Healthy Relationship Tip: Like a Plant — Keep It Fed and Watered

Relationships are like plants.  Food, water and light (attention, communication and affection) are vital if we expect to have a healthy relationship.  Not feeding, watering or providing light is a sure way for your relationships to dry up.

It Takes Work to Create and Keep a Healthy Relationship

After some time in therapy a husband remarked to me, “I never realized how much effort you needed to put forth to make a relationship work.”  He went on to describe his previous notions of how marriages evolved.  “First you date, then you fall in love, get married, and start a family.” He went to work, and provided for his family but somehow his wife was less and less happy.  Double digits into the marriage she threatened divorce.  He was shocked.

It’s Starts With YOU

There is a scene in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes that perfectly illustrates the lack of effort by a husband.  He comes home from work, grabs a beer and plops in the chair to watch TV while his wife brings him dinner.  He thanks her without any eye contact and is perfectly content with the evening.  She walks away upset.

My client realized he’d been doing the same thing.  When coached on the necessity of nurturing your relationship, and how to nurture it, he happily reported that his relationship had much improved.  Divorce was off the table.

He learned to express his appreciation for his spouse and her contributions – verbally and with behaviors.  He pitched in around the house rather than expecting her to carry that load.  He had conversations about finances and kids and chores rather than losing his patience and ordering his family’s activities.

Notice his wife was not involved in counseling.  He needed a safe place to vent and learn about healthy relationship skills.  He had a strong desire to improve his marriage and a willingness to change what he could change – his own behavior

I see wives who’ve taken husbands for granted as well.  Appreciation for a husband’s contributions, acknowledgement of their efforts and affection go a long way toward nurturing a relationship.

A Quick Healthy Relationship Tip

So, if you want a more healthy relationship, do what this man did.  Ask your spouse.  What is s/he missing?  What do they need that they are NOT getting?  Then commit to giving them what they need, and watch that wilted relationship become lush and vibrant once again.

Want to Learn More?

Want to learn more about how to create and maintain a healthy relationship?  Check out other articles in my blog dealing with how to improve communication and build and maintain a healthy relationship.

Need Help?

If you have trouble communicating without blaming or getting defensive, or you simply look at each other without a clue how to reconnect – seek help – sooner rather than later!  I can help.  Schedule a complimentary phone session, and we’ll discuss your situation.  Together, we’ll determine if counseling can help.

An Important Ingredient for Happiness in ANY Relationship: Being Noticed

I broke my foot a while back and was at the stage of a walking boot and cane when I decided to make a trip to the library.  As I was leaving with my stack of books, hobbling a bit awkwardly to my handicapped parking spot, a gentleman in his 60s-70s walked by me towards the parking lot.  When he had gone just a few feet past me he stopped, turned back and asked, “Could I carry your books for you?”  I was really touched, thanked him and assured him I thought the books were providing some ballast.  He smiled and continued on his way.  I doubt he has any idea how moved I was by his NOTICE of me.  I was reminded of how much it means to all of us to be noticed.  When we are noticed we remember that we matter!

So many times, when I am working with a couple I realize that their marriage has eroded because they have stopped really noticing one another.  In a world where Mindfulness has become a commonplace word we still seem to be so immersed in our everyday busyness that we don’t notice our spouses.

Take stock.  Ask yourself when you last really looked into your spouse’s eyes and noticed her/him.  Or stopped what you were doing to make eye contact and really listen to your kids? Being fully present is powerful.  The next time you are listening to your spouse, your child, your friend talk about their day really notice him/her.  You might be surprised by their response to you if you pay attention and notice.

Improve Communication in Your Relationships: Take a lesson from the Wind and the Sun

Improve communication in your relationships, and you’ll enjoy a happier and more fulfilling life.  An old parable provides some excellent advice on how to do that.

In the parable of the Wind and the Sun, the Wind challenges the sun to a competition.  A traveler is passing by wearing a cloak.  The Wind claims by his power he will get the traveler to remove his cloak faster than the sun.  The Sun agrees to the competition and the Wind proceeds to blow and blow at the traveler only to see the traveler pull his cloak tighter.  The Sun proceeds to shine and shine and, because of the sun’s warmth, the traveler sheds his cloak.

When someone disagrees with you, are you more like the wind, getting stronger and stronger, blowing harder and harder, perhaps even raising your voice in an effort to get the other person to see your way?  Or are you more like the sun, inviting the other to share their experience with you so you can understand them better?

As a couples’ counselor, I can assure the latter approach, doing your best to understand your partner, to invite them to share their experience without judging them or reacting to what they are saying can go a long way to your increased understanding and compassion for them.  And surprisingly, when they feel heard and understood they are much more likely to reciprocate with an invitation for you to share also.

If you find yourself digging in your heels and getting ready to defend your position, remember the wind and the sun and consciously choose how you would rather be in the moment.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Lead with care (warmth) like the sun and see what happens.

4 Steps to More Enjoyable, Less Stressful Holidays (Part 4)

This is PART 4 of a 4-PART article written with you in mind and designed to help minimize the stresses associated with over packed, overdone holidays so you have time for self-care, enjoy your time with family and friends and create the holiday season that best fits you and yours.

In Part 1, I discussed the importance of getting clear on what you WANT your holidays to look like and be like.  And, just as important – what you DON’T WANT.  And, I gave you a simple process for developing your vision.  In Part 2 and Part 3 I showed you how to develop a plan to turn your vision into reality.  In this final installment, I’ll explain how you can make sure that you work that plan and have the type of holidays you want.

Step 4 – Follow Your Plan

This is your opportunity to create a holiday that works for you.  If you have a habit of allowing other’s needs/goals to come before yours AND you end up resentful, this is your opportunity to change.  Feeling resentful after doing something for someone else is a sure sign your yes was not freely given and you are not taking good care of yourself.  While life may throw you a few curve balls and you may need to readjust your priorities or your schedule, keep in mind your ultimate goal of creating holidays that you enjoy.

If you don’t feel capable of sticking to your goals because you feel selfish, seek counsel from friends who seem to have what you want or from a professional who can help you develop healthy boundaries, including the ability to say no and freely say yes!

Lastly, Be Flexible and Choose Laughter

Remember the turkey story in Part I?  We still laugh about that, and the burnt pies!

Laughter truly is the best medicine and in any given moment, choosing laughter works much better than giving into stress.

Wishing you the best and happiest of holidays!

4 Steps to More Enjoyable, Less Stressful Holidays (Part 3)

This is PART 3 of a 4-PART article written with you in mind and designed to help minimize the stresses associated with over packed, overdone holidays so you have time for self-care, enjoy your time with family and friends and create the holiday season that best fits you and yours.

In Part 1, I discussed the importance of getting clear on what you WANT your holidays to look like and be like.  And, just as important – what you DON’T WANT.  And, I gave you a simple process for developing your vision.  In Part 2, we began working on a plan to turn our vision into reality.  In this part, we’ll continue working through the steps to create that plan.

Step 2 – Create Your Plan (Continued from Part 2)

Next to each holiday goal, write down all the steps YOU will need to take to accomplish this goal.  Include an estimate of the time it will take you to accomplish each step toward each goal.  Determine your budget for each item.

You will follow this process for EVERY item on your “Looking Forward To It” list

Yes, this IS time consuming and yet a very valuable investment in stress reduction later!

Here is what a list/plan might look like for one of the items on your “Looking Forward To It” list.

Host Thanksgiving Dinner

Task Time Budget
Determine time of dinner 5 min $0
Invite guests 30-45 min $0
Finalize guest list 15-30 min $0
Inventory dinnerware 2 hr $0
Shop for supplies 2 hr $100 – $150
Shop for groceries 1.5-2 hr $250
Bake 4 hr $0
Cook ahead sides 2 hr $0
Clean/straighten house 4 hr $0
Set tables/chairs 1-2 hr $0
Cook Turkey 5 hr $0

Step 3 – Schedule Your Actions

Looking at your goals’ list, schedule when you can do what.  Remember, you are planning to have a holiday you can enjoy.  Make the time to accomplish these goals a priority by putting them on your calendar.  If you find yourself overbooked go back to Step 1 and rethink your priorities!  If your activities require help from others, be honest about this.  Ask if they would be willing to participate.  Be clear about what you are asking them to do, how much time will be involved and when you need them.  Make sure they are available and reliable before you go any further.  If you have an expectation that your sister will be on time to help you prepare dinner and yet you know she is chronically a half hour late expecting her to be on time sets you and her up for disappointment!  Love people where they are and be realistic in your expectations.

IMPORTANT:  Make sure you schedule time on your calendar to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

In the final installment of this article, we’ll focus on working your plan, setting boundaries, and taking care of your self.

Read Part 4