Thursday, February 18, 2010

Keep your hands to yourself (Spouse)

When I first got married, there was one question that was weighing heavily on my mind. How can I "become one flesh" with someone and still be fully myself? Well, this question is answered easily with one word; "BOUNDARIES." It was hard to imagine to me that I would need boundaries with my spouse but every relationship in our life needs boundaries to be fully healthy and intimate at the same time. This is always a hard issue to talk about because some people really are convinced that it is healthy to lose oneself in their partner. That is not my opinion. I am fully convinced that it is possible and even healthy to be completely intimate with your partner and still have an individuality that is incredibly strong as well.

The two areas that Cloud & Townsend write about that really provoked me to thought are the areas of "feelings" and "desires." Both of these are incredibly tied up in marriage and individuality so they are good ones to discuss. In marriage, feelings run high. We fight because we have feelings, we love because we have feelings, we are sexually intimate because we have feelings, we even set up the way we parent our children and even care for our pets based on our feelings. Everything in marriage is loaded with feelings. Feeling love, however, is not a sure fire way to stay married nor is it even close to the first thing of importance. In our marriage vows, it does not state "I promise to love you until I don't feel like it anymore" but "For better or worse....sickness and health"...and you know the rest.

That being said, marriage still is absolutely loaded with feelings. The most important thing that I found in my own marriage and in couples that I have worked with is the idea of completely owning your own feelings and never presuming to understand or KNOW the feelings of your spouse without them sharing with you. This is an area of boundaries because many couples jump to conclusions and do the mind reading game. Example....

Sydney and Sampson have been married for five years and they are in a pattern of fighting to the death over every single thing in their lives. They fight over who takes the trash out, who was supposed to pay the utility bill, and even who loves each other more. They are constantly fighting. Let's take a peek into a fight of theirs and try to keep boundaries in mind as you read.

Sydney: Sampson, did you call the bank today about that overdraft fee?

Sampson: I totally forgot, I will call them tomorrow.

Sydney: Okay but you said that you would call today?! Why is it that you never listen to me?

Sampson: I do listen, I really did just forget. You are always accusing me of things.

Sydney: It would be nice if you actually cared about what I say.

Sampson: I do care but it sure doesn't help when my wife doesn't trust me to do anything by myself. Maybe sometimes I just forgot because I have been hounded to death about it.

This argument would go on for hours and hours and eventually lead to one or both of them using the word "divorce" and claiming they were not sure they were supposed to ever be married.

A good sense of boundaries could absolutely cure their ills. Let me illustrate how. Sydney and Sampson both completely do not allow each other to have their own feelings. They presume to know each other's feelings about each other. This is a very unhealthy pattern to get into. Let us go back into Sydney and Sampon's living room and give them a healthy dose of boundaries and see what happens.

Sydney: Did you call the bank about that overdraft fee?

Sampson: No, I totally forgot. I will call them tomorrow.

Sydney: But you said that you would call them today?! It really hurts my feelings when I feel that you have not listened to me.

Sampson: I realize that it hurts your feelings but I want you to know that I really did listen to you. I honestly just forgot. It hurts my feelings sometimes when you assume that I haven't listened. I am human and sometimes I honestly forget.

Sydney: I am sorry, I didn't realize it hurts you for me to say those things. I would really appreciate if you could take care of that tomorrow. Do you need me to remind you.

Sampson: That would be great. I get caught up in work and some things slip my mind. I appreciate you believing me.

Now, this may sound undoable and I will agree that it takes an effort but having boundaries means owning your OWN feelings and never presuming to know someone else's. It cuts down fights by a large percentage.

Onto desires. We all come into a marriage with desires. Unfortunately many of these desires are not explicitly shared but simply expected. I will give an example of a married couple who never discussed their personal desires. We'll go ahead and use Syndney and Sampson because I like them.

Sydney and Sampson have been having a battle for quite a few years because when the day has been hectic and Sampson gets home and there is no dinner made, he gets very irritable and does not speak in sweet tones with Sydney. Sampson makes the larger percentage of the household income and often does not get home until 7-8 at night and finds it very frustrating when there isn't something to eat. He has always believed that when he got married, his wife would want to take care of him and would most of the time cook the meals. He has no problem cooking for his wife but when he has worked a full work day, he expects her to want to cook for him. Sydney grew up in a family where her mother worked hard for their family and it was a given that if everyone were busy that there would be a given standard of "fend for yourself." She cooks Sampon's meals 95% of the time but when she has had a hectic day does not feel it is unheard of to ask him to fix himself a sandwich. Unfortunately neither of them have voiced any of this.

These kinds of situations happen in marriage constantly because we come in with desires that we are not willing to share. It turns out that when love lives in a family, the person you are married to really does want to make you happy but it is not their responsibility to read your mind to know your desires and expectations. When desires and expectations are clearly communicated there is a way to come together in an agreement but not when everyone is floundering in their own ideals. Here is a conversation that could change EVERYTHING for Sydney and Sampson.

Sampson walks in the door and it is 7:00 pm and the house clearly does not smell like food and he sees no sign that his wife has prepared dinner. He is immediately irritable and unhappy but chooses to communicate with his wife instead of just being passive and grumpy.

Sampson: Hey honey, I was wondering why you didn't make any dinner tonight.

Sydney: I'm sorry honey, today has been very hectic and I have done so many things I have not found time or energy to prepare dinner.

Sampson: I want you to know that it makes me feel loved when you cook dinner for me. I understand if things are hectic but could we find a way to combat days like those.

Sydney: I had no idea that this was such a big issue for you. I have always just assumed on days like these that you would fix a sandwich or something.

Sampson: Okay, well if you are having a hectic day maybe we could order out or maybe we could have something in the house that is a quick fix so that we still have a meal those nights. Would you be willing to call me during the day and let me know so I can pick something up on my way home?

Sydney: Sure, I can agree to that. Let me call and order a pizza now. I will make sure and call you next time. I want you to know I love you and want you to feel loved by me.

Sampson: Thanks, I do now.

Again, I realize this can be a very sticky situation but when each person clearly outlines their desires and expectations it is much easier to come up with a middle ground. I realize that not every couple treats each other in a loving way but I am coming from the perspective of a couple who do and want to work things out. I also believe that even if one person treats the other with boundaries, things WILL change.

I would love to hear about times that you have had to have boundaries in your marriage. What has worked for you?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Marriage Monday

Yet another idea of mine to incorporate a day of the week to a specific area of health. Marriage is one of the most important relationships that people enter and often times it is the one that gets neglected in terms of work. That is the reason that the statistic is stated time and again that half of all marriages end in divorce. One of the biggest passions of my heart is happy marriages staying happy and together. I will be using Mondays as a day to ask marriage questions, suggest resources, suggest tools, and discuss important marriage topics. Today, I wanted to give a bit of a recommendation for Christian married couples. I stand by this book with so much of me and it has changed me and others I have worked with. I hope you pick it up and give it a read. Stay tuned for a chance to win a copy in upcoming blogs!

The book is obviously called "Covenant Marriage: Building Communication & Intimacy." It completely changed my mindset on marriage from a contractual agreement to a covenant.

This is the Editorial Reviews as well as a bit of information about the author. Gary Chapman also wrote "The Five Love Languages" books so many people are familiar with his work.

Editorial Reviews
Product Description
The Covenant Marriage program encourages Christians to exercise the promises and expectations of God’s covenant love in marriage. Practicing Covenant Marriage means couples must offer each other steadfast loyalty, forgiveness, empathy, and commitment to resolving conflict so as to encourage each other in spiritual growth.

In this new book, Dr. Chapman shows how communication and intimacy are two of the most important aspects in developing a successful Covenant Marriage. At the heart of it all are the principles that lasting answers to marital growth are found in the Bible, your relationship with God enhances your marriage relationship, communication is the primary vehicle by which two persons become one in the marriage relationship, and the idea of biblical oneness involves not only sex, but intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and social oneness.

About the Author
GARY CHAPMAN is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Five Love Languages book series. He is the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc., and travels around the world presenting seminars. Gary's radio program airs on more than 100 stations. For more information, visit (

Thanks for stopping in today and if you are married, make sure and make Mondays a day to visit the blog to get more tools to make it the best marriage you can have.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Self-Care Sunday

So as part of this blog of making a better and healthier you, I have decided to have some themes for the day so that you can get your daily dose of self awareness, health, and mental stability. Today's is obviously "Self-Care Sunday"

Self-Care simply defined is the actions that you take to invest in yourself and maintain your physical and mental health.

For many this may include a hobbie, interest, sport, exercise, activity, or what have you.

Today I thought I would cover one of my favorite Self-care activities. The self-care activity that always calms me, inspires me, and centers me is reading. I like to read just about everything. I love books of every genre. I love non-fiction psychological books but I also love a sappy love story with a mysterious twist. I would highly recommend if you are a reader of all things literature like I am that you try this today to take care of yourself.

1. Get a book that you would really like to read or one of your old favorites that you could read a thousand times. You could also choose a magazine that is a guilty pleasure or something like this.

2. Get a beverage that pleases you. For me, this is Starbuck's Iced Coffee.

3. Get a healthy snack or a moderate amount of a less healthy option (For me, it's either edamame or dark chocolate)

4. Put on soothing music if you like background noise or get in the quietest part of your house if you are a silent reader. For me, it's quiet and that means no tv, no music, no husband, etc...

5. Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down and get your favorite blanket, most comfortable outfit, and make sure the temperature suits you well. In my house this is my amazing leather couch, yoga pants and a tank top, and a little cool breeze coming in from the open window.

6. For your mental health break, set a timer of an amount of time that you wouldn't mind using on this and make sure it isn't too short to not enjoy and isn't too long to make you feel guilty. I usually set my timer for about 1.5 hours.

7. Get lost in your book. I like to take a stroll down the streets of Whistlestop, head over to Diagon Alley, or even wind my way through the pathways of the brain. You decide what makes you feel relaxed.

** I love the picture that is on this blog. Often I feel just like this woman...embraced by the words on the page. Books have been my friends for years. If you have never enjoyed reading, I suggest you give it another chance and if you love reading like I do, feel free to use the comments section to suggest books for other readers and myself.

Take care of yourself and live healthy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Keep your hands to yourself (Friends)

I thought I would start today with a great video of clips of everyone's favorite family member with boundary issues -- Eddie from the National Lampoon's Vacation movies! I hope you all enjoy the video and then read all about "Boundaries with your friends!"

Having boundaries with your friends can be so difficult as you really do care about them and want them to have a place to go. There is a drastic difference, however, in having a place to go and having a place to dump everything. There is such a fine line that sometimes it takes real discretion to figure out where that line is. According to Cloud & Townsend, a friend is a person who you "have a non-romantic relationship that is attachment-based rather than function based." Function based friends would be those that you work with, do ministry with, etc... Attachment based friends are those that you just want to be with.

Having heard that definition, I would ask you to list the people in your life that you view as "friends."

Do these people give to you as much as you give to them? Are any of the comfortable and easy? Are others a lot of work and seem "lop-sided?"

When I was going through my own journey to establish boundaries I did an exercise that I will encourage all of you to do. Take Inventory....

Make a list, as stated above, and then decide which ones feel like fulfilling, mutual relationships. These are the friendships that are worth keeping and investing in. The other ones are the relationships that you want to evaluate and decide if they should take less of you.

Another big question that I think is so powerful to ask yourself in friendships is as stated by Cloud & Townsend "What keeps you connected to these friends?"

For me, often I would find that what kept me connected was a sense of duty and obligation. Now that I have worked through my list and invested in those friendships that are mutual, comfortable, and healthy I find that I stay in connection with these people because I want to invest in their lives in the same beautiful way they invest in mine.

I would love for everyone to answer this question for yourselves and share with the blog by comment if you wish.

What is the best friendship you have like? What kinds of things do you feel make it healthy and happy? What is the worst relationship you have like? What makes it so uncomfortable?

I look forward to your feedback and stay tuned to the blog for the next post which will be "Boundaries with Your Spouse/significant other"

Also, don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the boundaries posts for Cloud & Townsend's Boundary workbook!