Meaningful Intimacy, Want More?

meaningful intimacy

Have you ever blown it the arena of intimacy in your marriage? I have. There have been times when I have been a knuckle-dragging, selfish, and ignorant Neanderthal. I am thankful for my wife, who has extended grace as we have spent most of our 46 years together in a learning mode. In this post, I am going to show you how to have more meaningful intimacy in your relationships.

If you are feeling brave, I encourage you to take some time and read this post. It is a compilation of things that I have learned over forty-six years of marriage and over fifty thousand hours of counseling experience. I can guarantee you that you can enhance your relationship with more meaningful intimacy.

One of the foundational principles of building and maintaining a healthy, resilient, relationship is to recognize the foundations of meaningful intimacy and communication. It is not about technique, positions, or power, but about getting to know someone genuinely.

Dwight Bain, a long-time friend, therapist, and life coach shared some great thoughts in a recent presentation which I would like to pass along. It sets a good starting point for this article. Dwight was addressing married couples, but the points he makes are crucial to developing any romantic relationship.

There are so many failed marriage stories in the headlines it can make you wonder, “Is an intimate relationship even possible anymore?” and if so, “How do you get one?” It seems that some couples quickly move from being fired up with a romanticpassion to wanting just to fire each other as a bully boss does to an exhausted employee. 

It’s no wonder people are more cautious about opening up their hearts to another person. It might be because they have likely witnessed the process of intense romantic chemistry quickly eroding into hateful rejection and ugly conflicts.

Everybody talks about genuinely wanting a meaningful relationship where they are loved and accepted, yet few are willing to take the chance of being vulnerable or hurt again.

Genuine, meaningful intimacy is about seeing into the heart and mind of your mate. It’s learning to connect with them in multiple ways like feeling close, accepted, and loved on the inside no matter what kind of pressure might be happening on the outside. 

To experience this kind of intense relationship, you need understanding regarding both sides of an intimate connection to grow to a new level of purpose and passion together. These different levels of connection reflect the differences between a cultural view of relationships where romance is the primary goal; and a long-term view of marriage where learning to connect together through the realities of daily life is joined alongside love to build intensity, regardless of the circumstances. You need both sides to make your relationship go the distance from short-term infatuation to create long-term success in your marriage.

Building a meaningful relationship and/or being married is a team sport; you either win together or lose together.

One of the keys to building meaningful intimacy is communication. Two-way communication that is based on respect, honor, and grace is essential for two people sharing a life together.

Two marriage researchers whom I have known over the years, Drs. David Olson and Peter Larson have discovered 10 things you and I can do to be better at communication and increase your menaingful intimacy. 

1. Give full attention to your partner when talking. My wife gets very annoyed when I think I am listening, but I am distracted. My suggestion, turn off the phone, IPad, computer, or television and turn towards your partner.

2. Focus on the good qualities and be intentional about catching them doing good. People tend to rise or fall on our expectations when you are intentional about finding the good in someone they rarely disappoint.

3. Be assertive, not aggressive or passive. Share your thoughts, feeling, and needs. One way to do this is to the old therapist stand by, using “I” statements versus “you” statements. (e.g., “I worry when you don’t let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late.”)

4. Avoid criticism. It is a relationship killer. I think William Arthur Ward hit the nail on the head when he said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.” You can never share too much encouragement. If you must criticize, sandwich it with a least two positive comments. (e.g., “I appreciate it when you help out by cooking, the food is excellent. It would mean a lot to me if you could straighten up a little after you are done. Thanks again for dinner.) This is known as the sandwich method. 

5. Listen to understand, not to judge. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Listening is all about trying to understand.

6. Use active listening. Summarize your partner’s comments before sharing your own reactions of feelings.

7. Avoid blaming each other at all costs. Instead, work together for a solution. There is energy when we accept responsibility and decide to work towards a mutually beneficial solution.

8. Manage your conflict. (I will give you ten steps for resolving conflict in my next post. 

9. Seek counseling. If you are not able to have better results with your communication as a couple. Then take action. Enroll in marriage/relationship class, read a book together, see your pastor, priest, or get counseling if you need to.

10. Hit the pause button, slow down, catch your breath. Sometimes a dinner date, a night away from the house, a weekend escape can go a long way in lowering the stressors in a marriage.

One of the best ways to increase the frequency of physical intimacy is through solid communication. When men and women feel heard they usually are open to more intimacy.

What is intimacy? One definition of intimacy is it is an act of familiar expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, and love

I believe as a culture we have lost some of the essential components of intimacy by limiting it to just a physical response.

There has been some breakthrough research that shows which there are at least five different areas of meaningul intimacy! Take a moment and grade yourself in each area, then ask your partner to do the same.

The first is Intellectual Intimacy. On this level, couples are able to talk about current events, share ideas, laughs, and thoughts, even debate political and religious topics. They are able to participate in the exchange of thoughts and ideas jointly.

The second area of intimacy is Recreational Intimacy. This means there are some recreational activities that a couple enjoy together. It does not mean they do everything together. 

The third area of intimacy is Social Intimacy. After decades of marriage, my wife and I realized that it is entirely okay for her to have her friends and me to have my friends as long as we share some “we” friends. Couple friendships can be an added bonus to a relationship by being a sounding board, providing feedback, and accountability.

The fourth intimacy area is Spiritual intimacy. While this area of intimacy is the most subjective, due to the various religious backgrounds & practices a couple may have, it is still an essential component. In my opinion, one of the most important because a growing relationship is at its core spiritual in nature. Spiritual intimacy is also a crucial factor when and if children become a part of the family.

The fifth and final level of intimacy is physical intimacy. Sexual expression is part of our hard wiring and can be both exhilarating and refreshing for a couple, in the right context. In recent years the primary focus has been primarily on physical intimacy. We have reduced physical intimacy into a series of positions and practices based more on applied physics than on building relationships.

Could it be that one of the reasons we see so many relationships falling apart is that we have failed to understand that intimacy works on several levels? If a relationship is based primarily on sexual expression, it is doomed to fail in the long run. However, if a couple can grow in their understanding of these different levels of meaningful intimacy, their relationship will experience growth in all areas. As you grow in these other areas, then sexual expression within your relationship will become more intense and meaningful. This is because it is based on getting to know your partner and being recognized by them.

So how can you have more meaningful intimacy in your life? Be mindful of the ten communication tips and the five levels of intimacy and how interconnected they are. 

I’d love hearing your thoughts.

2019 Resolutions? Don’t!

As we move into what could be a wonderful and exciting New Year I thought it would be fun to look at the traditional Top 10 resolutions and then give you some tips on how to be more successful in meeting them. These are from Statistic Brain.

  1. Lose Weight/Healthier Eating
  2. Life/Self Improvement
  3. Better Financial Decisions
  4. Quit Smoking
  5. Do More Exciting Things
  6. Spend More Time with Family/Close Friends
  7. Work Out More Often
  8. Learn Something New On My Own
  9. Do More Good Deeds For Others
  10. Find The Love Of My Life

NEWS FLASH! According to Statistic Brain, the average American has a 9.2 percent chance of keeping them.

But don’t lose hope!

A few days ago, I was on Facebook and saw a message that one of my friends had posted and it got me thinking. The quote simply said:

You are not born a winner.

You are not born a loser.

You are born a chooser!

So choose wisely!

The key to making and keeping resolutions is to have Sustainable Motivation and Energy.  How do you do that? The key is to be clear about what you want, and why you want it. When you understand your “what” and your “why,” you will increase your chances of being able to experience success with some of your resolutions.

Michelle Segar, from the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organization has developed a practical way of streamlining this process.

Segar suggests four action steps to begin applying the Right Why to changes you want to make in 2018:

#1: Reflect

Consider your “whys” for initiating a lifestyle change, and ask yourself if it has symbolized that this change/behavior is a chore or a gift?

#2: Reset

Know that we’ve all been socialized to think about and approach “healthy” lifestyles from the same perspective, one that has turned them into medicine instead of the vehicles of joy and meaning that they truly are – let go of any sense of personal failure because the formula we’ve been taught sets us up for starting and stopping but not sustaining. People feel like failures, and this is very bad for motivation.

#3: Choose

Consider the specific experiences, that if you had more of them in your day, would lead you to feel better and drive greater success in your roles. Do you feel drained and need more energy? Do you need more time to connect with loved ones? Then pick one of these experiences – this is what the Right Why is – and identify what lifestyle behavior might deliver it to you. It’s important to focus on changing one behavior at once because the goal is to institutionalize it into our lives. Humans have a limited capacity for decision making so we must strategically use it as the limited resource it truly is.

#4: Experiment

Experiment with a plan for one week to see what happens, including the types of things that get in the way. Plan a date on your schedule to sit down and evaluate whether that behavior helped you realize your Right Why and also what you might want to tweak going forward. Because it’s an opportunity to learn, there is no failure. It’s about continuing to experiment with whys and ways to achieve them until you discover what works for you.  From Sustainable Motivation for New Year’s Resolutions, by Chris White.

Here is ancient text to consider as you move into the New Year. It is found in Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart;

do not depend on your own understanding.

Seek his will in all you do,

and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

I hope that 2019 is a year filled with opportunity, hope, and joy. May God Bless

Fear and Public Speaking

In a recent survey published in my new book, The No Fear Entrepreneur, I found that of those who completed the project, 64.4% stated that fear of public speaking was one of their primary fears.

Why on earth would an individual feel such a deep, gut-wrenching, and sometimes almost incomprehensible fear of public speaking? Before we trivialize this fear, that individual who fears public speaking may fear the loss of identity that attaches to performing poorly, and that is very deeply rooted in our core survival needs.

In trying to understand the roots to this type of fear as well as some of the irrational spaces that this fear can take us in our heads, I discovered that Gavin De Becker had provided some vital understanding to this common, deep fear.

Here is what he said in his book, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.

For all social animals, from ants to antelopes, identity is the pass card to inclusion, and inclusion is the key to survival. If a baby loses its identity as the child of his or her parents, a possible outcome is abandonment. For a human infant, that means death. As adults, without our identity as a member of the tribe or village, community or culture, a likely outcome is banishment and death. So the fear of getting up and addressing five hundred people at the annual convention of professionals in your field is not just the fear of embarrassment—it is linked to the fear of being perceived as incompetent, which is connected to the fear of loss of employment, loss of home, loss of family, your ability to contribute to society, your value, in short, your identity and your life. Linking an unwarranted fear to its ultimate terrible destination usually helps alleviate that fear. Though you may find that public speaking can connect to death, you’ll see that it would be a long and unlikely trip.”  Gavin De Becker.

Doesn’t that rock the way you might be thinking about the fear of public speaking. In my opinion, he captures the essence of how far irrational thinking can take a person if it goes unchecked.

De Becker’s insight has cause me to think and at the same time has re-affirmed my understanding that irrational, unfounded fears can stop you dead in your tracks.

 

Action Plan:

With that in mind, rather than give you an “Steps to Overcoming the Fear of Public of Public Speaking,” I would like for you to offer some solutions. Here is the question, What are some ways that a person can overcome their fear of public speaking?

I am looking forward to your wisdom through your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

A Man’s Guide To Valentine’s Day Shopping

 

Want to build a happy, resilient relationship? If you answer is yes, then continue to read.

We are into February, and we all know that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

So guys, for heaven’s sake, get your shopping done before Feb. 14. If you wait too late, the roses will be wilted, and the selection of cards and chocolates will be pretty much picked over. It seems simple enough, but how many times have we men suffered from procrastinitis (my word), a condition related to waiting until the last minute to shop for your wife or girlfriend. Good news: There is a cure – buy early!

Waiting to purchase her a last-minute gift is not a good thing for your health or maybe even your life! It sends a message that you don’t see her as a high priority. It lets her know that you don’t know who she is and what she likes.

Here are five guy tips that will help you in your Valentine gift selection:

  1. If you buy chocolate, make sure you don’t get it at the grocery store or the pharmacy. Buying high-quality chocolate shows her how special she is. You need to know if she likes milk chocolate, dark chocolate, soft centers, assorted nuts or just plain chocolate. Hint: One of my favorite Chocolatiers in Albuquerque is Theobroma Chocolatier.
  2. I spent part of my young life helping my mom out at her florist shop. It was always interesting to see stressed-out men coming into the shop on the 13th or 14th of February hoping Mom could work a miracle. She usually did.

Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to pick up flowers at a florist shop or grocery store. A quick way to earn extra points, spend a few extra dollars and have them delivered to her work site or home.

Women have this incredible quality: While the other women at her workplace will ooh and ah over the flowers you sent your spouse, they will walk away with envy, wishing their man had done the same.

  1. When looking for a card, try to avoid the “I know I don’t say it enough…but I do love your card.” I promise she will not be impressed. Instead, you might ask one of the women at the store to help you pick the right card. Make your card purchase based on words she would like to hear. For an additional bonus, write a short hand-written note of love and appreciation.
  2. Help your kids select a card or gift for their mom.
  3. You do have permission to get your wife some cute, flattering pajamas. Just don’t buy anything too revealing, flamboyant or trashy. If you decide to get something on the naughtier side, just make sure she has pre-approved it. Or better yet, ask her to go with you. Remember the gift is for her.

I enjoy feedback, so leave me a coment and let me know your thoughts, or even better if you have a good story feel free to share it.

Get a Free Chapter of my new book, The No Fear Entrepreneur by signing up for my email list by going to www.johnthurman.net

 

Recalibrate or Stagnate: The Choice is Yours!

How are those New Year’s resolutions going? In the interest of full disclosure, I am at about 60%, which, at least for me is not too bad.

The New Year is a time when so many of us consider making some changes in our lives; some people are looking to make some small changes others are looking to recalibrate, to reinvent themselves.

On the downside 80% of us will abandon most of those resolutions by mid-February, but what about the 20% that do keep them. So what are some ways to maintain those decisions, to recalibrate?

Resolution makers who have a measure of success move from thinking about making some changes to doing what it takes to make them hold. They intentionally move from a contemplative stage to an action stage.

Most of us have excellent ideas, ideas that will work. It might be to write a book, start a business, make some personal changes, or to suggest some changes in the workplace. The issue is that most of used a pretty lousy job of doing what it takes to execute those ideas. I know in my life, this has been an area of struggle.

I recently read an excellent article on medium.com by John Manshi titled, Only Three Ways to Reinvent Yourself.
He says, “When you are looking to reinvent yourself, you need to realize that you only have two choices, change or die. I will not be physical death, but the death of a vision, or the end of a dream.”

Manshi discusses three types of reinvention, recalibration and they are the reactive reinvention, the proactive reinvention, and the reflective reinvention.

In my personal and professional life, I have experienced all three of these. Some of these recalibration phases were very difficult resulting in job loss, a dynamic loss of income and some short-term personal challenges. Other recalibration phases have led to positive, kinetic changes in my life, business, and marriage. I hope that some of my life experience, as well as my years of working as a professional counselor, will give you some insight and tools to help you make the changes, rekindled the dreams and move forward.

In this series, I am going to show you how each of the recalibration strategies work and how you can take this information and continue to make the positive changes in your life, your business and your relationship.

So, what will you choose to do? Will you choose to stagnate or recalibrate?

Let me give you a personal invitation to join my email list to follow me in this series.

Incoming Missile: The Hawaii Event

 

What were you doing when you heard about the incoming missile threat in Hawaii?

When I first hear the story, I had three different reactions, all within a couple of minutes. The first was, Oh, my God, North Korea did it!

The second was a flashback to my childhood which was in the 50’s, and 60’s when school children were taught to “drop and cover,” by a cute cartoon character Bert the Turtle and his human sidekick. Bert and his sidekick taught children what to do in the event of a nuclear bomb detonation. Their little carton taught to drop and cover. Now why in the world would we “drop and cover?” The uncomfortable truth is you dropped to protect yourself from the blast as well as flying objects, the cover part was to keep you from being cut by debris or being burned.

Looking back, this was a very vain attempt by our government to minimized the risk of nuclear warfare.

I don’t know if you and I can comprehend what it must have felt like to have that disturbing message show up on a cell phone.

As I was attempting to get my head around both the announcement and the retraction I wondered if some of my friends were still in Hawaii. So, I reached out to one. My question, “So were you still in the islands for the incoming nuke alert?” His response,
Yes, we were driving across the island. All in the car received the alert on their cell phones. Everyone was panicked for a bit. Took about thirty minutes for the reverse announcement to be made.”

As crazy as this event was, particularly for those living in Hawaii, it is a very real reminder that we live in a dangerous world.

Public sources tell us North Korea has the missile power to deliver a nuclear weapon, but they lack two critical components. The first is a heat shield which protects the device from re-entry until detonation. The second element is a reliable guidance system to make sure the nuclear package is delivered to its designated target. The scary part of this is national experts have publicly stated the North Koreans are only a year or two away from having this capacity.

Watching the news clips of people running, people giving what they thought was their final greetings on various social media platforms was a poignant reminder of how fragile life is.

My third reaction as a result of this news story was the somber reminder that you and I are guaranteed nothing.

Life is fragile, and there are no guarantees about anything.

What do we do about this dilemma about the fragility of life? Do we eat, drink, and be merry, and act like all is well or do we hit the pause button for a few minutes.

Two things are certain, death and taxes. The death question is one most of us try to avoid unless we lose someone close to us, have a severe illness or accident or are getting up in years.

That question is how and when will I die? A question which uncomfortably and rudely flashed itself across the phones and minds of thousands as they contemplated what they thought was their last minutes on this earth.

But what about you, how would you handle this type of situation? Is there something you can do to be ready? After all, I don’t know anyone who thinks of death as a timely event.

While I am not signing up for an early checkout, I made a life-changing decision over forty years ago to become a Christ Follower and began a relationship with Jesus Christ. And while I am no saint, I have a deep inner confidence whether I live or die, no matter what I face, he is with me. He will guide me, comfort me, and accompany me wherever I go. I know whether I die of old age in my home or a hospital, in an accident or on one of my journeys, he will be there with me.

How about you? Death is an unavoidable reality, and one thing is for sure you are going to die someday. I want you to have a long, rich, wonderful life, but I also want you to be ok with your end story.

Would love to hear from you in the comments section.

The First Christmas After A Loss

Helpful tips for people facing their first Christmas after a loss.

Are your Christmas lights up? Have you started your Christmas shopping? Have you reached your limit of Hallmark holiday movies?

Today, with the help of my grandson, our kitchen will be filled with the intoxicating aroma of two of the favorite holiday treats, sausage balls, and Martha Washington candy (recipes at the end). These are two of the extraordinary things my momma made for me as a kid, and even as recently as two years ago she made them for me and mailed them to me. While Connor and I prepared these two treats, the memory of my mom and will be very close to me as this will be my first Christmas without both of them this year.

My mom went to be with the Lord on December 2, 2016, and my Dad followed her six weeks later. Dad always told me that his mission was too out live mom so he could take care of her. He completed his task, and even though I miss both of them deeply, I choose to celebrate their lives and their legacy, while feeling the loss.

For many of us, this Christmas will be our first without a loved one, a daunting challenge that, if not monitored, could lead to a miserable holiday season.

As both a professional counselor and fellow struggler, I wanted to share a few things that might help you move through this Christmas season without feeling overwhelmed with the loss/es you may have experienced this past year.

Give yourself some time to feel the loss and grieve over the fact that that they are gone. Grieving takes time, just be careful that you don’t over-isolate.

Intentionally connect with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.

Find a way to help others. The Bible talks about this in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – “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 with 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.” NLT

Begin some new traditions.

Celebrate some old traditions, like Connor and I are doing today with our baking event.

Finally, let me invite you to read an excellent article by friend Danielle Bernock. Here are a couple of lines from this very insightful and helpful article.

Grieving is hard at any time of the year. But when it’s the season to be jolly, and you’ve suffered a loss the Ho Ho Ho feels like salt in a wound. How do you deal with the holidays when there’s a giant hole in your heart?

Cutting Down Holiday Stress


Well, we are officially off to the retail madness of the Holiday Season with yet another Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday. As I pen this post, I am having a flashback about spending three Christmases managing a Christian Gift Shop in at the Macon Mall in Macon, Georgia. At the time, I was grateful for that chapter in my life, but I am glad is in my past.

For many people, this time of year is about as exciting as being told you need a root canal immediately. There are countless individuals feels an overwhelming sense of dread, worry, anxiety, exhaustion, and isolation. If you feel like this, you could be the victim of the Christmas Blahs, the Hanukkah Malaise, Kwanza Dullness, and for my neo-pagan friends, the Solstice Slump.

If you are someone who struggles with this time of the year, I am going to give you some mood lifting, stress-busting tips which could help bring joy into your life.

Sheila Moss (www.humorcolumnist.com) has a few great lines about Christmas.

Santa is watching; please do not do anything that will embarrass him.
The commercial spirit of Christmas is a mysterious force that causes people to max out their credit cards.
You cannot string more lights than your redneck neighbor.
The harder you try to diet, the higher the likelihood you will get candy for presents.
Famous last words-“I have plenty of time left to shop before Christmas.”

A friend of mine who has been a broadcast journalist was interviewing me a few years ago and asked me to come up with Twelve Stress-Busting Tips for Christmas. The good news, he gave me two hours to come up with them. Thankfully, they were a hit, and over the years I have adjusted them to be current. I hope these thirteen tips will help you enjoy the Advent season, lighten up your stress, and help you catch your breath.

13 Tips for Cutting Down Holiday Stress

1. Shop for the significant people first.

2. Stay active, move around, see the lights, do something to break up your routine.

3. Think before you speak. Consider ruling out all conversations which involve your job, health, marriage, the past, the future, or the present. Keep it “Holiday Light.”

4. Re-read the Christmas story, go to a Christmas musical, or even visit a church. For those of you who have not been to church and feel like the roof might collapse when you walk in-I have great news; churches have particular roofing material can handle the shock of your presence.

5. Stay loose; 21st-century families seem to always shift and change.

6. Look for and pray about creative solutions from problems that might arise during the holiday season.

7. Mom and Dad-let your married kids develop their own holiday traditions.

8. Take your medication, supplements, and vitamins.

9. Limit let eating and drinking be the focus of your Holiday gatherings.

10. Buy an Advent calendar, even if you don’t have kids-it is fun to open the tabs
.
11. Watch movies like The Christmas Star, or a Wonderful Life at least one time.

12. Take some time to be alone and reflect. Relax, catch a breath, smell the fragrances of the holidays.

13. Remember the “Reason for the Season.” The Gospel of Luke 2:11, “The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! (NLT).

Would love to hear how you manage holiday stress! Please leave a comment.

Seven Secrets to Building Resilience in Your Marriage

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 Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment or dysfunctions that are often associated with critical incidents and personal trauma.
Dr. George Everly, Psychological Body Armor.”Last week Sara got so mad she threw her shoe at me. It missed my head by about three inches!” Larry said.”At the time I thought he deserved it,” Sara admitted. “But the fact that I could do that really scares me! I feel as if our marriage is in serious trouble.”While not every couple throws shoes—or anything else—that sense of uncontrollable anger is not uncommon for many couples regardless of creed, ethnicity, or social status. Unfortunately, some feel that the heightened level of emotion is the beginning of the end of their relationship.

In my more than 35 years of counseling and  45 years of married life, I’ve observed that how couples respond to an event such as Sara’s shoe-throwing can help them develop resilience, the ability to bounce back or recover quickly from change, misfortune, and unmet expectations.

As we explored their past ten years together, I knew that even though they were now in a difficult season, Larry and Sara had built resilience into their marriage. To create a resilient marriage, your commitment to the relationship must be stronger than your history, mood, or situation. Couples who are resilient have these seven qualities in common.

1. Resilient couples don’t fall prey to misconceptions about marriage. 

One thing that can damage our resilience is the mistaken notion that a good marriage equals a calm and peaceful one. In the ten years, Larry and Sara had been married, five jobs, one miscarriage, five harsh financial seasons, four moves, and two adventure-filled boys had taken their toll. Not to mention the fact that they came from two different family styles: Sara’s parents were divorced. Her dad had cheated on her mom multiple times, and then abandoned the family when she was ten. Larry, on the other hand, grew up in an intact family—his parents are still together more than 40 years later.

As we talked, Larry nailed one of the great Christian misconceptions about marriage: “We had no idea how difficult marriage would be. If you listen to people at our church talk about their marriages, it would be easy to believe nobody has been through what we’ve experienced.”

It amazes me that in this day when marriage ministries and materials are so prevalent, couples still believe a great relationship will be a peaceful one. They often feel invincible, especially in the early stages of marriage. This can lead them to deny the impact of stress and family history.

Many couples mistakenly think that loving each other means always getting along. But conflict is an inescapable part of marriage if the couple expects their relationship to grow and mature.

2. Resilient couples find help when they need it.

Many couples “go it” alone—trying to deal with their issues without getting outside help from a trusted source who can offer biblical encouragement, guidance, and support. Those are typically the couples who end up with broken relationships.

Larry and Sara had always been involved in small church groups, which had been invaluable sources of strength when difficult circumstances such as miscarriage and job loss came along. But when they felt more “out of control,” such as Sara’s shoe throwing, they knew it was a signal to seek professional help.

3. Resilient couples remember the good things about their marriage and each other.

“He’s a good father to our boys,” Sara mentioned when I asked them to list each other’s good qualities. “And he’s patient. He puts up with my quirks.”

“I love how loyal and passionate she is,” Larry added. “Sometimes she goes overboard, but I know her heart’s in the right place.”

The longer we talked, the more relaxed they became. “We’re not quitters,” Sara said. “When I see how many of our friends have crashed and burned in their marriages, I’m glad we’ve hung in there.”

Larry looked embarrassed but said, “We had no idea what we could endure as husband and wife. But we still love each other.”

Resilient couples choose to focus on the good as opposed to camping out on the bad.

4. Resilient couples accept the differences in their personalities, views, and ways of getting things done.

Sara entered marriage fearing the sharp conflict she’d watched her parents experience, while Larry came expecting the intimacy and commitment he’d seen his parents enjoy. For several years, they acted out based on the marriage models and communication styles they brought with them.

Sara tended to over-talk everything. Then if she felt Larry didn’t “get it,” she’d become angry. “When I try to talk to Larry,” she told me, “he always seems to run and hide. He’ll either collapse in the recliner and be sucked into the television, or he’ll retreat to the computer room. When he does that, I feel like going ballistic, and sometimes do.”

Larry responded, “She has an opinion about everything, and when I don’t engage in the conversation, she gets heated, so I retreat. Then she throws a shoe at me!”

Men and women really do have different needs.

For guys, we want to feel competent and needed. We want to feel respected. One friend of mine used to say, “Men are like dogs, they need three things: someone to feed them, play with them, and occasionally say, ‘Good boy.’”

I encouraged Sara to be more mindful before sharing an opinion. She also became intentional about giving Larry positive feedback on things he did around the house and with the boys. She even began to find herself being more sexually provocative with him.

For women, the key is to help her feel valued and cherished. If she feels her husband can love her the way she is, then she feels more secure. When a man listens to his wife, without trying to fix her, for instance, he’ll be amazed to see how she can engage him physically. Larry noticed that as he listened intently to Sara, she actually talked less. He even began to buy her flowers, knowing how much she appreciated the gesture.

Sara and Larry became more focused on their communication styles and began to senseless tension and more hope. Larry was choosing to stay connected and not withdraw, and Sara was trying to lower her intensity level.

“We’re not the same,” Sara mentioned. “And I’m starting to appreciate the fact that that can be a good thing.”

5. Resilient couples develop and maintain an internal locus (focus) of control rather than an external focus.

I asked Larry and Sara to recount some of the difficult times in their marriage and how they got through. They told me that six months into their marriage, Larry lost his job. It could have been devastating, especially since Sara’s part-time job didn’t bring in enough money to cover their bills. When many couples would take out their frustrations, fears, and worries on their spouse, Larry and Sara decided instead to focus on the possibilities.

“We knew we loved each other,” Sara said. “It wasn’t Larry’s fault he was downsized. We weren’t sure how it would work out, but we believed Larry would find a job and that God would lead us through this difficult time. And he did.”

“So what keeps you two together?” I finally asked them.

“I love him and want us to get better,” Sara told me.
Larry agreed. “We believe God can and will help us work things out, but it’s tough.” They both took their marriage vows seriously and didn’t want to become another statistic. They hoped to survive this rough time and were committed to the process.

6. Resilient couples manage their emotions.

Larry admitted to me that he can be a “control freak” at times. Sara, on the other hand, is a “free spirit.”

As the weeks went by, Larry and Sara started to focus on their personal responsibility for their portion of the relationship’s troubles and move forward.

After Sara’s fourth overdrawn check, Larry had had enough. Instead of blowing up or withdrawing from her, which had previously proved unsuccessful, Larry took another approach. He waited for a couple of days so he could calm down. Having a measure of control over his emotions, he could talk to her in a calm, rational way and they were able to resolve their money issues.

7. Resilient couples reinterpret past failures and use them as growing points instead of perennial negatives.

In other words, they look at past mistakes to make positive, life-changing applications.

Sara admitted she felt she had to punish Larry with angry outbursts to get him to do anything. As she worked on her side of the responsibility equation, she realized some of her anger was rooted in bitterness toward her dad. So Sara began to pay close attention to the things that could trigger her emotions. In the course of our counseling, she was able to see the hurts for what they were and began to come to terms with the damage. In the process, her feelings about Larry grew softer.

Both Sara and Larry let go of the old hurts and took active measures to reconnect. Larry is “staying in the room” when Sara is struggling. Sara is feeling more secure in her relationship with Larry as she sees the changes he’s making. They use the words, I was wrong. I’m sorry I hurt you. Will you forgive me?

In the six weeks, they were in counseling with me, Larry and Sara were able to receive enough mercy and grace to forgive each other and make adjustments necessary to move forward
Today they report that shoes are no longer a weapon of choice, but something to wear.

Call to action:
Are you interested in getting help in your relationship?  Feel free to email me: john@johnthurman.net

Comments welcome.

The Leadership Style of Gentleness

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I write about leadership. But today I want to focus on qualities that are not always associated with leadership. However, if you do not have these qualities no one will follow you. And if you have no followers you are not a leader. That’s pretty plain and simple.
The qualities are kindness, gentleness, humility, and graciousness. Unfortunately for the segment of society that is most often associated with leadership, the choleric, these qualities are often lacking. These qualities are often lacking in me.
Telling people what to do is not effective. It is offensive. No one wants to be told what to do. They want servant leadership, not a dictatorship.
Using strong language to make a point only turns people off and offends their sensibilities. People seek shelter from a blast. They are never drawn to it.
Accusing others who do not get it of being stupid or lazy does not motivate anyone to change, it only motivates them to stay away from you. If someone has a different opinion than you, it does not make them stupid. And if you act like they are, you have completely lost your ability to win them over. If someone doesn’t do what you think they should do, it doesn’t make them lazy. It just means that you didn’t do a good job of motivating them.
Sarcasm is never an effective motivational tool for anyone. The only point it makes is that you are a toxic person who will hurt others.
Abruptness does not promote connection or conversation. It makes people feel devalued. It makes people feel like your thoughts and feelings and presence is not important. It makes people feel used. You got what YOU needed. You are done.
People will forgive almost anything except for arrogance. No one has a problem with people who make mistakes. Everyone has a problem with people who feel like they don’t.
If you want to make people pay, teach them a lesson, put them in their place, or make them feel like they made you feel, you will not only be a miserable person because you will be eaten up with bitterness, but no one will want to entrust themselves to you. They are not willing to pay the payment you will extract if they make a mistake.
Smugness does not prove a point. It only makes people want to slap you. If you get that look, you stand a better chance of people following you if you are wearing a paper sack over your face. You can turn people off without saying a word. You cannot lead or influence a person who is turned off by you. If you don’t know what “that look” is, I’m sure your spouse does. Ask them.
No one operates better under an atmosphere of guilt than they do under an atmosphere of praise. One of the best word mantras to live life by was written by Ken Blanchard in his classic book, “The One Minute Manager.” He said to “catch someone in the act of doing something good and tell them about it.”
Being opinionated is the opposite of being teachable. Even if you are completely correct, if you say it in such a way that puts everyone else down, people are not going to take your side.
People are more drawn to the way you relate to them than by what you say to them or what you have achieved. They will only follow someone who makes them feel safe.
Power is found in gentleness. Jesus said, “The meek will inherit the earth.” Kindness is the most motivating tool in the world. Humility will cause people to follow you on many mistakes. And graciousness will create an atmosphere that people will flock to.
If people are not following your leadership it is time to look inside. And the “you” in this entire post is directed toward me, Gayle Foster. I hope you have benefited from reading the private notes I wrote for my own benefit.
I would love to hear your thoughts on leadership styles and what is motivating or demotivating. Do you see anything that can be improved upon in yourself? Do you see where you have been hurt by someone trying to lead you and how things could have turned out differently? Let’s all help each other.
Gayle Rogers Foster