4 Things I’ve Learned in 4 Months of Marriage

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 As a Marriage & Family Therapist and a Professional Counselor, I should know how to have a great marriage, right? …..well….. like a doctor who sometimes doesn’t eat healthy or exercise, I sometimes don’t communicate or “pick my battles” well. There is a difference between knowing what I need to do and actually doing it. Besides, my husband and I are only 4 months into this whole marriage thing. We have a long way to go and many more years to practice.

With that said, here are a few things I’ve learned in our start to married life:

  1. Prioritize Your Time Together: Other than my relationship with God, my husband comes first, and vise versa. It is an amazing feeling to know that I come first in someone’s life (after God). Our days and time can get filled with so many things…..entertainment, electronics, work, sports, social events, anything….Prioritizing time together guards against filling our schedules with everything but one another.  Our premarital counselor suggested scheduling on the calendar a time each week with your spouse to “do nothing together”. If a friend calls or something comes up, we tell that person we already have plans.
  2. Laugh & Have Fun: My husband has a way of “making light” of situations. Life can have a lot of stress, and I am the first to admit I get overwhelmed. Laughing not only makes the tough stuff more bearable, but it reminds us that life is a gift and life is short. Plus, marriage is fun!
  3. Serving one another is key: This one is much easier said than done. Marriage is not 50/50. I knew it wouldn’t be going into marriage, but I have encountered this phenomenon first hand. Marriage is 100/100. I want to give 100% without expecting to get anything in return, and vise versa. If we both serve completely, we know the effort we are both investing towards the health of our relationship.
  4. Focus on Your Own Personal Growth, not your Spouses’: It is so easy to point fingers at others instead of pointing the finger around and looking ourselves in the mirror. I have things about myself I want to work on and change, and I know my husband has things he wants to work on as well. As I work on my own personal growth and let my husband work on his, we are both better people for each other. I don’t need to “change” my husband, and he does not need to “change” me. Our job is to love & support one another.

I look forward to adding more and more insights into what I’ve learned through marriage in the next 4 months, the 4 months after that, and 4 after that, etc….. We have so much to learn & so many ways to grow, four months at a time 🙂

Community is Key (Part 2): Pride

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“Pride is the deadliest poison that can kill a relationship”

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Have you ever spoken with someone who boasted so much about his accomplishments that you wanted to gag? Or they listed so many of their child’s achievements in school that you don’t even know their child and you don’t like her?  Have you been with a person when the conversation revolves around his new car, boat, or vacation? If nothing gets on your nerves more than a person who only talks about themselves or their own in a conversation….you have been on the receiving end of pride.

Pride is a community & relationship killer.   It can lie to us and make us believe that we don’t need others/community.  It lets us think we can achieve things for ourselves.  The world tells us to be independent and achieve on our own.  However, God designed us to be in community with others, helping them and allowing others to help us.  Pride crowds out other people…Pride crowds out God. Pride causes us to take credit for what God has done.

There are 2 types of pride, the first being selfish pride. This can be defined as “excessive confidence or glorification in one’s self, possessions or nation.”  Synonyms for pride include arrogance, haughtiness and conceit, among others. In the Bible, selfish pride caused Satan to believe he didn’t need God and wanted to be his own god.  The Bible says in Isaiah 14:14, “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (New International Version).  Satan’s pride caused him to fall away from God and in turn he temped Adam and Eve to do the same.  Genesis 3:5 says, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (New International Version).  Adam and Eve’s pride caused them to disobey God and sin (separation from God) entered the world.  As you can see, this type of pride produced division. 

The Bible also speaks of a healthy form of pride. This type of pride does not create division.  It is pride in others that are living in obedience to God.  It is the reasonable self-respect we have in ourselves and others. Paul speaks of this in 2 Corinthians  7:4, “I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds” (New International Version).  Here, Paul is speaking of his confidence in Christians.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul says “…Therefore I will boast all he more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  Paul is boasting in  the strength that comes from the Lord.

Pride has caused me to resist seeking help.   Being a business owner creates a lot of extra expenses, and I wanted to figure out how to manage my money on my own.  Pride caused me to not want to receive help from anyone & to make sure I was saving well for all my business expenses –instead I would stress out every time an expense came up.  Once I finally admitted I couldn’t do this on my own, I reached out to someone for some guidance.  Pride diminishes our capacity to admit: we need help, we did wrong, etc. It prevents us from the community God designed to help us.

Pride also prevents us from acknowledging and apologizing.  Lets face it: we are human and will mess up.  Saying you are sorry means swallowing your pride and acknowledging your mistakes.  Only through admitting, apologizing, and forgiveness do relationships and communities stay in tact.  Pride tempts us to believe we are right even when we were very wrong.

Pride tempts us to take credit for what God has really done. Even if we feel we worked really hard to achieve a goal, like raising a well-behaved child or advancing at work, it is God who gives us life, breath, and abilities — and ultimately does what He wants.  Though God does ask us to work our hardest for Him (Colossians 3:23), He is the one who gives us our skills, abilities, and opportunities. Sometimes even the best parent can have the strongest willed child who goes astray, and sometimes the best worker in a career is let go because the economy is down. We can’t take credit or blame ourselves — some things are out of our control.

It is important to kill pride before pride kills your relationships, and ultimately your community.  We need God and we need others.

Starting Over – Hitting Reset

“With every rising of the sun, think of your life as just begun.” -Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Do you ever want to hit the “reset” button on your life, habits, relationships, job?  Do you believe that if you could start over again that you would do things differently?

In Genesis,  God created separation between days, weeks, months, and years. Genesis 1: 3-5 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’. and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness he called ‘night’ “(New International Version).  According to the Bible, creating a difference between night and day (and subsequently days and weeks) is the first thing God did after creating the heavens and the earth.

Therefore, if every day, week, month, and year is separated from the one preceding it, we are constantly given a chance for a new beginning or fresh start.  As we enter into 2015, many people see the new year as an opportunity to start fresh with resolutions.  People often make promises to better their health, relationships, finances, career, etc; However, God says that we have a chance to start new every day.  Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (New International Version).  What beautiful grace God displays by giving us a chance to have a new start each day.  With each sunrise, we are given a fresh opportunity to live God’s way.  His grace is always there for us, but I like the visual expression of a sunrise and sunset to show the sunrise of our new chance each day.

Sometimes life forces us to start over at unexpected times.  We may have an “out-of-nowhere” job loss or relational breakup.  We are left to pick up the pieces & start over when an event occurs we did not choose.  Andy Stanley’s Series “Starting Over” was excellent to describe what to do when it all falls apart (http://startingoverseries.org).  Andy talks about the three exercises to complete when starting over: 1) Own it, 2) Rethink it, and 3) Release It.

Owning it means to own your share/part of why the situation went wrong.  Even if you feel like the situation was not your fault, there is always a piece of the fault pie that belongs to you.  In Andy’s sermon, he asked us to draw a slice of the pie that represented our part in why a situation went wrong and we are forced to start over.  Owning your part of why a situation went wrong helps you gain clarity and learn from it (www.startingoverseries.org).

Rethinking it means to ask yourself what you were thinking during the situation that went wrong.  If we think the way we used to, we will do the same things.  Be able to answer the question ‘What was I thinking?” (www.startingoverseries.org).

Releasing it means that even though other people may be to blame in your situation, you have a responsibility.  You must decide to forgive and release the fault others created in your situation (www.startingoverseries.org).  Andy told us to ask the question “How long do you plan to allow the people who mistreated you to influence your future?”

Each new day is an opportunity to start over — We don’t have to wait until January 1st of each new year to change.  Sometimes life events give us no choice but to start over again, usually at unexpected times.  Each circumstance that falls apart is an opportunity to begin again.  We have the chance each day to hit the “reset” button and do things better the next time.  It takes a little reflection and “owning the situation”…but starting over can be a great thing!

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.”

-Brene Brown

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Relationships are key in life…We were made to be connected to one another!  God created all kinds of relationships, including family, friendships, and love relationships (Genesis 2:18, James 2: 23)..  All of these teach us valuable lessons and about how God loves and cares for us. God also invites us into a relationship with Him through his son — a very relational concept!  If relationships are so important to God, how do we develop them? And why risk having close relationships when we have been hurt by them in the past?

According to Millie Welsh, relationships go through a cycle of several phases.  Every relationship begins at a superficial or shallow level; you don’t know the person and they don’t really know you.  You meet, possibly engage in small talk, and move on — unless one of you takes it to the next level.  If a person never builds their relationships past this superficial level, they will be lonely and empty.

The next phase is Information Gathering, aka “acquaintance”.  This is the point when you ask the other person questions about themselves and get to know more about them (job, hobbies, likes/dislikes).

The next phase in a relationship requires vulnerability.  According to Brene Brown, vulnerability is “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”    It is the willingness to open yourself up to another person… more than just fact sharing, it is choosing to share how you feel about something or someone.

When a person is vulnerable, and it is met with acceptance, this leads to more self disclosure, feeling known/ loved, and a united relationship.  Based on Brene Brown’s  research, vulnerability, when met with empathy/acceptance, has many benefits.  It decreases shame and promotes closeness in relationship.  Also it is the birthplace of every positive emotion, including empathy, compassion, love, belonging, adaptability, accountability.”

However; vulnerability, when met with rejection, leads to a person shutting down, becoming impenetrable, and a superficial relationship.  A person learns to build walls around their emotions in order to not feel rejected again (Welsh, 2012).  It is after these instances of rejection we learn to keep our guard up with people so that they will not hurt us.  We don’t allow ourselves to feel, for fear of what we might end up actually feeling.  Vulnerability, when met with judgement, betrayal, or silence, creates shame and disengagement in relationship (Brown, 2013). Rejection teaches us to build walls around our hearts to protect ourselves from being hurt.

It is important to be discerning of your audience before you jump into vulnerability.  Brene Brown says vulnerability is “…for those who have earned the right to hear your story” and “those who can bear the weight of your story.”  At some point, we all have to decide which relationships are worth the risk of getting hurt on the chance that they can grow into a lasting relationship that changes our lives for the better.  There will always be a risk that someone will abuse your vulnerability, but if God created us to enjoy relationships with Him and one another, we must come to the conclusion that He wants us to courageously pursue the hearts of others in order to grow in Him.

I encourage you to take your guard down & risk vulnerability with trusted individuals in your life.

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Some of my closest friends in college. These were the girls I lived, studied, had class with, exercised with, ate with, etc… I was taught the importance of vulnerability in producing close, meaningful relationships.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable”.

-C.S. Lewis

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Reference List

Brown, B. 2013.  The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, & Courage.  Available from

               www.brenebrown.com/books/

Welsh, M. (2012, May 30).  Made for Relationship.   Crupressgreen.  Retrieved from

                http://crupressgreen.com/made-for-relationship/

Happy Fall!

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall”

                                                           -F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Fall is a season of new beginnings.  The school year starts over for students, TV shows are fresh with new episodes, football teams are given a clean record of no losses, leaves emerge vibrant colors, and the air develops a crisp, cool feel to it.

It truly is my favorite time of the year.  In the fall, I enjoy campfires, pumpkin spice lattes, blankets, and the wonderful sound of ESPN college football/Gameday.  This fall, I am embarking on a new journey writing this blog.  My inner therapist will definitely come through with counseling and psychological terms and topics, along with all that I’m learning and facing in my daily walk of life and faith.  I hope you will join me on my latest adventure!