push aside any thoughtful listening and only listen to respond, and usually the response is one that doesn’t bring healing but maybe more hurt and destruction. Now your partner is not listening to you and you are no longer listening to them. It becomes this cycle of both sides feeling unheard and the only possible way the other person might decide to hear is if you yell a little bit louder than them. But really a screaming match just raises volume; it doesn’t promote a kind, receptive listening ear. It ends up becoming a competition of who can get the last word in. So before answering the question, “how do you argue with your partner so they will listen?” You must ask why? Why is my partner not listening to me during an argument?
The delivery of how something is said is just as important as what is being said. You see, you could be inadvertently sabotaging the conversations you have with your spouse by having a negative or argumentative tone, speaking in a round about way, or by being passive-aggressive. So lets discuss some ways of speaking that may be causing your spouse to tune you out.
Lengthy wording: Have you ever had something you wanted to share with your spouse that you felt might be a touchy topic? So instead of going straight to the point you almost go around it in fear of receiving a negative response. This could lead to you being more lengthy and long-winded causing the point to get lost with a frustrated spouse who still doesn’t understand.
Lecturing: No one likes to feel like they are being lectured or preached at, especially when its done in such a way that makes them feel belittled and less than. If you are speaking to your partner in this way, while pointing your finger and claiming everything you say is the “right” way then the words you are saying whether right or not will not be received well and ears will be turned off. A “know-it-all” attitude doesn’t promote good listening.
Hurtful words and comments: When you become angry or frustrated do you have a loose tongue? Do you immediately feel defensive and spew hurtful words or comments? When there is a history of hurtful, insulting, intimidating, dismissive and disrespectful words that come in response to your spouse’s feelings or opinions they may find listening and acknowledging you is not something your spouse enjoys. This way of speaking may lead to your partner feeling defensive and on guard whenever an argument or even a conversation is being had.
Generalizing: Throwing around words like “always”, “never”, or “constantly” is all too easy but these absolute words aren’t fair or even accurate. When you negatively generalize it makes a person feel attacked and like all you see is their faults. These type of statements brings the assumption that a person can’t measure up and can’t do anything right. No one likes to be seen for only his or her faults and as a defense mechanism they may disregard anything you have to say.
One sided: You may so desperately want your spouse to hear you that you end up monopolizing the entire conversation. You may talk so much they feel they can’t get a word in. So instead of trying they give up and tune you out. A conversation takes two people and if your spouse feels like your not willing to leave space in the conversation to listen to them then why would they fully and thoughtfully listen to you.
Good relationships are a result of good communication, which means as much as you desire for your spouse to listen to you, you also need to learn how to be a good listener. Listening encourages a person to open up their heart; it allows vulnerability and gives the opportunity to fully see a person. However in a world that keeps us busy and regularly on the go, the more truly listening to one another can be difficult. But it is absolutely worth it! And before you can learn how to speak in such a way that promotes listening you must learn how to thoughtfully listen first. Proverbs 18:13 says it this way, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” Here are some ways to be considerate in your listening so that you can become one who “hears” when someone is speaking:
Hear Empathetically: Empathy is understanding and sharing the feeling of another person, in other words put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and choose to see things through their perspective. No matter if you are trying to resolve a conflict or share about each other’s day, hearing a person through the lens of empathy makes a person feel secure. When a person needs to vent about a situation about their day, it can be quit easy to tune them out and throw in a couple, “uhuh’s” and “yeah” to give the illusion of listening, when really your mind is elsewhere and you’re not hearing them. So instead be mindful and make an effort to see though their eyes and you will begin to see where they are coming from and why they may be frustrated.
Hear the emotion: When the conversation is hard it can be easy to get wrapped up in your own emotions rather than listening to what is being said. It is in those moments that your emotions begin to dictate your reactions and you may say or do something you end up regretting. Therefore take a minute to not only breathe but to fully hear how your spouse is feeling the emotions they are portraying. Mastering the empathy side of listening will help you understand the emotions behind the words. If you can identify the emotion, whether sad, angry, frustrated, anxious, depressed, happy etc., you can respond in a more accurate and kind manner. It is important to recognize and validate what your spouse is feeling before saying and doing anything so that you can remain in control of your own emotions.
Hear without biased opinions: When you listen with care you desire to understand why a person thinks or feels the way they do about a certain topic, and you can’t do that when your own bias is clouding what they are saying. “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2). If you and your spouse are caught in a never ending fight because you are both too stubborn to let go of your own opinion you will never get anywhere in your communication. To fully hear you may need to set aside your differences and make a conscious choice to understand where they are coming from. You don’t have to change your opinion but you do need to be respectful of someone else. It is alright to agree to disagree in a calm and civil manner. Ultimately your spouse does deserve to be heard.
Hear with love: You don’t just communicate with your mouth and ears, you use your entire body, and body language can say a lot. So using loving gestures like holding eye contact, nodding to affirm your listening or even reaching out and touching them or holding their hand, these can be sweet signals that you hear them. When a person is talking and you immediately turn towards them, maybe even stop what you’re doing, turn off the TV, phone or device, you are communicating that they are valuable and loved. It is in these precious moments that you affirm to your spouse how much you love and care for them. Being present with someone and being attentive to every word they are saying is a gift. Your spouse is worth your time and attention.
The Bible tells us in James 1:19 that we must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Therefore even God’s word tells us that listening and fully hearing is more important than speaking because speaking can get us in trouble. “Indeed we all make mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way” (James 3:2). There is power in the tongue; therefore it is wise to be a good listener and to fully understand before spouting out words that could cause division or strife. Although on the flip side of all that, yes being a good listener is very important, but being heard offers value as well. Listening and hearing can’t all be one sided because you both have unique perspectives and you both have different ways you want to be heard, which take us back to HOW we need to listen.
You see the sword can cut both ways meaning the greatest flaw we all have is well, being human. We all fall short and we all make mistakes. Selfishness, wanting what “I” want, is our natural bend. So instead of thoughtfully listening and hearing the needs of our husband or wife it’s easy to complain and whine about how: “he doesn’t listen to what I need”, “She is never happy with anything I do” or “he refuses to discuss our problems”, “she will not apologize for anything.” To be heard, you must be willing to hear first, but lets discuss some ways you can speak to your spouse that will most likely lead to open ears and an open heart. Raising your voice is NOT one of them.
Speak concisely: When you want to be heard, often times less is more. It’s when you beat down a point that ears tune out. So take a moment to say what exactly needs to be said and then wait. Wait for the words to sink in to your spouse’s heart and mind and then wait for a response. Don’t expect a response right away; allow a “pause” in the conversation. It’s when you poke, and prod that can make an argument escalate.
Choose soothing words: Don’t be abrasive, instead choose to speak with kindness and love in your heart. Remember the golden rule “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matt. 7:12). Keep the conversation civil by not making your partner feel like they are being criticized, blamed, or shamed in anyway. As much as you may want to “change” your spouse, you must recognize the only person you can speak for is yourself. Give your perspective without pointing the finger or spouting judgment and opinions.
Take ownership: As easy as it is to cast blame that is the quickest way to shut your spouse down. Don’t make accusations; instead speak from the heart by sharing your emotions and your perspective. Fault rarely lies solely on one person’s shoulders, so be willing to acknowledge your portion of wrongdoing and be quick to seek forgiveness. When you are quick to apologize for forgiveness, rather than shouting blame, you will create a safe place that will keep them from bringing their guard up.
Balance negativity with the positive: No one enjoys being around or listening to someone who likes to complain. Negativity can drain a person and can come across as being a nag. So create a positive atmosphere by finding the silver lining, which comes from knowing and understanding your partner’s character, then couple it with something that might be weighing on you. For example, if your spouse is working himself or herself into the ground and they regularly bring work home with them leaving no time for family, perhaps you say something like this, “You are such a hard worker and I’m so grateful for the way you provide for our family. I appreciate all that you do, but I would also like us to be more mindful and intentional in planning family time.” Speak to what you need and want without putting your partner down.
The quicker you recognize that arguing with your partner so they will listen begins with you and how well you attentively hear and listen, the quicker your relationship will reap the benefits. Listening opens up doors that will promote on-going and open communication. You will no longer feel like you have to walk on eggshells when it comes to communicating with your partner. Listening demonstrates a genuine concern and interest in another person, which leads to person feeling, loved and accepted. Listening builds a platform for mutual respect, trust and understanding. It promotes harmony within relationships and gives opportunities for successful conflict resolution. Listening opens the door for personal growth by giving opportunities to put others needs before oneself. Relationships are developed and able to sustain through the way two people listen to one another. God gave us a gift when He gave us two ears and only one mouth because hearing a person with attentive ears can be sweet treasure as you begin to fully see their heart, and the masterpiece God created them to be. SO LISTEN UP!
When two people fall in love and get married but have children from previous marriages it becomes a blended family. It is a beautiful thing when two people make a life long commitment to one another but it can be a process and a big adjustment when two families come together as one. You as parents may enter the remarriage with excitement and expectation, while the children may have different feelings. They may have feelings of uncertainty of how things will change and may be worried about living with a stepparent or stepsiblings. Blending families together may not be easy but with good communication, mutual respect and a ton of love, grace and patience, a bond can begin to form between stepparent and stepchildren creating a healthy and thriving blended family. So here are some tips to help your family be successful in growing together.
Keep your marriage a priority: It will take some adjusting to being a married couple while parenting but without the marriage there is no family. The marriage must come first, so be sure to continue nurturing and strengthening your relationship by making time for you two. Your children will be looking to you two, so demonstrating love towards one another is the best way to be an example and to show how important the family being together truly is.
Build a relationship with your stepchildren: Get to know your stepchildren. Include them in your daily life through conversation and even fun activities. Listen to them, become interested in what they enjoy, hear them when they share about life, school, work, friends etc. Become a safe, secure person in their life that they can trust and know is available whenever needed. Be intentional in building a relationship with your stepchildren.
Have open communication: Recognize that families coming together can be difficult for all parties, so bring ease to your children and stepchildren by letting them know they are safe to be open and honest about the new family dynamic. However, in the same way, you too need to be upfront with any problems you may be having with your spouse and anyone involved. If you want others to be vulnerable you will most likely need to pave the way.
Form a partnership with the former spouse: As strange as it may sound, forming a partnership with your spouse’s ex is important when children are in the picture. There needs to be an agreement on how both sets of parents will parent when they have the child(ren). When a stepparent is willing to honor and respect the biological parent the better the relationship will be between stepparent and stepchildren. This is one that shows that you have the child’s best interest at heart.
Have fun together: Make memories! With all the adjusting, focus on the positives of your new family. Learn and grow together over fun experiences and lots of laughter. Spend quality time together, whether it’s over an adventurous hike, making a mess in the kitchen while making a favorite dessert, or showing everyone’s competitive side over a board game. Regardless be reminded how blessed you are to have one another. Blending families is no easy feat but is absolutely worth it. God has brought you all together, and what a sweet blessing that is. Embrace the challenge and enjoy one another.