Lower Holiday Stress as a Couple

Lower Holiday Stress as a Couple

Three things that will enhance your relationship over the holidays.

Our Christmas Tree is up and operational, and one big difference this year is that I didn’t trim the house with lights! 

I was looking for the box of Christmas bulbs that I’d hung around the house for years when Angie (my first wife) reminded me that we had a discussion last year and that we’d decided not to put them up. I was unaware until last year that she was not very fond of the lights.

Why on earth would I tell you this? Because the holidays can be a very stressful time for any relationship. With that in mind, I wanted to give you four things you can do to have a less stressful holiday.

First, turn towards each other. It is so easy to be swept up in the frenzy of the season. One of the easy things to do to have less stress over the next few weeks is to be sure to spend some time together as a couple. No smart devices, if possible, no kids, no distractions. It might only be a few moments in the morning or the evening; just make sure you get some uninterrupted time together. NOTE: don’t think big on this, a few private moments can go a long way.

Second, share the load. For many, the holidays can become a whirl of activities. It is essential that as a husband and wife, we make sure we work together to share the burden and get through the season with minimal stress. When I was a teenager, we had horses, and I remember talking to our local vet one time. He was telling me that two draft horses pulling together cannot pull twice as much as one. They can actually pull three times as much. The two draft horses that can tow 8,000 pounds alone can pull 24,000 pounds by working together. So, share the load.

Third, encourage each other. This past weekend we watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and one of my takeaways was how encouraging Fred Rogers was. Now I am not asking you to be him, but I am asking you to be more intentional, and thoughtfully engage your partner. 

Encourage. The word means to give courage, hope, and confidence. Here is a secret that I have learned as both a therapist and a man married to the same woman for 47 years.

Men need three things: To feel needed, to feel competent, and to feel respected.

Women need three things: To feel valued, to feel cherished, and to feel secure.

If you think about these three needs, you will find that it will be easier to be an encourager.

Remember, these three things, turning towards each other, sharing the load, and intentionally encouraging each other can go a long way in mitigating the stress of the season.

I sincerely hope your holidays are filled with joy, contentment, and great memories.

6 Ways to Grow In Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Thanksgivng
Thanksgiving with the Electric Strawberry (25th Infantry Division)

“Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” C.K.Chesterson

A SPECIAL NOTE: I am thankful to be an American, I am thankful to be a Veteran, and I am grateful for the men and women who will not be with their families this Thanksgiving because they are protecting us on the land, on the sea, and in the air. God bless our service members.

Did you know that one of the most significant and cheapest things you can do to enhance your mental and spiritual health is to have an Attitude of Gratitude? I am going to show you 6 ways to increase your capacity for gratitude this Thanksgiving.

It is the beginning of Thanksgiving week, which leads to Black Friday and the insanity of the Holidays. In the next few posts, I hope to give you some proven, practical tools and tips to lower your stress, increase your mental health, build your resilience and enhance your spirituality.

The word thanks is rooted in the Hebrew word yada is a verb meaning to acknowledge, give praise, or to give thanks. The English root comes from the Latin word gratus, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. The main idea is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.

Did you know that modern research has proven time and time again that gratitude is continuously connected with greater happiness and an optimistic outlook? Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, savor good experiences, improve overall health, deal with adversity, and enhance relationships.

You and I tend to feel and express the idea of gratitude in multifaceted ways. We can apply to the past (reflecting on positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings). Regarding the present, we stay in the mindset of not taking good things for granted. And as far as the future is concerned, gratitude helps us maintain an optimistic, hopeful, future-focused view of life and work.

Six ways to grow gratitude

Gratitude is a great way to refocus on what you have instead of what you lack. Honestly, sometimes you may feel like you are faking it, this mental state grows stronger as you use it.

Write a thank-you note. This is one of those things you can do today that has an immediate payoff. Right now, think of someone who would love to receive a personal note. Maybe a spouse, a child, a co-worker, a friend, out a person of influence in your life. By the way, this is a great way to nurture relationships. The best way is the old school way, paper, pen or pencil, envelope, and stamp. Send it, or if possible, deliver it and read it in person. I think you will be amazed at the results.

Thank someone personally. Whether it is the clerk at the grocery store, your waitress, a neighbor, a family member, or a mentor, look them in the eye and let them know that you are grateful for them.

Keep a gratitude list. In my years of private practice, one of the regular assignments that I would give to my patients struggling with depressions or anxiety was to develop a gratitude list. By taking a few moments every day to jot down things that you are thankful for, increased the positive release of good brain chemicals and helps you feel better.

Count your blessings. “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done…” are words from a hymn I remember from my childhood while attending the First Baptist Church of Fort Valley. It is an old song with modern psychological and spiritual implications.

Pray. Personally, I believe this old piece of Wisdom Literature captures this concept.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

1 Chronicles 16:34 NLT

Meditate. In today’s culture, meditation is a common practice for stress management and overall wellness. The art of meditation has been around for centuries. In the Old Testament model, the focus of the mediation was on the character of God, the Word of God, or the actions of God in an individual’s life. In the New Testament, the focus is on actively engaging the mind in reflecting on applying Christ’s finished work to our personal lives. In contrast, much of modern meditative practices are based in an Eastern form of meditation: Zen meditation, transcendental meditation, yoga, Chinese or Hindu meditation, guided meditation: all of which have their origins in New age and Eastern religions.

Regardless of which form you use, meditation combined with an attitude of gratitude can help you experience a deeper sense of focus, gratitude, and blessings as we move into this Holiday Season.

I hope that you are able to experience a profound sense of gratitude as we move into Thanksgiving 2019.

A Suicide Call

What would you do if a friend told you they were suicidal?

It was 6:04 a.m. when a messenger alert went off on my phone to call my organization’s call center. I’m not sure about you, but if my phone goes off before 7:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m., it’s typically not good news. This morning would be no different.

An agency employee had committed suicide the night before, and the agency was requesting someone from EAP (Employee Assistance Program) to come and assist.

I fired off a quick prayer for those that were impacted and prayed that I would be fully engaged as a people helper. My wife, who has been my chief encourager for 47 years, told me how fortunate people were that I would be there for them. Within the hour, I was on my way to the worksite.

While the drive was only twenty minutes, and while I had responded to scores of calls to various workplaces after someone had suicided, this one was different.

Within the past few weeks, there had been two prominent, public figures who had made a choice to take their lives. Pastor Jarrid Wilson, a young, popular preacher who’d been very vulnerable about his own mental health issues. The other was Dr. Gregory Eells, the Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Pennsylvania.

With these two recent events in mind, I prepared myself for the rest of the day.

Because of the type of agency, I would be working with is very unique, I know there would be other support staff on sight to include a chaplain, other mental health professionals as well as the leadership of the team who’d been impacted. As we gathered, we greeted each other and began the day.

The leadership of the organization had contacted their team leaders to inform them of the individual’s death, but for the most part, the workforce was being notified as they came into work.

As individuals and small groups of twos and threes came into the room, emotions ranged from silent, stunned shock to wailing. As a team, we listened, supported, encouraged, and shared literature with those impacted. Needless to say, apart from the group meeting, there were scores of individual conversations that we had with those affected.

The individual who died had lad a long history of mental health issues, suicidal ideation, and was in treatment. The anger was the fact that the employee had been given multiple resources and yet, she chose death.

As a team, after we completed the intervention, did we debrief with each other, we went our separate ways.

As I came home from work, I knew that I had given a lot that day. When I got back, I told my wife about my day and let her know that I needed some time to regroup. We had dinner and watched a movie. By bedtime, I was feeling relaxed, reconnected, and detoxed.

We never really know what it is that causes a person to make that final decision. But for people who have known the individual who committed suicide, there is often a sense of guilt, helplessness, and feeling impotent when it comes to knowing what to do.

I could almost bet that you have been impacted by the suicide of someone in your life. These types of events should cause us to reflect and pause.
In the past few months, as the news reveals more sad news about suicide, I began thinking about what I could do.

Because of the increased awareness of the number of people who are considering suicide, and because so many people feel impotent to help, or do not know what to do if someone they know is suicidal I have decided to offer a class on suicide awareness and prevention, with a non-judgemental faith-based slant. I will offer it through some churches in the Albuquerque area and will also develop an online course. For more information on either of these, just email me john@johnthurman.net.

If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK. www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Ancient Wisdom

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Resilient Leadership Wins, Part 1

“You must manage yourself before you can lead others.” Zig Ziglar

Your true leadership abilities or lack of them will reveal themselves in a crisis. 

At that moment when the crap hits the fan, you will either rise to the occasion or crash and burn. You will either be a resilient leader, or you will cower to the pressure.

I know this from personal experience as a Certified Corporate Response Specialist.

Over the past 12 years, I have responded to over 150 disruptive workplace events ranging from layoffs to mass shootings, and I have personally observed both exceptional and impotent leadership

In this article, I will give you some of the best researched and most up-to-date strategies for being ready for whatever crisis comes your way. You have both the joy and the responsibility to be a resilient leader to those you are responsible for. Why? Because resilient leaders make things happen in both their personal life and in the business world.

When you implement these principles, you will be able to be a compassionate, clear-headed leader, even on your worst day.

Preparing for “bad days” really means becoming more resilient both before, during, and after an adverse event, even natural human-made disasters. Being ready can be one of the most valuable things you can ever do, especially when facing potentially life-changing circumstances (Everly 2019).

In reviewing people and companies who have overcome adversity, there seem to be five core psychological/behavioral factors that leaders have to take their organization through tough times. Here they are:

  1. Active Optimism – the deep belief and conviction that life events will turn out well, primarily because one believes she/he can contribute and assist in making things turn out well. Active Optimism is much more than just a belief. It is a mandate for change. It is a gut reaction to move forward when others are retreating.
  2. Decisiveness – the ability to overcome the “paralysis by analysis and make difficult decisions. You must be decisive and act to move forward. You have to acquire the courage to make difficult decisions. Making these decisions is easier when you are rooted in your…
  3. Moral Compass – the ability to evaluate one’s actions against the gold standard of honor, integrity, fidelity, and ethical behavior. Once you make your decision/you will need to employ…
  4. Relentless Tenacity, Determination, and Grit. A key ingredient in being tenacious is knowing when to pursue a course of action, and when to quit. To discover hidden opportunities, build your resilience, and boost physical, spiritual, and psychological energy, you will need to rely on…
  5. Interpersonal Support – Who has your six o’clock, your back. While we are more connected than every before, research tells us that we are more lonely than any time in history. To be effective, you have to have to be connected to others.

Of these five, there are two that stood out as the most influential, and they were Active Optimism and Self Efficacy.

Active Optimism

The first trait of a resilient person has engaged Optimism. The core belief that life events will turn out well, mainly because one believes she/he possess the ability to assist in making things turn out well. For the Christian, it may sound like the Apostle Paul’s reminder in Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

One of the keys to understanding active Optimism is to realize it is not some “pie in the sky, and the world is all rainbows and lollipops.”Dynamic Optimism is based on having realistic expectations.

Another key to understanding dynamic Optimism is to understand the term self-efficacy. This term coined by Dr. Albert Bandura (1977; 1997) and means “beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments.” Another definition is the person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a given situation. (Thurman 2017)

My question is; Why do so many Christian businessmen and women, ministry leaders, and others struggle with this idea.
I think it is because of our mindset. I do not believe it is a matter of faith, but more about our mindset.

So John, what are some things I can do to increase my Optimism?

Part of developing active Optimism has the right mindset.

Dr. Carolyn Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success looks into this matter with great skill and practical insights.
Here is an excerpt from one of my blogs from a couple of years ago.

First, choose to shift into a “growth mindset.”Dr. Carol Dweck, the author of mindset, spent her life researching the origins of mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes. Her findings give us two options, a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. (Thurman 2017)

A “fixed mindset” is one in which you believe you are born with a particular set of talents, abilities, and intelligence—all of which are unchangeable. Some people with a fixed mindset may find it harder to experience life change and growth. As a result, a fixed-mindset person fails to develop his abilities and is more likely to give up or become distracted and feel depressed when he fails to make the grade in his own eyes. I believe this is where so many fruitless Christians are stuck; they think they have no power to change, which is a lie from the pit of hell. In my first book Get a Grip on Depression, I reveal six of the most common, fixed mindsets, or “stinking thinking”patterns that can hold us back. Why not order a copy today.

A person with a growth mindset begins in a different place. When you have a growth mindset, you see yourself and others as more flexible, adaptable, and hopeful. Way down inside, you know the potential for growth and development. With faith, the proper motivation, effort, moral compass, and concentration, you can make the changes you need to make. A person who has a growth mindset does not take failure so personally. That individual tends to see failure as an opportunity for growth. If one path does not work, then the person will try another.

As a Christian therapist, I believe the Bible continually teaches the benefit of being growth-minded. I believe God is active in time, space, and history, and He has a vibrant, life-fulfilling plan for each of us. The Bible gives us truth, hope, and stories of those who have gone before us and have found such purpose.

From my struggle in this area, I know working toward a growth mindset in the middle of depression may seem close to impossible. However, the truth found in the Bible is, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”(Philippians 4:13 NLT). This confidence is not some magical incantation or mystical, spiritual event, but it is a process or a journey.

In addition to checking out your mindset, here are four more ways to increase Active Optimism. (Thurman 2017)

1.Being successful at something. Actual success builds the belief that one can be successful in the future. Past achievements, no matter how small, are the building blocks for future achievements.

2. Vicarious experiences (observational learning, modeling, imitation) increase the overall confidence of people observe the actions of others. For example, my wife is a Senior Leader in Premier Designs Jewelry; she has been involved with this outstanding company for the past 25 years. Over these years, she has shared her story of abuse, recurrent major depression, and suffering a Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury and how she built her business in spite of those challenges. Her hope is by sharing her story; she will inspire her audiences to embrace their problems with a growth mindset and trust the Lord to bless.

3.Verbal persuasion and encouragement from others enhance self-esteem and resilience. Parents, leaders, coaches, co-workers, and teammates have a positive impact on self-efficacy. These various sources of support help set the stage for success. Finding a supportive and encouraging mentor can mean the difference between failure and success in nearly every area of one’s life.

4. Learning to control one’s impulses, emotions, and reactivity under stress and adversity can convey confidence, which translates into proactive resilience.

So, what do you want to do? Are you happy where you are? Alternatively, do you want to work on a reset, moving towards a growth mindset, and a more optimistic world view? The Lord put you on this earth to have an impact! One of the ways you can move out of the shadows and into the light is to open your mind to the things the Lord wants to show you and have the courage to live with an optimistic world view.

I do provide private leadership coaching, if you ae interested in a free 30 minute consultation email me john@johnthurman.net. Type Free Consultation in the Subject Line.

Blessings.

El Paso: Hope Amid Chaos

Recently America experiences a weekend was filled with horror, death, fear, anxiety, panic, and dread as news spread of the El Paso shootings and the second shock of the shootings in Dayton.

Even as this tragic news was breaking, I was anticipating being called to respond to the tragedy in El Paso. Early Sunday evening, I was asked to head to El Paso early Monday morning as a Grief Counselor for a business that was directly impacted by this tragedy. I chose to focus on El Paso, because I was there.

In those two days, I talked with 21 people who were directly affected by this event. Some had lost friends and family members, others had experienced prior violence. All were nearly immobilized with fear, and others were angry.

This article is a direct result of the freshness of this week’s response as well as 150 plus responses to disruptive workplace events in my work as a Crisis Response Specialist.

With that in mind, I want to share some practical steps you can take to deal with some of the potential toxic emotional aftermaths of such a horrible and tragic event.

When any mass shooting or act of terror occurs, it is reasonable to feel anxious, scared, and uncertain about what the future could bring. With time and appropriate attention, these strong, sometimes immobilizing fears, thoughts, and feelings can begin to fade as life begins its return to a new normal.

Returning to a New Normal

You can accelerate the process by doing the following:

• Limit media exposure! On a practical level, the half-hour evening newscasts will give you enough information to stay current. There is little added value to hearing the 24-hour pundit input.

• Ignoring your feelings about the event will dynamically impair your recovery process.

• Talking about what and how you are feeling may be difficult, but it will help you and others heal.

• Being proactive about you and your family’s situation and well-being (rather than passively waiting for someone else to help you) will help decrease the feelings of powerlessness, anger, anxiety, and vulnerability. Focus on anything that allows you and your family to feel safe, calm, and secure.

Recovery Tips

• Re-establish the routines of your personal and family life.

• Connect with others in your neighborhood, workgroup, and place of worship. For those who exercise spiritual discipline, one of best practices to enhance your recovery is to regularly attend worship services and be a part of a small group.

• If you work a regular 9-5 job, there is a strong possibility that you have an Employee Assistance Benefit which provides free, short-term counseling for you and your family. Be sure to check with your HR department or the benefits link on your company’s website.

• Challenge any thoughts of helplessness.

• Minimize media exposure

• Make stress reduction a priority.
• Get out and exercise.

Tips for Helping Your Kids Cope

• Provide your kids with ongoing opportunities to talk about what they may be feeling.

• If you don’t know the answer to a question they might have, don’t be afraid to admit it.

• Restrict their exposure to media.

• Remember, children often personalize situations. They may worry about their safety or that of their family, even if the traumatic event occurred far away. Reassure them and help them understand the situation in context.

• Watch for the signs of stress: crying, insomnia, tummy aches, excessive fear, and worry.

Moving Forward

Humans are designed to be resilient. In several studies, resilience and post-traumatic growth and hope are three of the critical components of healing as well as personal and spiritual growth. By resilience, I mean the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment, or dysfunction that are often associated with critical incidents, acts of terror, mass disasters, and personal trauma.

While we are still reeling from the events of the first week of August, I can tell you based on my years of work in the field that we as individuals, families, and Americans will honor the dead, and care for those who are injured with both visible and invisible wounds. Also, we, as a nation of immigrants (my ancestry is Northern Western European, Wales, and England) will support each other and experience positive, post-traumatic growth.

One of the most important things we can do in the days and weeks ahead it to comfort, console and encourage each other.

This passage from the New Testament Book of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 have helped people for over 2000 years. Take a moment and read it for yourself.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

A Personal Note of Preparedness

These are dangerous times in our country. I thought long and hard about adding this portion, and I would never want to promote fear, I do want to be crystal clear about what I am about to say.

The best way to overcome fear is preparedness.

Many of you have been through Active Shooter Training at work. The Department of Homeland has a great link and a 90-minute training film that, in my opinion, is worth the time to view, whether you are a private citizen, and small business owner, or a part of an international organization.

You should know the drill by now. Flee if you can. If you cannot flee, Hide. If you cannot hide, Fight. I would add a fourth: know how to stop the bleeding. Incident after incident reveals that if a person does not immediately die from a gunshot wound, they will most likely bleed out.

Apart from these national tragedies, you and I still need to know basic First Aid, this video from FEMA is an exceptional training video on how to Stop The Bleed or hemorrhagic control.

If you are authorized to carry a concealed weapon legally, are you proficient in your use of arms? Are you prepared to engage the shooter if that is your final option? If you choose to carry these are some of the serious things you need to consider.

A few days after these mass shootings, an off duty firefighter who was authorized to conceal and carry a weapon stopped an armed individual outside a Walmart in Missouri.

The day of the shooting in El Paso, a young soldier, who is authorized to conceal and carry a weapon, drew his pistol and helped rescue several children when he heard gunfire; unfortunately, he lamented that while he asked people to help him evacuate the children, only one other man helped out. In my opinion, he is one of many heroes that day in El Paso—men and women who ran toward trouble rather than away from it. God bless our First Responders.

There will be lots of lessons learned from these recent tragic events.
While many will attempt to use these events as political currency, why don’t you and I, regardless of politics, socio-economic background, ancestral heritage pull together and do what we can to make this country and this world a better place to live.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I’d like to take a quick trip down memory lane to some truths and principles that we need to remind ourselves of.

As a former Boy Scout, the oath and creed I learned as a boy is in my mind me today. For those of you who grew up in the Scouts, remember it with me.

Scout Oath

On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law

The Scout Law has 12 points. Each is a goal for every Scout. A Scout tries to live up to the law every day. It is not always easy to do, but a Scout always tries.

A Scout is:

TRUSTWORTHY. Tell the truth and keep promises. People can depend on you.

LOYAL. Show that you care about your family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and country.

HELPFUL. Volunteer to help others without expecting a reward.

FRIENDLY. Be a friend to everyone, even people who are very different from you.

COURTEOUS. Be polite to everyone and always use good manners.

KIND. Treat others as you want to be treated. Never harm or kill any living thing without good reason.

OBEDIENT. Follow the rules of your family, school, and pack. Obey the laws of your community and country.

CHEERFUL. Look for the bright side of life. Cheerfully do tasks that come your way. Try to help others be happy.

THRIFTY. Work to pay your way. Try not to be wasteful. Use the time, food, supplies, and natural resources wisely.

BRAVE. Face difficult situations even when you feel afraid. Do what you think is right despite what others might be doing or saying.

CLEAN. Keep your body and mind fit. Help keep your home and community clean.

REVERENT. Be reverent toward God. Be faithful in your religious duties. Respect the beliefs of others.

Maybe we should thinks about what it would be like if we took some of these principles and integrated or reintegrate them into our live.

What if we spend less time in the blush’s screen and more time looking into each other’s eyes as we talk and live out lives.

Ancient Wisdom on day-to-day living:

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Ephesians 5:15 NLT

Ancient Wisdom on dealing with fear.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified

Live in Grace and Peace
John

Blessings,
John

One Word that Can Change Your Marriage: L.I.S.T.E.N.

Couple listening

Do you ever lay awake at night feeling distant or disconnected in your marriage? The truth is if you keep doing what you have been doing, you are going to get the same thing.

Do you want to have a more resilient, robust marriage? Do you want to begin to take some simple steps to turn things around?

You always have a choice to make a decision. You can do nothing, or you can choose to begin using some of the tools contained in this article to start improving your relationship within the next few hours.

These six insights are the results of 47 years of being married and sitting with couples as they worked through their issues as a relationship specialist.

Because I want your marriage to have a renewed sense of love, passion, and purpose here is a simple process that you can begin as soon as you finish this article. You can begin, literally right now, to build a more resilient marriage.

Here is a low-cost, high yield way to refresh and energize your relationship? While the focus on this article is on your relationship, these practical-proven tips will work in your day-to-day living.

I am going to take the six letters of the word LISTEN and show you how to add almost instant energy and purpose in your day to day actions.

Let’s jump in!

L – Lean forward and look into your partner’s eyes. I am not talking about a staredown, because that can get pretty creepy pretty quick. Instead, be intentional about looking into their eyes. FYI, it is reasonable to look into someone’s eyes and look away, so I do not want you to feel weird. However, studies are showing that more people struggle with this because of the blue screen of electronic devices.

I – Use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements. This is a tough one for so many of us. Yet, while tough, it is a skill that can be learned, click here for a free PDFon how to learn to trade in the old inflammatory “you” statements with uplifting “I” statements

S – Shared Responsibility. The blame game started in Genesis chapter 3 and continues until today. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard clients say something like, “I wouldn’t do “x” if she didn’t do “y”? Let’s face it most of us find it pretty easy to blame someone else, like our spouse, our parents, our in-laws, and God only know what else for the problems in our relationships. The hard truth is that it usually takes two people to screw things up, so rather than becoming an impotent blamer, assume responsibility for the issues you are struggling with and share the responsibility for it.

Dr. Jack Allen, a friend of mine, puts it this way, “If you make a mess, take ownership of it, confess it, then CLEAN IT UP!

T – Tenacious. Absolutely refuse to be wimpy and whinny. Lean into the relationship, face the issues with courage, be committed as a couple to work through the situation. The key concept here is resilience. Get help if you need it.

I am an old Tom Petty fan, and for years I have used his song “I Won’t Back Down,” as a personal theme to be tenacious in my marriage and in my own convictions. If you haven’t heard it in a while, here is a link to the video.

E – Encourage. The word means to give courage, hope, and confidence. Here is a secret that I have learned as both a therapist and a man married to the same woman for 47 years.

Men need three things: To feel needed, to feel competent, and to feel respected.

Woman needthree things: To feel valued, to feel cherished, and to feel secure.

If you think about these three needs, you will find that it will be easier to be an encourager.

N – Negate the negative. Make sure not to overthink the negatives in your relationship, if you do you will self-destruct! Instead, be intentional about looking for the good.

I want you to take a couple of minutes and listen to a vintage song that deals with the power of having a positive attitude. Here is Paul McCartney’s & Diane Krall’s version of Accentuate the Positive.

I know that was quick, but I also know that this little six-letter tool kit can enhance all of your relationships.

Here is my challenge for you. Pick the one that you feel you need to work on in your marriage to just do it.

I’d love to hear how this helps, so please feel free to comment.

Looking for some help in your relationship? Email John about getting a free marriage 30-minute marriage assessment.

Interested in doing a Couple’s Personality Consultation? Simply email John for more info.

Some Ancient Insight:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT

5 Stages of Marriage from 30,000 Feet

Stages of Marriage
(c) 2018 John Thurman

Did you know that marriage experts have identified 5 Phases of Marriage? In today’s article, I will give you a bird’s eye view of the 5 Phases of Marriage and in the next few posts, I will go into more detail on each one.

One of the ways to develop a more intentional and resilient marriage is to be a life-long learner.

Married life can be very frustrating at times. In the first year of marriage, the man speaks, and the woman listens. In the second year, the woman speaks, and the man listens. In the third year, they both speak, and the neighbors listen.

Forty-seven years into this adventure called marriage, and we are still active learners. As a long-time participant and observer of relationships, I can tell you that, like children, marriages go through specific, predictable stages and phases. By preparing for these, you can learn to resist some of the temptations to take short cuts or bailout of the relationship, and you will learn to be resilience. If you fail to understand these common, predictable patterns, then there could be a rough road ahead of misunderstanding, overreaction, which can lead to the death of your relationship.

Make sure you’re a buckled in as we take off and overview these phases and stages look like from 30,000 feet.

Stages of Marriage

Phase One – Crazy in Love/Lust.
This stage can last from months to years. It is all about you and your lover and the excitement, sex, and intimacy you are experiencing. You have fallen in love and knew the two of you would spend the rest of your life together. The little differences in personality and style were seen as cute and endearing.

Stages of Marriage

Phase Two-What on Earth was I Thinking?
At some point in the relationship, the little differences begin to annoy us. What was cute a few months ago is now a significant source of irritation. The little voices in our heads start to wonder if our spouse is the right one, or did I get a lemon. In this stage of the relationship, we begin to realize that we didn’t marry Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful. Slowly it begins to dawn on us that the “perfect relationship” is flawed.

Stages of Marriage

Phase Three – I Can’t Change My Spouse; Maybe I Should End It!
This is the stage where a couple may seek the counsel of friends, clergy, or a therapist. Usually, there have been several hurts, continued harsh conversations, a significant drop in communication, and an increase in disengagement within the marriage. It may have gotten to the point where one spouse is pushing for a divorce, and the other is pleading to save the marriage. This phase is where the relationship is at risk of an affair.

Stages of Marriage

Phase Four – Maybe We can Work it Out.
In this phase, we begin to come to terms with the fact that we are never going to agree on everything with our spouses. As a couple moves into the phase, they begin accepting the fact that you have to take the good with the bad. We become more open to forgiving our spouse, recognizing that we might not be the easiest to live with.

Over the next several weeks, I will be going into more detail about each phase and stage to give you some tools to enhance your relationship.
I hope to hear your thoughts and ideas on this subject so feel free to leave a comment.

Stages of Marriage
(c) 2014 John Thurman

Phase Five – We’re in this Together
“Divorce Busting” expert, Michelle Wiener-Davis says, “It is a tragedy that half of all couples who wed never get to this stage when all of the pain and hard work of the earlier stages begin to pay off. Since you are no longer in a struggle to define who you are and what the marriage should be, there is more peace and harmony.” Many times this stage of a marriage is a time to renew your friendship and passion. I hope you will choose to have a long-term, rewarding marriage that is both intentional and resilient.

Hey, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Shoot me a comment and let’s have a conversation!

By the way, here is a link to a great article, Dating and Relationship Boundaries by Marcus Neo

John

5 Practices of Successful, Resilient Couples

five principles of successful couples, communicate

For the next four weeks, as my wife and I approach our 47th anniversary, I will be posting some articles about ways to build and maintain a long-term, resilient marriage.

What would you think if I told you I’d discovered 5 practices of successful, resilient couples, all starting with the letter C, that you could use to give your marriage a jump start?

Recently I was speaking to a group of about 140 folks at Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico. While my presentation was on Resilience and Stress Management, a couple of the participants and I get into a brief discussion about marriage and what makes some marriages work. I mentioned a few things like communication, compromise, being honest, you know the usual stuff and pretty much forgot about it and went back to the session.

Then, the other night we had several friends over for a dinner party, and while a couple of us were visiting we discovered that they had just celebrated their 46th anniversary, another was going to be celebrating 24, and we are preparing to celebrate our 47th next month. That is 117 years of marriage! While we didn’t get into the subject, I have known these folks for a while, and I could safely say, they demonstrate the 5 practices of successful, resilient couples.

So here are the 5 practices of successful, resilient couples or practices you can develop in your marriage.

Ready? Let’s jump in.

Compromise – One of the things you learn about marriage, usually within the first few days or weeks is that a marriage is all about giving. Compromise is a vital part of any successful, enduring marriage. For two individuals to develop and work as a married team, you must learn to give and take. 

5 principles of successful couples, Clear the Air

Communicate – Your marriage will shrivel or thrive based on the number of meaningful discussions that you have. Communication in your marriage is like a life-giving river. When you fail to communicate you dam the lifeblood of your marriage. Do what you can, read what you need, spend the money necessary to guard your communication. Many potentially significant marriages crumble simply because of poor or no communication. 

Clear the Air, don’t hide your hurts. WARNING: I am not talking about downloading on someone. One of the components of a long-term marriage is that you allow your spouse to encourage, nurture, comfort, and support you. As couples learn to mutually do this, several positive things can happen. A few benefits include feeling accepted, which leads to more emotional connection, lower stress, and increased intimacy.

By the way, laughter can help clear the air!

Choose your Battles Carefully. When you have two people sharing the same space, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually, the conflict will ensue. So, don’t be blindsided by this. The critical thing here is to be careful to choose what you will be investing your energy in. Here is a helpful acronym from my friends dealing with addiction, the word HALT is one of the tools they use to avoid “falling of the wagon.” I believe it can also be a powerful way to lower the risks and level of conflict in your home.

H – Hunger is a physical and emotional need. Hungry people can be grumpy people, and cranky people tend to be more combative. 

A – Anger is a normal, healthy emotion that we all experience from time to time. Slow down and take some time to try and understand what is causing the anger and know how to express it appropriately. 

L – Loneliness – If you are feeling lonely and. or misunderstood, do you best not to isolate,but to find meaningful and safe ways to connect with your spouse. 

T – Tiredness impacts us across the board, body, soul, mind, and spirit. Realize that if you or your spouse are experiencing tiredness and fatigue, you are more at risk to fight.

You might want to check out my 10 Rules for Fighting Fair.

Hopefully, this acronym will help you in choosing your battles carefully.

Last, but certainly not least is what I believe is the most important one.

Want to receive my Free Ebook 21 Ways to Improve Your Marriage? Text the word Marriage to 33777.

Capitalize on trust, truth, and honesty. Dishonestly in a marriage is an almost sure-fire way to screw things up. Why?  It destroys trust. It sets a horrible example. It undermines your goals as a couple. 

Being married is at the same time, one of the best and toughest things you will ever do. My hope is that you will be able to use these 5 principles of successful, resilient couples to enhance your marriage.

Ancient Relationship Wisdom

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT 

So, which of these do you need to work on? Which one could you prayerfully consider doing this week? I’d love to hear from you.

Full Disclosure, this article was inspired by 5 Secret to a Successful Long-Term Relationship or Marriage by Dr. John M. Grohol. It was hard to beat his outline, though I have addressed the different areas a little bit differently.

Hey, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this, maybe even begin a conversation.

Blessings,

John Thurman

10 Rules for Fighting Fair

10 Rules for Fighting Fair

Have you ever been at a party and overheard a couple say, “Oh, we never fight!” Don’t believe them! In this article I will show you ten rules for fighting fair.

Couples fight! We will be married 47 years this August, and we have had our fair share of fights. As a matter of fact, we had a pretty good one yesterday, as I recall it had to do with my being distracted by my new iPhone. The good news is that over the years, we have learned to fight fair. One of the traits of a resilient marriage is the ability to manage conflict.

Did you know that most of what we fight about really doesn’t matter? As a matter of fact, Dr. John Gottman, the leading authority says, “Our research has shown 69% of relationship conflict is about perpetual problems. All couples have them — these problems are grounded in the fundamental differences that any two people face. They are either fundamental differences in your personalities that repeatedly create conflict or fundamental differences in your lifestyle needs. [i]

The key to fighting fair is to maintain control. You do not have the right to be immature, childish, or abusive. If you do have legitimate feelings and issues, you are entitled to give a reasonable voice to those feelings in a constructive way. (That includes not being self-righteous or taking yourself too seriously.

So here are 10 Rules for Fighting Fair.

Make it private and keep it private. Fighting in front of your kids is nothing short of child abuse. It can and will scar them emotionally and spiritually all because you don’t have the self-control to keep it together until you can talk about it privately. It is not advisable to share information about your fights with family and friends – the information always gets twisted and enhanced.

Deal with the issue at hand. Keep it relevant. Stay on task! Focus on the problems rather than attacking each other. Don’t bring up old issues or grudges when they are not a part of the solution. Put boundaries around the subject so it won’t turn into a free-for-all. Limit the discussion to the one issue at the center of the conflict.

Stay in the room emotionally, keep it real. Deal with them, not with symptoms. Tell your spouse what is bothering you. Focus on the issue rather than the attack! When people are involved in a conflict, it is easy to feel flooded and overwhelmed, here is one quick free way to make sure you are staying in the room. Check your pulse if it around one hundred, 80 if you are athletic, then step back take a few moments and attempt to re-engage. 

Eliminate “You never,” “You always.” These phrases will always lead to someplace you really don’t want to go.

Avoid character assassination like the plague. Stay focused on the issue rather than ripping into your spouse’s personality, family, or past.

Don’t “mind read!”  Have you ever said or heard, “I know what you are thinking?” If you have, then consider yourself duly busted. If you are not sure what your partner meant by something they said, ask for clarification. Because asking for clarification always adds bonus points by slowing the conversation down. It lets your partner know that you are really trying to connect and understand. 

Stay on task! The mission is to resolve to conflict and come out with a “win-win” not an “I win you lose” outcome.

Be proportional in your intensity. You don’t kill a fly with a cannon. There are basically only two types of problems people have – solvable and unsolvable (or not solvable right now.) Everything that you disagree on is not an earth-shattering issue. Remember, you don’t have to get mad and upset every time you have a cause to be.

Commit yourself to openness, honesty, and acceptance. This will help you relax, listen, and give feedback.

Allow yourself and your partner to retreat and/or regroup with dignity. How a fight ends is crucial. Recognize when an olive branch is being offered to you (it might be disguised as an apology or a joke) and give each other a face-saving way out of the disagreement.

Action Plan

Are you serious about improving your relationship? If you are, I want to challenge you to review this article and pick two or three specific things you can do to make your next fight more productive.

If you would be interested in relationship coaching shoot me an email and we can set up a free assessment call.

Be sure to let me know what you are going to do in the comments.

Blessings.


[i]https://www.gottman.com/blog/managing-conflict-solvable-vs-perpetual-problems/12 Feb 2018

D-Day Thoughts

In the summer of 1977, I was a newly minted twenty-five-year-old U.S. Army Chaplain assigned to the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry, 39th Infantry Brigade of the Arkansas Army National Guard. It was my first time for Annual Training, a time when many National Guard units gather for training.

It was during this time that I met Master Sergeant Clark(not his real name), a kind, older soldier, probably in his mid 50’s who welcomed me and told me that he was a member of the Church of the Nazarene. The unit patch on the right shoulder of his fatigues said to me that he’s served in combat with the 45th Infantry (Thunderbird) Division, a unit made up of National Guard soldiers.

During the first few days of training, I’d had the opportunity to visit with him a couple of times and hear just enough of his story to want to hear more.

In those days there were still several WWII veterans in the Guard. Many had done their time, we discharged, and later came back into the various Army Reserve and National Guard Units.

Towards the end of the first week, the XO of the Battalion informed me that Sergeant Clark had been admitted to the hospital for a possible heart attack and asked if I could drive into town with the Sergeant Major to visit him. We had a great visit, heard some his stories and he and the Sergeant Major had both served in WWII, and we went back to the field.

This would be Master Sergeant’s last Annual Training. He was transferred back to the hospital in his home town. As I recall, he was discharged from the hospital and within the next few months died of a heart attack.

As the unit chaplain, I was one of many unit members that represented the Battalion at his funeral. 

As a member of the Greatest Generation, Sergeant didn’t talk much about his WWII experiences. Instead, he lived a quiet life in Southern Arkansas, was a loving husband, father, and granddad. He was an active member in his church and lived a life that honored the Lord Jesus. Like so many of his peers he saw and experienced some of the most extraordinary things, a young man can suffer as a result of being involved in a war. But you would never know his story unless he let you in.

One of the benefits of being a soldier and a Chaplain is that when soldiers begin to trust you, they will tell you some of their story with you. I know that he’d been a tanker and had been involved in the Sicily and Italian Campaign and then was involved in the D-Day invasion.

What I learned at the funeral is that he’d had two tanks shot out from him in just a few days in France. You see, he had to be a badass when his country called him to join the fight. He engaged the enemy, took care of his men, and fought until he could fight he was relieved. That has so many of these young men in WW II were.

On that day, the preacher shared the word of God about the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ and the Hope we have in Christ.

Also, on that day, other older soldiers shared some appropriate stories about MSG. Clark.

We went to the cemetery, words were said, the ground was consecrated, and as Taps played fellow soldiers fire the final rifle volley.

That was the first Military Funeral that I’d participated in, and even now I have tender memories of that fine man.  I read that the greatest generation soldiers are dying at a rate of 400 a day as they move into their 90’s 

This week, as we recall the 75th anniversary-Day, take a few moments to review the history and impact of that day, and if you are brave, ask members in your family about family members who may have served in WW II. 

I had an aunt served as an Army Nurse, three uncles that served, one was with the Merchant Marines, one was Airborne, and one was a medic. My dad was commissioned into the Navy as the war ended. While they may be gone, see if any other family members know any of their stories.

Here are a couple of movies that will help give you a perspective:

Saving Private Ryan

The Series Band of Brothers.

Fury – an up close and compelling account of a WW II tank crew toward the end of the war

May we be worthy Americans that can live a life that honors their sacrifice.