Knowing What You Want in Your Relationship

Knowing What You Want in Your Relationship

Dr. Alicia La Hoz

It only takes one minute to make a big difference in your relationship. Let me explain. A few years ago, as I was getting in my car getting ready to head out to work, I remembered that my husband’s birthday was just around the corner. As I was backing out of the driveway, I battled internally on whether or not I should bother to celebrate it. You see, I was a little on the bitter side because on a previous holiday he had failed to be the romantic and get me flowers, a card and make the day special. So I thought to myself, “he didn’t bother, so why should I?” Thankfully, I came to my senses and realized that in doing so I would only accomplish to draw us apart and nothing else. I re-aligned and decided that I would be generous instead.

The decision to turn towards my husband instead of away took only but a minute as I had only just reached the stop sign at the end of my street. I immediately started to entertain ideas of what it would look like to do something special. My heart changed. As I thought of what would be fun to do for my husband, my initial apprehension got washed away and was replaced with anticipation. And all it took was a minute. An intentional minute.

In marriage, the struggle is real. There’s no denying it. Each of us has needs. We want to be valued and loved, and when we don’t feel this from our spouse, we recoil and get all bent out of shape. Except, that instead of saying it like it is, we dance around the issues, we put up walls, we play games and get mad. What if I had just been upfront with my husband and had told him that I was disappointed that he didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day the way I wish he had? What if I would have been very clear about what I wanted? The bitterness would not have created a cozy corner in my heart that could creep up as a dagger to use against him.

If we want to keep our relationships healthy, we need to know what we want, say what we want, and forgive each other with a huge helping of patience and grace.

What do you want?

Do you even know what you want? Take some time to dig deep and ask yourself “What is it that I long for?” We can’t be clear to our spouses about what we need when we don’t know what we need. Go for a jog or a long car ride, take a hot bath, and while you do those things, turn off the noise and let yourself think clearly about what you are searching for.

Ask for what you want.

It doesn’t matter that you have been married for 40 years and you know each other super well. Stop playing mind games. Just say what you want. Be clear, be specific, don’t talk in circles. Say something like, “I’d like for us to go out to dinner at the new Italian restaurant that opened up this Saturday evening.” Don’t misunderstand me, asking for what you want doesn’t guarantee getting what you want; however, it will make it easier to negotiate and move forward.

Forgive generously.

Guess what? Your spouse will irritate you, disappoint you, annoy you, and make you feel very angry at times. You have different personalities, cultural backgrounds, experiences, ways of viewing the world. One of you will arrive on time to places, and the other may always be late. Sure, you can choose to recoil in bitterness and feed the anger, but that will only lead to contempt, which will lead to a lack of intimacy and separation. Or you can choose to forgive and be generous.

It so happened that I ended up getting my husband a bike. Knowing my husband is very cost conscious, I got him a used bike. I did a lot of research and found a guy that refurbished top-of-the-line bikes. The funny thing is that as I researched and called places, I was acting suspiciously to my husband. As soon as the phone rang, I would quickly pick it up. I was walking out of the room to have calls that seemed somewhat secretive. My husband started to become uneasy and entertain thoughts that put him on the alert. The day of his birthday, when I revealed the gift. He laughed in delight. He had become wary about my secretiveness. He also came to understand the value of speaking up and not letting ideas fester.

Assumptions can sabotage the relationships in your life. Recognize what you need, speak up about what you need, and forgive often.

Dr. Alicia La Hoz is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Founder, and Executive Director of Family Bridges. Dr. La Hoz works with the Latino community in the Chicagoland area, where she leads her team in developing and coordinating Family Bridges comprehensive marriage and relationship programs. Away from the office, she spends her time with her two inquisitive children and devoted husband, exploring nature, visiting museums and building lego-masterpieces.

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

How to be Happily Single

How to be Happily Single

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

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

“Adulting” 101 – Why asking Why is important

“Adulting” 101 – Why asking Why is important

Contributed by
Eduardo Morales

As I get older and evaluate my life, I see that our 20’s has a lot of influence on how the next stages of our lives will be shaped. Why? Because our 20’s bring a lot of transition: High School to College, College to Career and Career and other Career, Singleness to Dating, (then maybe like in my case, single again several times over), then Marriage and quite possibly the Baby Carriage. But this is really a time to learn about you, see the world, experience friendships. These life experiences are some that are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. These are the memories that will turn into the good ol’ days. And truthfully, if we aren’t careful, these years can just fly by, unless we are intentional about setting a vision and living with purpose.

It is so important to have a vision for your life. Without a vision, you might be busy doing things, but you could be busy doing things without a point. The idea is to have a purpose and intention in what you do. So what do you really want to do with your life? Why am I doing what I currently am doing?

These are the questions I have been asking myself in a time of transition. As I am asking and evaluating, I think a good question to ask is “Why?” For most of us, when we were younger, we constantly bugged our parental figures with the questions of why. “Why does this happen?” “Why do you do that?” “Why this?” “Why that?” Yeah, it can get annoying, but I have found that asking ourselves the Why questions, allows us to answer and clearly explain to ourselves, why we are doing what we are doing.

For a few years now, I have been wearing a number of different hats, gaining a lot of great experience. I believe the quickest way to find our sweet spot is wearing different hats and finding out what we like and don’t like. However, it’s in these experiences that you evaluate whether or not this is something you want to continue dedicating yourself to. Knowing where you stand and where you want to go – that’s having a vision. When you have a direction of where you want to go with your life, spiritual walk, your marriage, your career, you can better determine what things you currently do in your life or might come across your path in the future, that will either benefit you or hinder you.

Here are a few practical ideas that can guide you through this vision-setting process.

Look at what you’re passionate about and how you’re wired. When you start to see some common threads in your life or overlapping interests and assess your skills, this might be a good mix of information to help guide you as to what you want to invest your life into in the years ahead. So what are you good at, what are you not-so-good at? What’s your story? Are there positions you continuously find yourself in or others elect you to? Use these questions as guides in developing a vision for yourself.

Take time to breathe.A common question in interviews is where do you see yourself in 5 years? Sometimes we can be so busy plowing in the fields that we lose focus on why we even starting tilling in the first place. It’s important to take time to remind and refocus, or else, it is easy for us to get drained and suffer from burn-out. Even more so, we might find ourselves in a position where we lost the vision.

Write it out! I believe we are more apt to follow through with a goal or an idea when we write it down and keep it visible for us to see. Just like scripture, if we embed it in our hearts, if we meditate on it day and night, it will become a part of us. The reality is that we tend to forget and when we forget we lose focus. Having a visual reminder continues to keep us focused and helps combat our forgetfulness.

Ask yourself the Why’s? Ask yourself (and ask others close to you to ask you), the tough questions. It is not always about looking for the advice or opinion, but allowing mentors, or your core supports, to ask you questions that will get you thinking and seeing things from another perspective. Everyone has an opinion and advice that could be easy to give and easy to find. Plus you can search around until you find someone that fits what you’re looking for and that might not always be the best thing.

When thinking about leaving your mark on your culture, your world, your church, your neighborhood, your family, it starts with a vision. Learning more about you, your skills, your passions should help guide you in understanding your purpose. When you start living on purpose, that breeds confidence, because you’re in your element. Taking time to process this for yourself, in all the areas of life you’re involved in, will help you develop vision. So be like a little toddler for a moment and ask yourself the “Why’s?” I think you’ll find yourself developing a decision-making style that is more visionary than circumstantial.

Do you have a vision and purpose for your life? Share with us your experience in the comments section below.

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

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

Contributed by
Robert Salazar

New Year. New Me. So it goes, right? Every January we make little missions to live life more fully and expand our lives. “life” is a big word. It has so many definitions beyond just gym memberships and eating vegetables.

Luckily, smarter people than me have considered life’s possibilities, one of whom is Woody Guthrie, a folk rock pioneer and all around genius of life.

How can I call him a genius of life? Well, just look at his “New Year’s Rulin’s”

He starts out with what we all decide. “1. Work More and Better.”

We could all benefit from learning to work smarter, or, when we get back home, finishing that novel that has been sitting on our shelf. By saying “better” Guthrie implies that we can improve our work’s quality, not just it’s dividends. He gives us some advice as to how by saying, “Work by a schedule.” We all work via some system, and every system needs a reboot every once in a while.

He ends by saying, “33. Wake up and fight.” Again, he makes such an open and rounded suggestion that has many definitions. This year, I’m going to think about what I’m fighting for and begin my day with intention.

I want to give a special shoutout to the rulin’ “20. Dream Good.” I know this year, I’m going to give a lot of attention to my waking hours and how to be more productive, but I also need to remember to enjoy the little pleasures that come in the meanwhile. It’s my personal belief that everything you see while you’re awake is set dressing for your dreams. So if I keep on the colorful life path I’m on, I should have some great productions behind-the-scenes in my head.

New Year. New Dreams. I’m going to do my best to make them good ones.

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

Freddie and the Four Agreements

Freddie and the Four Agreements

Contributed by
Freddie Beckley

No, I didn’t start a band. I started a resolution: to practice the Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, year-round. Let me tell you about the Four Agreements. But first, let me tell you about my friend Tony.

Tony’s a pretty cool guy, and he’s pretty smart. He’s the friend I seek out when I need to talk about life, and how best to live it. He’s brimming with interesting, philosophical, mind-blowing concepts. “The unexamined life is not worth living” kind of stuff, ya know? The last time we hung out, we debated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for a few hours and walked away feeling enlightened. Everyone should have a friend like Tony.

Anyway, Tony posted about these Four Agreements on Facebook, and because I hold Tony in such high esteem, I checked ‘em out. Here’s how the first agreement goes:

1. Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

I read this and immediately thought, “I want to do this. Every part of it.” For years I’ve tried to ‘underpromise and overdeliver’, but I always fail. Too often I extend myself past reasonable expectations, letting down the people who trust in me. Wouldn’t it be simpler, instead of rushing to fulfill every commitment, to be more discerning with promises in the first place? I don’t know when I started devaluing my promises, but it’s something I want to take back. And if, along the way, I can stop throwing myself under the bus and cut down those occasional bits of gossip, all the better. At first I planned only to pursue this first agreement, since I connected with it so strongly. The more I thought about it, though, the more incomplete that seemed. That’s when I decided to investigate the next three agreements:

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstanding, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

So there you have it, the Four Agreements. As far as resolutions go, it feels refreshing. In past years, I had giant, looming goals to complete before December 31. This year, by contrast, I just have to stay present. I’m committing to a way of living, not a finite achievement. If I fail in any given moment, it’s cool, I just have to pick myself back up and keep going. Is this easier said than done? Yes. But that’s what I’m looking forward to about the whole undertaking; to do what I say, to live proactively instead of reactively, and to keep it simple.

Thanks, Tony.

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

How to Gain Happiness this 2018?

How to Gain Happiness this 2018?

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

“When you have a job” was my quick response to my four-year-old’s question about how she could buy things. When she probed further and asked “what type of job could I have?”, I proudly smiled at her curious perseverance and her innocent interpretation of the world.   After the questions kept coming up for several nights in a row, I realized my abstract explanations were invalidating her desire to participate and to work. I thought, “well, why not take her up on her request?”  Thus, I took her to work on a quiet Friday morning where with focused determination she shredded papers for a couple of hours. She had been prepared and put her earned dollars in a small wallet previously given to her.  She said she wanted to go to the store to buy Christmas gifts.  She didn’t wait till Christmas day to give away a couple of the gifts she purchased at the dollar store. She was giddy with excitement at giving her gifts away.

My daughter experienced the blessing that comes with giving. Many of us were blessed this past season with the opportunity to serve and to share gifts with our loved ones and friends. Sure, the gifts we receive are nice but the cheerfulness of the season comes because of the fun we bask in while giving. Studies show a significant uptick in happiness for those who give. Those who give their time, their money, or their talents are much more likely to feel satisfied with life than those who don’t.

Would you like to be happy in 2018?  Make generosity a goal.

  • Be generous with your attitude: adopt an attitude that gives others the benefit of the doubt.
  • Be generous with your gratitude: be thankful to your family, to your co-workers. Don’t grow weary of telling them and showing them how grateful you are for them.
  • Be generous with your time: spend time with those you love. Cut back on the things that waste your time if need be in order to invest in people.
  • Be generous with your talents and gifts: volunteer, help someone in need, go out of your way to make a difference.
  • Be generous with your finances: next time you really want the next shiny item on your wishlist, choose to donate to a cause that matters to you as well.

This 2018, surprise your family and loved ones with a generous spirit, and in the end you may very well be surprised at the happiness in you find in return.

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

Life-Changing Gratitude

Life-Changing Gratitude

Contributed by
Bill Ferrell

A few years ago, university psychologists conducted a research project on gratitude and thanksgiving. They divided participants into two groups. People in the first group practiced daily exercises like writing in a gratitude journal.

They reported higher levels of alertness, determination, optimism, energy, and less depression and stress than the control group. Not surprisingly, they were also a lot happier than those who were told to keep an account of all the bad things that happened each day.

One of the psychologists concluded that though a practice of gratitude is a key to most religions, its benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or no faith. He suggested that anyone can increase his sense of well-being just from counting his blessings.

But – and this is a BIG BUT – what do you do when you lose your job? You’re estranged from your children? Your parents die? Your marriage is mediocre – or worse? Your friend betrays you? You get cancer?

Two Types of Gratitude

One is secondary, the other primary.

The secondary type is gratitude for blessings received. Life, health, home, family, freedom, Cubs winning the World’s Series (2016, in case you forgot) — it’s a mindset of active thankfulness for good gifts.

The great preacher and American theologian Jonathan Edwards called thanks for these kinds of blessings “natural gratitude.” It’s a good thing, but this gratitude doesn’t come naturally — if at all — when things go badly. We cannot rely on this type of gratitude when life goes sour.

Radical Gratitude

Edwards calls the deeper, primary type of thankfulness “radical gratitude.” It is not about the things we receive or experience, but about the character of God. It is a response to knowing and understanding God’s amazing grace and love. It gives thanks, not because of the stuff we get, but because God loves us.

This radical gratitude goes to the heart of who we are. It is relational, rather than conditional. Even if our world shatters, we stay intact because we know we are deeply loved by God. And that will never change. People who are filled with this radical gratitude are unstoppable, irrepressible, overflowing with what C. S. Lewis called “the good infection” — the supernatural, refreshing love of God that draws others to Him.

Growing Grateful

If you want to grow a grateful heart (or a more grateful heart)– start today.

  1. Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for. Be sure to include both those things which are natural and those things which are radical.
  2. Do this for a week.

Life can have some amazing highs as well as some challenging lows. Love, joy, peace, pain, loss, sadness. Our circumstances will change. Most of which are beyond our control. There is no question about that. That’s the nature of life.

However, regardless of the height of the mountaintops or the depth of the valleys – we can experience joy if we develop a heart of radical gratitude.

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

Mondongo (Sunday Delight)

Mondongo (Sunday Delight)

Contributed by
Josie Cardona

Sunday was the fun day when we all gathered in my mom’s house to spend time together. I was the youngest and the only one left at home so my brothers and sisters would gather their families and come on over.

My mom would make mondongo (sort of like sancocho) and the whole house would be filled with the inviting aroma.  She would get up early in the morning to chop the mondongo and boil the pig feetl. Because my mom would have the mondongo going since early morning, my family would come in and comment about the wonderful smell and get busy preparing side dishes, desserts and beverages to go along with the mondongo. The minute they came in, the house would go from quiet stillness to loud commotion and chaos; everyone getting into each other’s way, laughing, chopping, mixing.  We couldn’t wait for the meal to be ready.  We lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with no dining area. There were not enough chairs for everyone so we would eat standing up, leaning against the walls or sitting on the kitchen floor; everyone talking over one another, trying to be heard over everyone else.  Those were the best family days anyone could ever have.

Mondongo is a soup made from diced tripe (the stomach of a cow or pig), slow-cooked with sofrito and vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, root vegetables, and pig feet. Pig feet is added to improve the taste, and is actually the ingredient that gives the mondongo its authentic flavor (and extra high caloric content.) Pig feet are preserved in salt so they have to be washed several times before boiling to get rid of most of the salt. This dish is generally prepared in Latin America and the Caribbean.  ¡Puerto Rico!  It goes very well with white rice.

¡Buen provecho!

What was your special delight when you were a kid? Share with us!

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

The Best Pizza Ever!

The Best Pizza Ever!

Contributed by
Veronica Avila

Home Made Pizza

The best of the best!

One of my favorite home-made foods that I looked forward to was pizza. My mom’s pizza was the best of the best, in the opinion of me and my siblings. The thick crusted pizza was made with marinara, Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, and was topped with diced lettuce and tomato and a sprinkle (more like a double topping) of crushed Doritos and “South Chicago” hot sauce. My mom would only make a batch of pizza about 2-3 times a year (we made about 8 pizzas at a time – ’cause that’s how we rolled being a family of 7!) Now that I look back, I realize even though I loved the tasty pizza, the most important part was the family bond we shared as we all cooked them. My mom would get up early in the morning to prepare the dough. Once the dough was ready (it would lift out of the container) we were ready to make pizza!

She had “charolas” – cookie sheets that were designated for the pizza, since we never were cookie fans. We would all rotate stations: dough rolling, spreading marinara sauce, toppings, and cheese. Then we’d pop them in the oven and 30 minutes later, voila! We had our very own pizzas. Our pizzas varied since we all had different likes, but all in all we would make Italian sausage pizza, Hawaiian pizza, pepperoni pizza, and of course the jalapeño pizza for my dad. Then we would gather around the table with our favorite pizza and would top it with lettuce and tomato (I took the tomatoes out every time! lol) crushed Doritos and hot sauce, or more “chile jalapeños” for my dad.

Those were good times. We really enjoyed our time together. It makes me nostalgic, but it also makes me want to pass on the tradition to my kids and my nephews and nieces. I may just rally the family to get together and make pizzas this weekend!

What was your fave food growing up? Share with us!

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

Hot Dog Con To’ (with everything)

Hot Dog Con To’ (with everything)

Contributed by
Joana Meléndez

I grew up in Aguadilla Puerto Rico. Honestly, I was a very picky girl when it came to what I ate.  And one of my favorite foods was hot dogs.

I can remember getting up early in the morning and going shopping with my mom in the pueblo.  By 8 am people were at the pueblo running errands, strolling along in the plaza or chatting with friends they hadn’t seen in a while.

When it came close to lunch time, the plaza came alive as folks made their way to the different fondas (small restaurants serving all kinds of homemade dishes) along the perimeter of the plaza.  There were so many inviting smells that it was hard for these hungry people that had been up since before dawn to make a choice.   And in the plaza, there were many carts displaying different yummy things to eat.  Some vendors were peeling the fresh oranges,  other vendors were selling their piraguas, others had helados (shaved ice with flavored syrups and soft coconut ices).

In one of the busiest corners there was a hot dog stand.   I couldn’t resist stopping for lunch to eat a yummy “Puerto Rican” hot dog paired with a very cold malta india beverage.

A hot dog Puerto Rican style consists of adding ground beef, cooked or grilled onions and shoestring potatoes along with the regular toppings such as mustard, ketchup, relish, etc.

¡Buen provecho!

Special shout out to our beautiful people in Puerto Rico who will soon have their delicious Hot Dog Con To’ on the menu.

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