Habits: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Habits: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Contributed by
Eva Fleming

It took me a long time to get up in the morning, lace up my shoes and go straight to the park for my daily three-mile walk. I have to be honest, at first, it was difficult, and I had to devote a lot of mental energy to this task, but with time it became much easier. Now, if it’s raining or if I have an early appointment, I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I first began establishing this habit when my children were young, and I needed solo time to re-energize myself and gather my thoughts. Later it became imperative when the doctor diagnosed me with high blood pressure, and walking was the only alternative to medication.

We activate habits every day from the moment we get out of bed to the moment we go to bed.

Some habits are automatic.

We wake up, we brush our teeth and practice good hygiene. It’s second nature.

Some habits we work very hard to establish.

I love to read. For me, it would be easy to only read for pleasure. I could spend all day reading how-to articles on keeping my house organized and making healthy homemade meals. While this is great, I know I also need to read for professional reasons. One of the most challenging habits I had to develop, was learning to read research literature pertaining to my field. But after doing it over and over, I no longer dread it and instead seek out this literature on a daily basis.

Some habits we want to get rid of.

I have made up my mind to get rid of gossip. By so doing, I’m also not allowing negative people to invade my space.

Old habits are hard to break.

Through my experience what I can tell you for sure is that old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. But through the endless repetition of failures and successes, it’s possible to establish and maintain new habits.

Why form new habits?

Why not just keep procrastinating and living life without discipline? Neuroscientists have traced our habit of changing behaviors to one part of the brain and our decision-making process to a different part. But as soon as behaviors become automatic, the decision making part of the brain goes into sleep mode, if you will.

Researchers from Duke University have shown that 40% of what we do is determined not by decisions but by habits. Can you imagine being able to perform specific tasks automatically without giving it a second thought, freeing space in our brain for a more productive living? That’s what good habits do. Good daily habits energize us; bad habits drain us. That is the absolute reality.

Start making small changes today, so that when you’re 75 years old, you can wake up healthier and happier because of the good habits you implemented today.

The key to good habit forming is planning and taking it one step at a time.

Plan what you want to do differently, put it in your calendar and fulfill that promise to yourself. Make small, manageable steps towards the goals you are trying to reach. People that try to do it all in one day are rarely successful. I started walking half a mile a day. It was what I could manage physically and emotionally at the time. But I kept doing it and slowly started adding a few more steps to my daily walk. I have friends that are runners and can do 10 miles a day, I admire them, but I don’t envy them. I do what I can, and I insist on being consistent. Success is better achieved through small daily changes that are repeated over time. So whether you want to stop procrastinating, biting your nails, smoking, snacking incessantly, recurring to gossip, or beating yourself down with negativity, start small by doing it less and less until you achieve success.

Our habits hold great influence over how we think, act and feel. We are the result and sum of our habits so don’t put it off any longer, invest in yourself. You are worth it.

What new habits would you like to establish? Which would you like to get rid of? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

Don’t Give Up

Don’t Give Up

Contributed by
Barb Linek

I remember the hot summer day I went in for my annual mammogram. I was touched by a young woman I saw in the waiting room, huddled under a blanket, shaking in fear of her upcoming test. I said to myself, a little cocky, “Thank God I’m not scared like her because I’m not worried about this. No one in my family has ever had cancer so I’ll be fine.” Twenty minutes later, I was ushered from the mammogram room to the nurse’s office to talk about next steps because they saw something unusual during my test. So much for being cocky! I was surprised to be diagnosed with breast cancer since we have no family history but I quickly learned that other things could trigger it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I know that this was the first day of a lifelong journey.

Of course, surgery was the next step. My surgeon was a wise man. He told me to bring family and friends to my second appointment with him because he wanted to answer all their questions before operating, not afterwards. This helped me form the habit of inviting someone along to every appointment and treatment. That way I never felt alone, which was important to keep my spirits up. Throughout this process, I learned that positive thoughts are essential to healing. For that important appointment before surgery, I invited my two children and a friend who is a retired nurse and knew all the right questions to ask. My children are both adults and have their distinct personalities. My son had no experience expressing his concern for my health and chose humor as his tool. One memorable conversation began, “So are you gonna die on me, Ma?” My daughter, on the other hand, is a doctor, trained to always maintain a clinical distance. She focused her questions on my treatment plan, not expressing her worries or fears for my health until months later.

The surgery went smoothly, soon followed by chemotherapy. I cleared my usually-packed calendar and waited to feel nauseous or something. It never happened. Some days I was tired and left work early to take a nap. After sitting home nights and weekends for the first month, I decided to resume my normal after-work activities. I squeezed in a nap when necessary but most days I felt fine. I was surprised and the oncologist was pleased. She attributed my energy to my strong faith and positive attitude. I also think those sweet friends who accompanied me to those four- or five-hour long chemo treatments were key. I chose them carefully for the positive thoughts they exude—and their ability to keep a conversation going that long!

After my final chemo treatment, I took a weekend trip to visit friends in St. Louis. This was a big mistake! Not allowing my body time to recuperate after that last blow caused me to develop swelling in my legs. This made it hard for me to walk, and I got very depressed. My coworkers were worried and decided to throw a surprise party for me. I noticed the preparations but I assumed the lavish party was for someone who was leaving the organization. You could have knocked me over with a feather when they said it was all for me! I was so moved by their kindness and encouragement. It took several weeks of intensive treatment to get the swelling down and, to this day, I need to be careful.

Radiation was the third step in the process. Radiation treatment took a few minutes a day, five days a week for a month. Doctor K. was as warm and kind as my surgeon and oncologist. And she was a great listener. I pushed her to finish treatment before my new grandchild was born. That way I would be able to go to Florida to visit my daughter and the new baby as soon as they got out of the hospital.

My last radiation treatment was on a cool spring morning. Doctor K. brought tears to my eyes when she congratulated me on my graduation and pinned a navy and white polka dot ribbon on my denim jacket. She reminded me to return for my next mammogram in six months. I still wear that polka dot ribbon on my jacket as a reminder of this long journey. I am grateful for my family and all the beautiful people who made breast cancer a positive experience of growth and encouraged me to never give up!

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

How to Accomplish a Goal in 8 Steps

How to Accomplish a Goal in 8 Steps

By
Sarah Pichardo

Nike has the best response to the good ol’ question “how do I accomplish a goal.” Their motto is the answer: JUST DO IT. But because we are human, something this simple isn’t enough. We need to take it a step further and set goals for our goals. Yes, you read that correctly. Our goals need goals. So here I am to shed some light on how to set and actually accomplish a goal. You’re welcome.

Step 1: Read this blog

All of it. No skimming.

Sept 2: Put your phone down

Unless your goal is to break the world-record for staring at a phone, you’ll more than likely need to focus your time and energy on what you’re trying to accomplish. Nothing sucks more time out of your day than you scrolling through social media for the 150th time. So, put the phone down. Look at all that time you just cleared up.

Step 3: Write down your goal

Write it down somewhere you can see it. Put it on your fridge, in the bathroom, on the mirror, write in on the wall with permanent marker. And, OK fine, pick up your phone and write in there too.

Step 4: Take baby steps

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will you accomplish your goal in one day. Trying to run a marathon? Start by getting off your couch and putting clothes on. Congratulations you took your first step! Now move on to actually getting out of the house. Then by walking around the block. Then by picking up the pace a little. Do a 5k, even if you walk most of it. Join a running club. Get on a program.

Step 5: Be accountable

Tell your spouse, your mom, your friends, your coworkers and your dog what you’re trying to accomplish and let them hold you accountable. That way if you start to slack off, you’ll have way too many people judging you, and you’ll have to get back on track.

Step 6: Track your progress

Is there anything more satisfying than seeing progress? Like heck yeah! Keep a chart, pick up your phone again and download an app that tracks goals, make a checklist. Do something so you can see how you’re growing.

Step 7: Celebrate your milestones

Refer to Step 6. Now that you’re tracking your progress, you’ll have some milestones. If you’re out to lose some weight, reward yourself for every 5 pounds you lose. If you’re out to run that marathon, reward yourself for every extra mile you added to your run. You get the point. The more milestones you cross, the better the reward. And each time you accomplish a milestone, you definitely need to do a little (or big) dance.

Step 8: Accomplish your goal

Congratulations! After going through the first seven steps, you made it to the end. You did it! Time to majorly celebrate. Tell the world how awesome you are. Cause you really are awesome.

Get started on your journey today. Before you know it, you’ll go from being like this…

To this…

And remember, de esta vida sacarás, lo que metas y nada más. (You will get out of this life, what you put in and nothing more.) So if you want something to happen, go out there and make it happen. And share your successes with me so I can give you a big pat on the back.

—–

Sarah Pichardo is the Creative Director at Family Bridges. When she’s not obsessing over pixels, designs and scripts – or brainstorming plans to take over the world – she’s probably reading a book or overdoing it with the Christmas decorations.

Follow her on…

Twitter: @sarahp726
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahp726/

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

How to be Happily Single

How to be Happily Single

By
Sarah Pichardo

I’m a stone’s throw away from being 40, and I’m not married. And if you come from a Hispanic family, this is beyond a BIG deal. Actually, this may be considered catastrophic. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked by extended family and others “when are you planning to get married? Estás adulta. Se te va a ir el tren. Te vas a quedar para vestir santos. (You’re an adult. The train is going to leave you. Insert other Spanish saying here that’s impossible to translate.)

Now don’t get me wrong. I think marriage is a great idea. I grew up in a two-parent household where my parents held a model relationship. They had been married for over 45 years before my father passed away. I strongly believe in marriage, I have witnessed how beautiful (even though difficult) it can be. But while I’m an advocate of marriage, I’m equally an advocate of being single.

So, if you find yourself single right now, instead of reaching for your phone to sign up for a new dating app, redirect your energy to…

Focus on Yourself and Enjoy the Present

Enjoy your hobbies. Pick up a new hobby. Work on something you’re passionate about. Grow as a person. Maintain friendships and create new ones. Keep your priorities straight. Take care of yourself physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. Read a really good book. Pamper yourself. Learn something new. Change the world. And remember not to rush yourself – life is a journey, not a destination. 

Be Thankful

It’s no secret that gratefulness is associated with happiness. Take time to appreciate the little things…and the big things. Say it out loud. Write it down. You can always find one thing to be thankful for daily. Say thank you to others as much as possible. Have a positive attitude. It’s good for your soul.

Be confident with who you are. Focus on yourself, enjoy the present and be thankful. Who knows, maybe in the process you will come across someone who enjoys living life as much as you do.

Take a deep breath, step back and enjoy the…

…it’s a great place to be.

—–

Sarah Pichardo is the Creative Director at Family Bridges. When she’s not obsessing over pixels, designs and scripts – or brainstorming plans to take over the world – she’s probably reading a book or overdoing it with the Christmas decorations.

Follow her on…

Twitter: @sarahp726
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahp726/

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

Improve the “Me” to Impact the “We”

Improve the “Me” to Impact the “We”

How do we invest in ourselves to produce stronger, healthier relationships, particularly in our marriages?

By
Eduardo Morales

Science and research speak to the tremendous benefits of personal growth. Whether it is adding to your skill-set to become more marketable in the industry, toning up that physique for a healthier lifestyle, or even expanding your knowledge by reading a book a week. These are all great things to pursue, but what about in the area of relationships? How do we invest in ourselves to produce stronger, healthier relationships, particularly in our marriages?

What I have found is that what happens to ‘me’ impacts the ‘we.’ In other words, our personal growth has a splash effect on all our other relationships. However, if you want to keep the spark alive in your marriage, here are a few ways we can improve the ‘me’ to impact the ‘we.’

Understand the Ingredients of a Healthy Relationship

Marriage is the most intimate relationship we will ever experience on earth. This type of relationship is focused around the greatest level of intimacy. At this level, nothing is hidden. A mutual acceptance takes place considering all the flaws, quirks, and uniqueness of who that person is, yet, completely loving them without condition. Marriage is a real-life work of art, as it brings together two different people, from different backgrounds, walks of life, families of origin, and crashes all their ideas together to paint a beautiful picture of love. However, to get to this level and maintain consistency, there needs to be a healthy balance of communication, conflict resolution, and connection. Grasping a deeper understanding of these ingredients and identifying ways you can improve in these areas will put you in a great position to have a happier, healthier marriage.

Go Back to School

Wait a second…No, I don’t mean literally going back to school, but more so, becoming a student again. First, take some time to evaluate yourself. Look at your communication styles, take a personality test or an Emotional Intelligence assessment. How are you doing with your self-management? Can you handle your emotions well? Be honest. Remember, the better you can learn about the ‘me’ effects your ability to better understand the ‘we.’ Then become a student of your spouse. Encourage them to take similar assessments so you can learn more about their responses. Or just watch and listen and take notes. I’ve found that all these assessments can give you a good idea who your partner is, but it takes intentional work to make sure you’re relating to them in their ways. Obtaining more information about your partner allows for improved communication. Have check-ins. There’s no better learning opportunity than simply talking with one another.

Learn to say “I’m sorry, will you forgive me…”

We know conflict is inevitable. And it’s not that happy couples don’t argue or experience less conflict, it is more about their perspective to approaching conflict. Healthy relationships strive for resolution, whereas unhealthy relationships pursue victory. One of the key elements of Emotional Intelligence is Social Awareness. Considering how our actions and words impact others. Importantly, recognizing when we’re wrong and being able to take ownership of our actions. So, learn how to say “I’m sorry” when we’re wrong. Take the approach of finding resolution instead of just trying to be right. This is key to keeping the spark alive because nothing douses the romantic flames more than conflict.

Create Space for Connection

I know, I know, not another test, but have you taken the 5 Love Languages test? Simply put, it’s a way to understand how you and your partner feel most loved and connected. Take some time to learn this. Try implementing things that will make your spouse feel the most loved. Maybe it’s sending a short “I’m thinking of you (heart emoji)” text or greeting your partner with a long hug as they come home, or just offering to hear about their day and taking time to listen. Individuals can receive intimacy in many forms. Also, create space to keep that spark alive. How does a deep connection usually happen? Over time, through much talking, while being together. Make date nights a habit. Protect time in your calendar for that space for you and your spouse to connect. You don’t need an agenda of activities, just be present.

At the end of the day, be encouraged. No one has this all figured out. She needs work, he needs work, I need work, we all need work. Self-improvement and relational-improvement is a process. To have a healthy relationship and marriage, it will take intentional investments. So look at one thing you can start doing that would have a positive impact on your marriage today. Write it down. Tell it to your spouse or someone close to you to keep you accountable. Then put it in to practice. Shoot for once a week, then increase from there. While it may not be the easiest area to develop, growing yourself for the betterment of your relationships is one of the best personal investments you can make.

——-

Eddie had been speaking on and writing about healthy relationships for several years now. His passion is to see young adults thrive, marriages flourish, and families become change agents in their community. Follow him on LinkedIn.

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

Keeping the Spark Alive: Going Back to Basics

Keeping the Spark Alive: Going Back to Basics

As a couple, you will benefit from remembering today the things that made you fall in love back then.

By
Dr. Charles & Elizabeth Woehr

Have you noticed that wonderful things happen when you least expect them? They suddenly appear, suddenly happen, take your breath away, and your world is infused with wonder and gratitude. As a couple, we are perfectly agreed on this one thing: we love nice surprises! And we have learned a fundamental truth about great surprises: you can help make them happen to you, if you are willing to do the hard work needed to set them up. Let us explain how this works.

Several years ago, the two of us, along with our teenage daughter, decided to go camping for the weekend. We chose a nearby location that we knew little about. We didn’t know if it would be ordinary or extraordinary. We took a chance. We pitched our tent in a narrow valley alongside a river. By the second day we were getting a bit restless, with limited options for entertainment. We decided to climb up the mountainside as a way of getting some fresh air and exercise, and to see what one could see from higher up. The climb was tiresome, we had to wait for each other, and at one point it seemed we would not get high enough to see very far. One of us was eager to climb ahead, another was thinking of climbing back down. We decided to keep together, helping those who were tiring, and encouraging one another along in the steeper parts of the climb. This decision strengthened our emotional connection, which in turn kept us moving forward. We were so concentrated on the climbing that reaching the top came as a surprise. But even more surprising was the view: we could look off across mountain tops into the farther reaches of the valley. It was a wonderful gift, after a hard climb.

That experience was more than just a climb and a view. It was a life lesson about how surprises can be set up to happen. The key is what happens between the joyful start of the climb and the surprising view at the end: hard but necessary work! Marriage is like going on many climbs together. If you want to share “surprising views” on a regular basis, you will have to stay together in the tough times, speak encouragement to one another, and be willing to slow down when one of you is struggling. If you do this for one another, step by step you will advance until you reach the top. The view will confirm that the effort was worth it.

Something that will give you, as a couple, a renewed commitment for staying together and keeping the spark alive, is the answer to the question: What made you fall in love with each other? It might be tempting to brush that aside as something that was only good for getting things started between you, but the truth is: those reasons should stay with you and continue to motivate you, especially when staying together and keeping the spark alive seems very difficult to do. The middle of the climb, so to speak. The only way you will be able to achieve the big surprise is by staying together, encouraging one another, and helping each other along the way. The motivation comes from remembering what made you fall in love; the emotional connection you established. Was it her sense of humor? Be a great companion so that the sense of humor will stay alive. Was it his zest for life? Be aware of ways you can share in his burdens and keep the joy alive. Was it her kindness? Be one who deserves kindness so that kindness can continue to be there. The person you married is still there, beside you. He or she, too, wants to hold on to the things that made you love them in the first place. The secret to keeping the surprises coming will be the hard work of keeping each other in love, by still sharing the things that made each of you special at the beginning, when you first fell in love. You can get things started by looking into each other’s eyes and taking turns finishing this sentence: “when we first met, what I loved about you was ________ .” Do it back and forth several times, so that you can make a whole list of those special things that eventually convinced you to choose to do life together.

So, are you ready for a surprise-filled marriage? Get to work. Bring out, in you, the dashing, fun young man she fell in love with. Bring out, in you, the witty, daring young lady he fell in love with. Together, hand in hand, walk into your next adventure ready to work at it… and prepare yourselves for some “unexpected” surprises!

—–

Dr. Charlie Woehr is a full-time Spanish Editor at Tyndale House Publishers. He is also Assistant District Superintendent in the Spanish Central District of his church denomination. Elizabeth is the Family Coordinator at Family Bridges. Charlie and Elizabeth served as missionaries to Chile for 22 years, working on pastoral teams and teaching in Alliance Seminaries. They have a heart for teaching and encouraging couples of all ages. They are the happy parents of three grown children, and have two grandchildren.

Contact info:

For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

Speaking the Language of Love

Speaking the Language of Love

Love and relationships should come naturally. They should not be so much work.

By
Bill Ferrell

“I believed I had found the secret to my wife’s heart.”

For many years on every birthday, every anniversary, every Valentine’s day – I would buy my wife three cards. Sometimes they were cute. Sometimes they were romantic. Sometimes they were funny. But always they communicated, “I love you.”

I would painstakingly take time choosing the right cards. Then I would pour over them, choosing just the right words. This process sometimes took hours. The amount of time didn’t matter to me. I wanted to make sure that I communicated how much I loved her.

Once completed on the night before the particular celebration, I would place them on the kitchen counter so she would see them first thing in the morning. I then imagined the next morning:

She would walk down stairs and, upon entering the kitchen, be surprised to see – not one, not two – but three cards. All addressed to her. A smile would spread across her face. “What has that crazy husband of mine done?” she would muse to herself. She would then carefully open each card, slowly savoring the words I had taken care to write. Suddenly her bottom lip would quiver and a single tear would stream down her cheek. She would then come bounding up the stairs to find me. Choking back tears of unspeakable joy, she would declare her undying love for me. Then pulling me close while gazing into my eyes, her lips would gently touch mine – expressing the passion that was welling up in her heart.

Yeah – In my dreams!

In reality – she would simply smile, say, “thank you,” and go on with her morning.

I did this for years. Bought the cards. Wrote the notes. Placed them on the counter. Imagined the scenario above. And her response was always the same. A smile. Thank you. On with her day.

I was puzzled. No – actually frustrated. Her response was so…so…so…blah. I had just expressed passionate heartfelt undying love and her response was the same as when I take the garbage out.

And so, I decided to do something truly “crazy.” I decided to talk to her about it. I asked her why her response to my expression of love was not met with the same level of passion in which I had given?

What I learned blew me away!

Speaking a Different Language

She told me that the cards did NOT say “I love you” to her. She admitted that yes – the cards were filled with words of love and desire for her. And that meant something to her. To be fair to her, she did express appreciation. She just wasn’t as thrilled to receive as I was to give. What I learned was that they did not mean the same thing to her as they did to me. Words are what say “I love you” to me – not to her.

I learned that I had been projecting my love language on her. I had been assuming that what said “I love you” to me would naturally say “I love you” to her. That makes sense – right?!

She went on to say that she felt most loved by me when I did acts of service for her.

  • When I took care of the car (making sure that she was safe)
  • When I bought her a Diet Coke (I was thinking of her)
  • When I cut the grass and shoveled snow (keeping the house looking nice)
  • When I went shopping with her (submitting to torture)

I realized that I had been speaking to her in my love language. In the way that says “I love you” to me. I might as well have been speaking a foreign language. In fact – I was.

Learn to Speak Their Love Language

Gary Chapman, in his best-selling book, The Five Love Languages, explains that the secret to expressing love to others is to understand their “love language.” Here they are, along with a brief description:

  1. Words of Affirmation – Using words to build up the other person. “Thank you for the cards. That really meant a lot to me.”
  2. Gifts – A gift says, “He was thinking of me, and look what he got me.”
  3. Acts of Service – Doing something that you know they would like. Washing the dishes, making a meal, vacuuming the floors, changing the oil in the car – are all acts of service.
  4. Quality Time – When you give them your undivided attention. Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off and no cell phones. Talking and listening.
  5. Physical touch – Holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse are all expressions of love.

Chapman goes on to explain that every person has a primary love language which speaks more deeply to them than all the others. Discovering each other’s love language and speaking it on a regular basis is the best way to keep love alive in a relationship.

The Secret to A Most Excellent Way

If you want to be excellent at expressing love to others – learn their love language. Oftentimes you can figure this out by observing how they express love to you or what seems to evoke a strong response from them.

However, the secret to discovering the most excellent way of showing your love to them is…are you ready for this…ask them.

Yes – sit down with them and ask directly what says “I love you” to them. Use the list of the Five Love Languages above as a guide. Ask for examples. Get specific. Be a student of them. Make no assumptions. And then whatever they say – believe them.

I say to believe them because our natural tendency is always our own point of reference. We must resist the temptation to project our own preferences on to others – even when they have told us otherwise. So, believe them and then act accordingly.

Speaking their love language is a critical step in keeping your love alive!

———-

Bill Ferrell has been married for 35 years, has 2 adult children, and 4 precious granddaughters. He teaches individuals and couples how to experience loving and fulfilling relationships. He is also the Community Relations Director for GRIP Outreach for Youth. When he is not helping Chicago urban youth to experience a better life, or inviting others to join him – he is spending time with his family, running, swimming, biking, or reading a book. Or playing practical jokes on his kids.

Follow him on…
Facebook
Twitter: @billferrelljr
Instagram: @popferrell57

For more resources on marriage and relationship building, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

Marriage Makeover: How to Have Meaningful Conversations 

Marriage Makeover: How to Have Meaningful Conversations 

By
Dr. Nadia Persun

Would you be interested to hear what happened today on my way to work?” she asked excitedly, walking into the house. “I’d rather skip to the part where I hear what we are having for dinner. We can talk about the rest later,” he replied passing by, barely looking at her. Conversations missed, moments of connection are rushed. Marriage becomes crushed by the weight of daily responsibility, emotional dullness, and perpetual fatigue. Relationships continue to exist out of habit, as a routine. Work, parenting, helping others — sure. What is left for your spouse is a flat-lined level of energy sprinkled with crumbs of good intentions?

Meaningful dialogues? Forget it. What we have left for each at the end of the day are “useful conversations.” They are made of half-constructed thoughts, lazy listening, and functional orders focused on the execution of responsibility and errands. Sexy lingerie and candlelit dinners are replaced by other secret desires: clean kitchen, a cooked meal, laundry done, kids early to bed, and some TV as a survival reward. Marriage is on a perpetual diet.

What can we do to have a happy, healthy relationship? Easy: just finish reading this blog to learn quick, easy, proven solutions! Just kidding! However, the good news is that there are no secrets. You already know most of the things that you need to do. Just like with exercise and diet: some push-ups and an apple a day. However, skipping push-ups and eating a Hershey bar is easier. People’s nature is to pick the path of least resistance and minimal effort. We are also falsely hopeful, thinking that at some magical “later” time we will be stronger, more motivated, in the mood to do the “right” thing. What happens, in reality, is perpetual hoping and postponing, leaving us stuck in a rut.

How do we tackle this complex issue without feeling like busting through stones? Be proactive and start with small consistent steps. We are wrong thinking that small kind steps are seldom appreciated. How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time. Can’t solve the whole problem, then focus on solving part of the problem.

The next part is actually doing something. Even the best information will not help if you don’t put it into use. You know what they say, “the road to failure is paved with good intentions.” A better life will not come from wishing and hoping. We want to ice the cake without having to make the cake. We need a new positive action. Only actions can bring specific results.Here are examples of the simple proactive steps that can help to improve communication, and heal and restore connection.

  1. Make eye contact, look and act friendly and approachable.You have to become adept at daily communication and staying connected. Put your phone down. Turn off the TV. Just be in the same space, open and present to talk and connect with each other. Come out to greet your family when they arrive home. Stay in the same room together, not looking busy with other things. Make eye contact. Say “Hi. Please. Thank you. This is lovely. How are you doing today?” and so on. Little moments, kind words, fostered as a daily habit. Small talk is not idle chat.
  2. Don’t wait for someone to read your mind, speak up openly.It is quite simple: what you don’t ask for, you won’t get. Be clear on what you want, what you are willing to give, then ask for it. “Could you please sit with me for 10 minutes and hear about my idea for our next vacation?”; “Could you please come out and greet me by the door any time you hear that I return from work?”; “Can we do something fun together this weekend, just us, no kids?”
  3. Pay attention to get attention. Drop the tyranny of expectations, in which your spouse must do something first, so only then you are to respond with a nicety. Who cares who “started it” and “whose turn it is?” You are in the same boat, and it is leaky. Decide to be first to start fixing it. Be curious about your spouse. Ask questions and listen. Give them the spotlight. Do something nice, unexpected, no strings attached. Good energy will be returned to you in abundance.
  4. Respect the rules of good behavior. We all know that it is not good to scream, call names, throw objects, and slam doors. There are rules related to respect and self-control. We tend to forget them when stressed out and when we feel that the other person is not treating us nicely. So, it is fair game to be bad in return! Even when your spouse is seemingly “underserving”, decide to stay kind, polite, and play by the rules.
  5. Seek common ground and build on areas of agreement.You may disagree on types of movies, style of music, what to eat, sleep schedules, and how much and how often to wash and clean. But you are likely in agreement that your children need love and care, that both of you can benefit from having more fun and less stress, that being friendly and polite is better than hostility. Bring up more subjects that you know both of you share and support. Discussing such topics will foster the bond and improve communication skills, gradually allowing you to tackle things that are more sensitive and require negotiation.
  6. Seek help and support, if needed. No man is an island. We are more alike than different. But we also can be very stubborn. If you feel that your marriage resembles a truck with its wheels stuck in thick mud, and no maneuvers or acceleration result in any positive movement, don’t wait long to seek counseling.

To conclude, marital success and personal happiness don’t make cameo appearances in your life. You have to become aware, intentional, and disciplined to implement positive changes, making small but consistent steps. You also need to decide to be a grown up in your relationship, taking ownership of positive intentions, making it unconditional regardless what others do or don’t do. Take care of your partner, and your spouse will take care of you.

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Dr. Nadia Persun is a Clinical Psychologist working in Wheaton and Naperville, IL, treating anxiety, depression, weight problems. She also focuses on therapy with adolescents and couples in distress, aimed on conflict reduction and divorce prevention. Dr. Persun is a Medical Directory of “GreenPath Clinic”, which offers services for mental health problems, chiropractic, naturopathy, physical therapy, and nutrition. On her spare time, Dr. Nadia is a gardener, blogger, reader, chef-dilettante, and avid traveler-explorer together with her family.

Read more about her on http://GreenPathClinic.com,

https://facebook.com/greenpathclinic  

 

For more resources on marriage and relationship building, you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

5 Steps to Write a Poem

5 Steps to Write a Poem

By
Sarah Pichardo

Valentine’s Day is coming up. You made yourself a vow to really outdo yourself this year by being thoughtful, romantic and, dare I say, extra? And what better way to melt the heart of your Romeo or Juliet than by writing a poem from your heart?

The only problem is, you don’t know the first thing about writing poetry. Fear not. That’s where this handy dandy tutorial comes in. First of all, it’s super sweet that you’re even considering doing this. Give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself with a treat just for even thinking about it. Now, let’s get to it. Here are some tried and proven steps to help you deliver the best message of all time.

Step 1. Get a piece of paper
Step 2. Get a pen
Step 3. Starting writing…a note letting everyone know you’re heading out
Step 4. Get your car keys
Step 5. Drive to your nearest Hallmark store

Just kidding? Also that’s 5 steps. But I’m a writer not a mathematician.

Seriously. People at Hallmark get paid good money to be sentimental, romantic, funny and to come up with messages for EVERYTHING and for EVERYONE. No one’s going to be mad you bought a card. BUT if you really do insist on doing it yourself, here are the real steps to writing an amazing poem that will win you all the awards.

Step 1. Know your subject.

I mean, this goes without saying but for you slow people out there, think about the person you’re writing this for. What do you love the most about ‘em? The way they smile? The way they smell? The way their eyes glisten when you bring them food?

Step 2. Use imagery.

No, I don’t mean put pictures of stuff in your poem. Though maybe drawing a picture will get you extra points. I mean, paint a picture with your words.

Step 3. Make it rhyme
Lastly, but also most importantly, I don’t care what anybody says, if it doesn’t rhyme, it’s not a poem.

There you go. It’s beautiful. You’re amazing. Give yourself another treat.

Also, here’s an example of a real poem….

Te quiero
Te adoro
Te pongo en el inodoro
Le doy a la palanquita
Y adiós corazón de oro

No translation. Sorry. Pretend it says…

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I’m no poet
I just want to kiss you

If you actually went through the trouble of writing a poem, even if you didn’t follow my amazing tips, I really want to see it. Please send it to me so I can read it. Please. Cause I want to know what love is.

P.S. If you want a little more info on being extra in your relationship, check out this blog. By the time you’re done reading it, you’ll figure out the recipe to being the happiest couple on the block.

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Sarah Pichardo is the Creative Director at Family Bridges. When she’s not obsessing over pixels, designs and scripts – or brainstorming plans to take over the world – she’s probably reading a book or overdoing it with the Christmas decorations.
Follow her on…

Twitter: @sarahp726
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahp726/

For more resources on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

Love Must Be Intentional

Love Must Be Intentional

Love and relationships should come naturally. They should not be so much work.

By
Bill Ferrell

This was my best friend’s philosophy in college. He didn’t have many second dates.

Over the years I have talked with hundreds of couples. Some considering marriage, some newly married, some trying to save a marriage. I have heard many of them say the same thing:

“Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” Really? Why?

Would someone who wants to run a marathon say, “It shouldn’t be so hard to run 26 miles?” Or someone who wants to advance in their career say, “It should not require so much effort?” Or someone who wants to be an author say, “It shouldn’t be so hard to write a book.”

Now, you may think, hey – this isn’t about athletics or career or literature. This is different. This is about love. Love should come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul mates. Good point. It is different. It’s far more difficult.

WE ARE NOT COMPATIBLE

No two individuals are naturally compatible. That is not to say we don’t share anything in common with the ones we love. Of course not. We may have similar educational, socio-economic, and cultural backgrounds. We may have similar values and goals and belief systems.

However, every individual is just that. An individual. And even though we share the planet with billions of other people – who we are is unique. Our family of origin, our life experiences, our world view is unique to each person. Which is amazing and very cool and one of the reasons people are so fantastic.

However, our individuality is also why it’s a challenge to “get along.”

We are all born self-centered. We all start with only one “point of reference” – ourselves. It’s the only place we can start. Initially, we can’t be faulted on that because there is no other way to begin life. We don’t know any different. But as we grow up, we learn that there are other people in the world. This understanding actually happens early in life.

As we mature, we realize that we are faced with choices. We can choose to consider only ourselves in the decisions we make and how we live our lives – or we can choose to consider others.

We usually choose self-centeredness. Not because we are bad people. But because that has been our life-orientation from the beginning. And so this has an impact on all our relationships – especially when it comes to marriage.

Author Denis de Rougemont has said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love?” That’s why a good marriage is more painfully difficult to achieve that athletic or career or artistic expertise.

WE DON’T KNOW JACK! OR JILL

Duke University ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has said that we never really know the person whom we marry.

Hauerwas goes on to say that we may think we fully know who we are marrying – but we really don’t. In time he or she will change. We are never the same person after entering marriage. As well, time and life experiences change us: having children, job changes, aging parents, acquiring more income or less income, unforeseen physical issues, and all that comes with growing older.

These – and more – are all in the future. And unless your crystal ball is better than mine – you don’t know what lies ahead. Or the kind of person you will become. Or the kind of person your spouse will become.

There are seeds planted within all of us during our “formative years” that help to shape us. But it will take time and life circumstances for the seeds to grow and blossom. So even if we marry with our eyes wide open, there is so much more to come. These life changes are challenging for all marriages. If you have experienced them – you are not alone. If you have not experienced them – just wait. They will come.

WE NEED TO BE INTENTIONAL

Analysis is good. In fact, it is crucial to solve any problem. But we can get trapped in what is called “paralysis of analysis.” Understanding the problem and even knowing what we must do means squat without ACTION.

To love someone else, to full and completely love them – we must be intentional.

That means that we need to think and plan and DO.

Think. Take time to consider the other person. What do they need? What are they feeling? How is their life experience? This means you need to work (that four-letter word) to understand their world. Don’t try to just read their minds – talk to them. Ask them. Care enough to be students of them.

Plan. Make a plan to love them. This requires you put it into your schedule. If you don’t plan your time – someone else will. That is a fact of life. Work. Friends. Obligations. All these have a plan for your life. You must be proactive to plan or someone else will.

Do it. Plans mean nothing without execution. Good intentions mean nothing without action. Good ideas are dead without execution. Resist being passive. Put your plans of love into action. That is intentionality!

LOVE DOES

Here is a list of some suggestions of what you can do to be intentional:

• Send a text telling them that you are thinking of them or that you love them.
• Call them up – just to talk and say you were thinking of them.
• Plan a date that does not include a movie – but mostly conversation.
• Read a book aloud together. This is engaging and creates more opportunities for conversation.
• Read a book on relationships or marriage.

• Go to a coffee shop and talk. This will get you away from the distractions of home.
• Buy them balloons – just for fun.
• Throw them a surprise party.
• Write them a letter about how much they mean to you.
• Write them a poem. You can always “borrow” from Shakespeare (he wrote a ton of love sonnets), or another poet, or better yet, you can learn how to write a poem here.
• Surprise them with a weekend getaway.
• Ask them questions. And then just listen. Seek to get to know them better:

What were some of your highlights from last year?
What were some of your lows from last year?
What are you looking forward to in 2019?
What are some of your goals?
What are you currently working on that you are excited about?
What are some of your dreams?
How can I help support you right now?
What says, “I love you” to you?

The more we are intentional to nurture love in our relationships – the more we will experience the abundant life-giving relationships that we were created for.

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Bill Ferrell has been married for 35 years, has 2 adult children, and 4 precious granddaughters. He teaches individuals and couples how to experience loving and fulfilling relationships. He is also the Community Relations Director for GRIP Outreach for Youth. When he is not helping Chicago urban youth to experience a better life, or inviting others to join him – he is spending time with his family, running, swimming, biking, or reading a book. Or playing practical jokes on his kids.

Follow him on…

 

For more resources on marriage and relationship building, you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.