Are you struggling in your marriage and are looking for help? Have you ever considered going to marriage counseling? For those who do not live in California, the Psychology Today website is a good place to start looking for a counselor.

For those who do live in California, I would love to help you personally with your marriage. Please visit my website for more information on marriage counseling.

Don’t Let Negative Thoughts Ruin Your Marriage

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever had the thought, ‘I am never going to be happy in my marriage,’ or maybe ‘My spouse is never going to change.’  Maybe you have had negative thoughts about yourself such as ‘I am such a bad husband/wife’ or ‘I can never do anything right.’

These negative thoughts that come into your mind are counterproductive to improving your marriage.  These thoughts do not want you to be happy.  In fact they could lead you to believe that happiness is so unattainable that it is better to cut your losses, and just give up.

Instead of just giving up, challenge those thoughts.  The truth is, couples do not maintain the same level of satisfaction (or disatisfaction) throughout the course of their marriage. An analysis from the National Survey of Families found that 86 percent of unhappily married people who stuck it out found that, five years later, their marriages were happier.  In other words, if you are struggling in your marriage and both you and your spouse decide to stick it out, you have an 86 percent of being happier in the future than you are right now. 1

Here are four things you can do to challenge those negative thoughts about yourself or your marriage:

Find Evidence Against the Thoughts
One of the problems with negative thoughts is that they use blanket words such as ‘always’ or ‘never.’  Be an investigator in your relationship or into yourself.  You are the prosecuting attorney and looking for evidence to prove that these negative thoughts are not true.

For example, you think ‘My spouse is never going to show me that he/she loves me.’  Is that really true?  Has your spouse ever said ‘I love you?’  Have you ever received a gift from him or her?  Do they ever hug you or touch you affectionately?  If you really look, you should be able to find an example when your spouse was demonstrating love, thus proving that thought wrong.

The negative thoughts that you have about yourself can be just as destructive as the thoughts about your marriage.  Use this same technique to challenge those thoughts.  If you are thinking, ‘I can never do anything right,’ again look for evidence that points toward the contrary.  Can you find a time when you made someone else smile?  Do you remember when you gave a kind word or a hug to someone?  Once again, you have found evidence that you are able to do things right. Give yourself the props you deserve.

Focus on the Positive
Most people in this world have a lot of good character traits and a few negative traits.  This includes your spouse.  It is often easy to recognize the character flaws in  a spouse, and equally easy to dismiss or not recognize their personal strengths.

When you focus on your spouses problems, or within your marriage, you prevent yourself from seeing the bigger picture. Take a step back and change your focus. Instead of focusing on the problems, look for positive aspects of your spouse, your marriage, and yourself.

Think of Something Else to Occupy Your Mind
Sometimes negative thoughts can enter one’s mind simply because they are bored, tired, or stressed and the mind is naturally reverting to negative thoughts.  If you find yourself thinking negatively, think of something.  What is going on around you?  What are your upcoming plans for the week?  What projects do you have that need to get done?

There is an old saying that says, ‘You can’t prevent a bird from flying over your head, but you can prevent it from building a nest in your hair.’  These negative thoughts about your marriage or about yourself will come.  It is natural and common for these thoughts to come, but you don’t have to allow these thoughts to fester and control you.  Get rid of them.  Think of something else.

Love Your Spouse Anyways
These negative thoughts can be very debilitating.  They can zap your own motivation for wanting to do right in your marriage.  It is difficult to love someone when you don’t feel loved yourself, but maybe they are feeling the same way.  Despite not feeling loved, love your spouse anyways.  Do and say those things that will help them to feel loved.

Have you ever felt the joy that can come from serving someone without expecting anything in return?  The Holy Bible talks about how the Lord feels when we serve his children “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” (Matthew 25:40).  As we serve our spouse, we are also serving our God.

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By finding evidence against the negative thoughts, focusing on the positive, thinking of something else, and loving your spouse anyways, you can work at overcoming negative thoughts you have about your marriage, or yourself.

REFERENCES

1. Linda J. Waite, Don Browning, William J. Doherty, Maggie Gallagher, Ye Luo, and Scott M. Stanley, Does Divorce Make People Happy: Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages (New York: Institute for American Values, 2002) 148-49.

Marriage Thrives on Father’s Involvement with Children and Household Chores.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici - Freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici – Freedigitalphotos.net

Here is another article I read about improving marriage.  It mentioned that men who have a strong relationship with their children and also actively participate in household chores typically have positive views of their marriage.  This was especially true of these men’s wives.  The article is found here.

PROVO — Husbands who work alongside their wives on household tasks and who participate in child rearing are more apt to be in marriages described by both spouses as happy and high-quality, according to researchers from BYU, the University of Missouri and Utah State University.

The researchers also found that the “very strongest effect” on whether either moms or dads viewed the marriage as happy was the woman’s perception of the quality of dad’s relationship with the kids, whether dad and the kids adore each other, said Erin Holmes, an assistant professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. The next factor was the wife’s perception of how her husband takes care of the kids, whether dad helps her with them…  More

Relationship with In-laws Impacts How Long Relationship Will Last

I read the following article in the Deseret News by Lois Collins.  Click here for the full article.

www.freedigitalphotos.net

www.freedigitalphotos.net

SALT LAKE CITY — When the time came for Gabrielle Pack’s baby shower, the guys split off from the gals and headed out to lunch. It never occurred to Riley Pack that taking his father-in-law, Del Meeks, along might seem weird to some of his friends. After all, he likes the guy.

“I look to him like any other friend,” said Pack, 26, who married Gabrielle five years ago. “We don’t put a lot of expectations on each other and we enjoy each other’s company.” He likes his mother-in-law, Roxanne, too.

That’s good news for the Packs’ marriage, according to a long-term study of marriages by a Michigan researcher. After following nearly 400 families for a quarter-century, Terri Orbuch has concluded that when a man gets along with his in-laws, the likelihood the marriage will last increases 20 percent…more

God in Your Marriage

What does it mean to include God in your marriage?

Throughout my years as a marriage counselor, I have noticed that when people include God in their relationship that they are generally happier both individually and within their marriage. I wanted to share a few thoughts about what it means to me to include God in your relationship.

Faith in God. This is the first step. You are not going to be able to include God into your relationship until you believe in him. God wants you to be happy in your marriage. He also wants your spouse to be happy in the marriage as well. Believe that this is true. Have faith in God that he will inspire you to do what is necessary in order to have a happy and fulfilling marriage.

Pray to Him. Pray to God for patience and determination to make your marriage work. You can ask Him for help with any aspect of your marriage. Do you need help in your communication? Do you need help in loving your spouse? Pray to God, he will help you and your marriage. Do not pray to change your spouse, but pray for the ability to recognize and change yourself. Pray to Him for your spouse’s needs.

Act as God would want you to act. You are married to a son or daughter of God (whether they act like a child of God or not). When my children get married, I want their spouses to treat them with the utmost respect. I want them to be valued and to be treated as the son or daughter of a Great King, because they are. God wants you to respect your spouse. He wants you to value them, and their thoughts, and their feelings.

Demonstrate Repentance. Recognizing when you have hurt or offended your spouse is an important aspect of healthy marriages. There are times when we intentionally try to make them feel bad and other times when we innocently hurt or offend our spouse. Apologizing to our spouse (and to God for the way we treated His son or daughter) can be an excellent way to include God in your relationship and can help with the healing of offenses.

Be Forgiving. As important as it is to apologize to our spouse for any wrongdoing, it is equally (if not more important) to be forgiving of our spouse when they have offended us. Get rid of those feelings of anger or revenge that you may have towards your spouse. Look for the good in them instead of dwelling on their faults. Let God be the judge of your spouse’s behaviors.

Give Love in Order to Feel Love

This came from the Navigating Life’s Journey blog.

Image courtesy of Photostock at Freedigitalphotos.net

M. Catherine Thomas, PhD, observed that we often get it all backwards:
“Much of the emotional pain that we have does not come from the love that we were not given in the past, but from the love we ourselves are not giving in the present.”

We often think that if others would just give us the love we crave then our emotional needs will be met. Paradoxically, the opposite is true. If we will forget about ourselves and find ways to serve and show love to others, we will find greater well-being and satisfaction.

The next time you wish someone would pay you more attention by listening to you or doing something with you, don’t wait for them! Find a way that you can show them special attention, listen to them, or invite them to do a fun activity with you

Walk a Mile in Your Spouse’s Shoes

Let’s suppose for a moment that I have a bowl of fruit.  In that bowl, there are bananas, a couple of oranges, and a couple of apples.  I place the bowl of fruit in between a husband and wife so that it is just above eye level for both.  After having them look at the bowl of fruit for a few minutes, I then remove the bowl from their view.  I had the bowl situated so that the husband was only able to see the bananas and the apples as the apples prevented him from seeing the oranges.  On the other hand, the wife was only able to see the bananas and the oranges because the oranges blocked her view of the apples.

After removing the fruit, I ask the couple what they saw.  Both would agree that they saw bananas in that bowl of fruit.  I then ask what other fruit was in the bowl and the following conversation could take place:

Husband: “Well, there were also two red apples in the bowl.”
Wife: “That is not true.  There were two oranges in the bowl.”
Husband: “What do you mean it is not true.  I saw them with my own eyes.”
Wife: “I saw the same bowl of fruit, and I am telling you that there were no apples in that bowl.”

The husband and wife then proceed to argue about what they saw or didn’t see.  There argument may include yelling, degrading, name calling, and so on.  This may sound comical, but I see similar scenes–minus the bowl of fruit and replaced with another subject–on a regular basis in my counseling office.

So during this argument, who was right?  Well they were both right in claiming that the bowl of fruit had two apples (husband) or two oranges (wife), but they were both wrong when they claimed that the bowl did not have the apples (wife) or the oranges (husband).  It is all a matter of perspective.

Our life’s experiences, positive and negative, help shape our perception and memories of what happens to us in our environment.  People react differently to the same situations based on these life experiences.  Problems can arise when we are so focussed on our own experience and forget that our spouse may have a different perspective.

Let’s say one spouse does something to hurt the other spouse (whether intentional or not).  That spouse may apologize, but if the hurt spouse does not feel that the apology was sincere, they may not “hear” the apology.  An argument might later come up about whether the spouse apologized or not.  In reality, both spouses are right because of their perceptions of the situation.

The next time you get into an argument with your spouse don’t get upset when they don’t understand you or see your perspective.  Don’t try to prove to him or her that you are right, and that they are wrong.

My challenge is for you to embrace your spouse’s experiences and differences of opinion instead of trying to prove to him or her that your own experience is right.  As you come to understand their perspective, you might actually gain a better understanding of the whole bowl of fruit.