4 (more) Things I’ve learned in 1 Year of Marriage

 

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My husband and I will celebrate our One Year Anniversary this weekend.  This year has gone by so quickly, yet he & I joke about how it feels like we’ve always been married.  As mentioned in a previous post,  just because I am a professional counselor does not mean I am a pro at being married.  It has truly been through trial and error, not book knowledge,  that I have learned the most. To follow up on my Post, 4 Things I’ve Learned in 4 Months of Marriage, I’d like to add four more lessons I’ve learned throughout my first year of marriage.

  1. Marriage as An Emotional Bank Account: There will be times in marriage when one person feels like they are putting in all of the work, or making all the deposits, and the other partner is making all the withdrawals. This can feel unfair. While I don’t agree with one partner always carrying all the weight of the responsibilities, there will be times when the workload may be uneven.  For example, if one spouse is injured, sick, or slammed with work.  This is where you need to think of your marriage like an emotional bank account. The more deposits one partner puts into his/her Marital Bank Account (i.e. the more you give & serve your partner), the more there will be to withdrawal when you need your partner to step up and carry more of the load.  While we try to maintain a balanced load of responsibility, there are times when life throws curve balls and we need to adjust. This does not mean having one partner carrying most of the household responsibilities all of the time, because this will cause other problems….but it is helpful to see your marriage like a bank account. When you are continually depositing into it….there will be more for you to withdraw from later.
  2. Use Your Manners: As simple as this sounds, it can be difficult to always follow through with. We can become comfortable with our spouse, knowing that they are committed to us forever, and it can be easy to take advantage of this in how we speak to them. Its amazing how far “please” and “thank you” can go in marriage.  While it is nice to be able to be completely yourself with your partner, this does not mean it is okay to be rude.  It is not okay to take out your stress on your partner.  It is not your spouse’s fault you had a tough day at work or your back hurts.  Use your manners, take a hot shower or fix a cup of tea to relax, but don’t be rude to your spouse. Being rude will only create a problem that was never there.  And if you do mess up, “I’m sorry can also go along way. Use your manners!
  3. Listen to One Another: My husband is a problem solver. He is very good at coming up with solutions to a wide variety of problems. Sometimes I am so focused on my point of view that I’m not hearing what he has to say about a situation. I typically later realize that he had a really good point/idea all along! We need to really listen to one another in the moment. So many of the couples I work with don’t ever “hear” one another – when in discussion they are only thinking of how they will defend their ideas/feelings rather than truly listening to their spouse. Feeling heard can and does equate with feeling loved.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff: There is a lot that happens in life that is difficult, but leaving the dishes out on rare occasion is not one of them. My husband and I have both been reminded of the fragility of life this past year through various circumstances. We have learned that we have a choice on whether or not to make something a big deal….and perspective is important. Living with another person will inevitably cause disagreements at times, but there are too many “big” things in life to let something small becoming big. If your spouse leaves his or her (let’s be honest – his) clothes in the floor, don’t let it ruin your day!

I look forward to continuing on this journey of marriage, learning a lot along the way. There are so many more ways to learn and grow, but for now we plan to sit back in thankfulness & celebration over the past year of joy.

 

 

 

 

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Where’s My Perfect Thanksgiving?

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              What do you think of when you imagine Thanksgiving Holiday? Family and friends gathered around a crackling fire?  An image of “the perfect family” eating a fabulous feast together, while laughing with one another?  The Publix commercial image of happiness at the holidays?  We all have expectations about what the holidays should be like built up by social media, retail stores, the entertainment industry, etc., causing us to expect some magical holiday season.   When we arrive for Thanksgiving and it isn’t the “perfect” day and everyone doesn’t “get along perfectly”, we are disappointed.  Our holiday expectations are unmet, and this, along with other factors, can lead to depression.  Many benefits arise from ridding ourselves of unrealistic expectations…and getting to the true meaning of the holiday.  Let’s start with Thanksgiving….

It is important for us to reflect on the idea of thankfulness.  

           Thankfulness is “feeling or expressing gratitude; being appreciative” (dictionary.com).  As a therapist, I have seen many benefits of practicing gratitude and have witnessed its role in the treatment of depression.  Practicing thankfulness is a beneficial antidote in the treatment of depression; similar to the widely known treatments such as medication and/or psychotherapy.

           When a person is struggling with depression, his thought life is typically distorted and negative.  One of the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder is the presence of suicidal thoughts.  Distorted thinking, a client having more negative than positive thoughts, suicidal thinking, and irrational thinking are all symptoms of a person who is dealing with depression.  This is why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used to treat depression.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors.  During the course of treatment, people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on their behavior (psychology.about.com).  Our thoughts lead to our feelings which lead to our behaviors (thoughts –> feelings–> behaviors).  If we are stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, we will feel sad, and then we will act depressed.  However, thankfulness allows us to change our negative thinking into positive thinking, thus fighting depression.  For example, a person may have the thought “I am so frustrated that my car keeps having to go to the shop”.  This thought makes a person feel upset which then makes them behave in ways an upset person would (moping/feeling sorry for themselves/isolating self).  However, if thankfulness is added and the person thinks “I am so thankful I even have a car“.  This thought makes the person feel joy, enabling the person to behave in ways a joyful person would (engaging with others. higher energy levels).  Thankfulness has a big role in combating negative thinking, which treats depression.

         A specific exercise used by therapists to fight depression is called “thanking your mind”.  Your mind offers you many thoughts in an effort to protect you–trying to get you to judge whats good or bad for you, predict dangerous possibilities, etc.  Your mind is working to help you survive and overcome problems.  However, your mind can run wild and obsessively focus on thoughts that make you miserable (McKay, Davis, & Fanning, 2011, p. 132).  One way to deal with these thoughts is to thank your mind for its efforts to protect you. As each negative thought shows up, simply say, “Thank you mind, for that thought”.  This helps you to just appreciate that your mind gave you a thought to protect you, but helps you not to dwell on negative thoughts (McKay et. al, 2011, p. 132).

         As a Christian, God’s word tells us to be thankful.  Phil 4: 6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus” (New International Version).  Thankfulness creates a form of tranquility, or peace of mind.  We cannot have two separate thoughts at the same time: it is difficult to worry and be thankful at the same time.  We aren’t that smart! Colossians 3:15 says “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (New International Version).  Can you see the connection between thankfulness and peace?  The more thankful we are, the more God’s peace will rule our hearts and minds, combating depression and other forms of despair.

Reference List

Johnson, S.L. (2004).  Therapist’s guide to clinical intervention: The 1-2-3’s of treatment planning (2nd ed.).  San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

McKay, M., Davis, M., & Fanning, P.  (2011).  Thoughts and feelings: Taking control of your moods and your life (4th ed.)  Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

http://www.psychology.about.com