I love you, but our schedules are too busy to make time for each other. I love you, but I don’t know how to keep us from growing together and not apart. I love you, but I wish we had more balance with our kids and our relationship. I love you, but I don’t know how to talk to you sometimes. No part of life is perfect and we can find a ‘but’ to every situation. Wesley Morgan goes through how to iron out some of those in our February Q & A. And if you want to hear more from Wesley, learn about his Couples Communication Skills Group starting in February.
Q: What are some ways couples ensure they grow together and not apart?
A: One way to grow together is to establish a vision for your relationship. Couples often grow apart when they lose sight of their vision. A vision gives couples the ability to stay focused on their goals while they experience life with each other. Having a vision for your relationship also helps with accountability. Couples can also grow together by investing in their relationship. Outside of dinner dates, movies and visiting friends, what are you doing to invest in your relationship? I suggest attending a relationship seminar/conference. By doing so, you and your partner will flourish. What books are you reading to enhance your relationship? Reading and having discussions could provide growth in your relationship.
Q: How do you handle making time for your relationship when you have conflicting schedules?
A: Making time for your relationship should be the highest priority if you value your relationship. We make time for our jobs, the gym and other social activities, so why not for your relationship? One of the excuses I often hear is that "We do not have enough time.” Everyone is granted the same amount of time within a day. How you use your 24 hours will determine the success of your relationship. Here are a few suggestions: 1) Adjust your schedules. Some of us have the freedom to adjust our schedules but choose not to do so. Having a healthy relationship with your spouse requires your ability to make sacrifices. I am not encouraging you to change your schedules daily, but once or twice a month would not hurt. 2) Maybe your spouse travels or has a demanding job. This is where you use technology to your advantage. Try facetime/skype to touch base with one another throughout the day even if your availability is 2-3 minutes. The more time you make for each other, the better. Keep in mind, your conversation should be centered on your relationship, not all the negative things that are happening. 3) Sit down at the beginning or end of each week, and review your schedules. Identify a day and time that works best for you all to have some quality time with one another. Once the time has been chosen, do not allow anything to interfere with it. Put away cell phones and cut off the television. Again, you make time for everything else. Why not your relationship?
Q: What’s something you think all newlyweds should know about marriage?
A: Newlyweds should know that they are not alone. I recall being a newlywed and thinking that I knew enough about marriage and that me and my wife would be just fine. Boy was I wrong. No one talked to me about the possibility of having a miscarriage, death and constant adjustments, daily sacrifices, communication flaws, and the list goes on and on. Newlyweds are more likely to focus on job security, housing and transportation. All of which are important, however, you should know that life does not slow down and the pressures of life can cause you to believe that you are all alone. Every couple will face hardships in some way. Newlyweds should consider adopting an older couple that is willing to walk alongside them and guide them along the journey that we call marriage. Being vulnerable with another couple increases the likelihood of having a successful marriage.
Q: What’s something you think older couples should know about marriage?
A: Older couples should know two things about marriage. First, continue to be a source of hope for others. Successful marriages are sometimes hard to find. Your love story can decrease the changes of a couple considering divorce. Marriage is an opportunity to share love, experience love, and teach love. You have a responsibility to teach young couples about the longevity of marriage. The longevity of marriage includes but not limited to; resolving conflict, sex, support, sacrifice, children, communication, money and personal boundaries. Do not withhold the wealth of knowledge that you have gathered. Share your experiences with those that are willing to listen.
Q: How do you balance your marriage and your children?
A: Balancing marriage and children can be a difficult task especially when you are doing it alone. In order to balance your marriage and your children, both husband and wife need to work together. As stated earlier, having a vision for your marriage and your family will help you stay balanced. I suggest creating a calendar or using an app on your cell phone that shows the events, work schedules and social activities planned for the family. Husbands, our job is not to come home and relax and sit on the couch all evening. Our job is to lead, protect and create avenues in which our children and spouses can develop and flourish in society. You have to be a visionary for your family. Always alert and looking for ways to better yourself, your marriage and your children. Take the lead and bring the balance that your family needs. If you need help with that, come see me!
Q: What are some ways couples can communicate effectively?
A: Couples have to first acknowledge their inability to communicate effectively in order to create an opportunity to enhance their communication skills. Second, assess your communication style by the amount of unresolved conflicts that you are currently experiencing. Unresolved conflict is an indicator that your communication skills need a tune up. After acknowledging and assessing your communication skills, work towards learning/understanding your spouse. Understanding is the missing ingredient in communication. Think about it, you feel upset or unheard, right? Why do you feel that way? You feel that way because your partner is having a difficult time understanding you. Effective communication happens when two people understand each other. After moving towards understanding, you look at the intent behind what is being said. Couples spend too much time focused on how something was said (attitude, tone) instead of why it is being said. If you can focus on the intent, your ability to understand your spouse increases and your need to become defensive decreases. The last thing I would suggest to couples trying to communicate effectively is to learn each other's communication style. Stop trying to have your spouse talk and act like you. They are not you, accept their communication style and focus on what is being said instead of trying to criticize them. That does not give permission for your spouse to remain rude and disrespectful, but it helps them feel understood and increase the likelihood of working on their communication skills as well. This is not an exhaustive list but it is definitely a good place to start. I recommend reading the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
How do you balance the negatives and positives of your relationship?
One of the keys to keeping your balance is to stay focus. In our society, we are surrounded around negativity via the news, newspaper, internet, and social media to name a few, so it only makes sense that all that negative thinking can seep into other parts of our lives, including our relationships. When something goes wrong, our first thought is often negative. Practicing mindfulness can help address negative thinking. Another reason why negative thinking is at the forefront of our thoughts is because of our past relationships. We hold our spouses hostage to the negative experiences that we experienced prior to meeting them. Not knowing that the pain that you are currently experiencing may or may not be caused by your spouse. You never processed your past hurts and carried it into a new relationship. Therefore when negative experiences occur (and they will), your spouse is being held accountable for both past and present hurts. Those hurts often outweigh our positive experiences. So how do we balance them both? Make a conscious effort to address negative feelings and emotions and validate positive feelings and emotions. Are you spending more time tearing down your relationship or are you building up your relationship? Remember, in order to balance you must focus. Choose to focus on the positive experiences and address the negative experiences when they happen.
Why are some hesitant to seek professional help for their relationship and why shouldn’t they be?
Seeking professional help is not an easy task. Couples are hesitant for numerous reasons. Can they trust that the therapist is equipped to handle their problems? Couples often feel as though their problems are unresolvable. Couples would like to know the years of experience that therapist has without coming across as disrespectful. I have yet to meet a couple who wasn't hesitant in starting the counseling process. Couples that are considering therapy need to understand that it is a process for the therapist as well. Therapists have the wonderful task of getting to know you just as you are getting to know us. The goal of counseling is not to change you but to help you reach the change that you desire. Understand that if you are not comfortable with the service that you are receiving, you are not obligated to stay. Stay focus on getting the help you need and allow that to be the determining factor to seek professional help.