Recently I talked with a woman who confided that she was upset that her daughter and son-in-law were keeping separate checkbooks and making independent decisions as to how they spent their money. She wondered what I thought of it. I said that it depended very much as to how the couple had arrived at this arrangement and if they were both happy with it.
There are different ways as to how couple’s make decisions. What may look problematic may work quite well for this young couple. The key is: have they also learned to think relationally. Before getting married they each were responsible for self now they also have to consider the well being of their relationship. Some couples do that with ease, others, who manage well as individuals, may find it harder to adjust to also think about how decisions affect their relationships.
The mother, who was concerned about her daughter’s marriage, has not heard her daughter complain. Her daughter simply reported how she and her husband were managing their money. It is different from how this mother and her husband handled their finances. If, however, daughter’s husband is spending money and she thought they had agreed to save for a house then that could well become an issue. Alternatively, if they have made a budget which they have jointly set up and he buys some items after he has made the agreed upon payments they would not see his separate purchases as being problematic.
What is important is that couples when they get married in addition to taking responsibility for their own life also think relationally. How well each person learns to think in terms of “what is best for us” will be fundamental to building togetherness happiness.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were convinced that the solution to what was bothering you was an external change? You might have been thinking about making a job change, ending a marriage, making a geographic change or had many other reasons. I can remember well a time when I was fantasizing how much happier I would be if we moved to another part of the country. In my thinking I was convinced that a change in location and having an opportunity to start over was just what I needed. My husband, however, was thrilled with his job and the opportunities it provided and all that the area where we were living provided. Besides, I had wholeheartedly agreed to this move.
It took me a while to become aware how stuck I was on my solution. To go inside my mind and listen to my heart to figure out what I really needed was something that did not occur to me. I was so convinced that I had it all figured out. We needed to move. I had to let go of my fantasy of the move that would be perfect and face the reality that I was caught in an external solution trap. When I began to open my mind and heart to struggling with what was missing in my life I saw that I needed to find a job that challenged me. I had to get the focus back and listen to what my heart told me I needed. What was really going on with me was that after staying home for a few years raising three young children I had stopped paying attention to my needs. After I took action and found a job I no longer yearned for a geographic change.
I am certain that there are times when an external solution is just what is needed. However that will only work if the heart and mind have had a chance to be engaged in the decision making.
To be able to live life to the fullest is a universal desire. People have an innate drive and longing to be in control of their life. In the last twenty years or more there have been exciting research findings of how the brain works. It used to be thought that people did most of their learning when they were children. We now know that the plasticity of our brains makes it possible to learn and grow throughout life. It is when we ignore this vital natural push to grow and change that we end up short changing our lives. The result is that we can end up feeling stuck, bored, unfulfilled and unhappy. In order to live life to the fullest people need to be engaged in life and reach for their potential.
I understand being stuck since I have experienced it. As a therapist and life coach I could see and help other people get unstuck but I had a much harder time facing my own foibles. Initially I would blame circumstances or my husband until I faced the fact that I had stopped being in charge of my own life. I had allowed myself to stop paying attention to my needs while being on a treadmill of doing all I felt needed to be done. I had to change my thinking in order to reclaim myself. I had to mindfully pay attention to my feelings and recognize that I had long standing habits that needed to be altered.
In my upcoming blogs I will be writing about how you can get more of what you want in your life. I will be sharing useful tips and strategies which will give you ideas as you reach for your dreams and goals. As you demand more of yourself you will grow in confidence and live into your potential.
A simple way to have more happiness in your life is to live with gratitude. When you live with gratitude you find that the world becomes a happier place. You may wonder as to how that is possible. When you focus your mind on gratitude your heart becomes lighter and you see things in new ways.
Being grateful makes you more aware of the blessings you have already received. Especially if you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed thinking of what you are grateful for shifts you into a positive mindset. Here is a simple thing you can do every morning that will help you start the day right. Upon awakening each morning ask yourself the following question: “what am I grateful for today?”
Donna saw her life in a negative manner. As she asked herself the question of what she was grateful for at first she could hardly think of anything. With every day she began to see more things to be grateful for. As she described what was happening I visualized a rose slowly beginning to bloom to reflect how her gratitude list kept growing. What Donna experienced was a shift from her previously discouraged thinking to seeing new possibilities and happiness for her life.
No doubt you have noticed that when change is introduced into a relationship that the balance of the relationship shifts. The change may be much desired yet the adjustment to the change can be harder than anticipated. As an example I will use an alcoholic who has stopped drinking because it is a useful way to demonstrate the difficulties that can arise for families. This is what everyone was hoping for. Yet now comes the hard part. The family does not know how to live with a non drinker. And the alcoholic is confronted with the fact that just stopping drinking is not enough. Surprisingly families over time have learned how to live with an alcoholic but not how to suddenly live with someone who has stopped drinking. For families that stayed together through the tough times this becomes a very critical time. I will use the pronoun he even though substance abuse (prescription, drugs, alcohol) is equally a concern for women.
When we understand that the alcoholic or other addict has an emotional relationship with the substance, it becomes clear that now the emotional connection has to be reestablished with the people in his life. The spouse and children would like an emotional connection but at the same time they are angry at not having received it all this time. Likewise the previous substance abuser believes that the work is done without knowing how to reestablish an emotional connection with the people in his life. This is where understanding the impact of change is vital in the healing process. And having effective communication and relationship skills will be the glue for creating healthy loving relationships.
I have written a booklet on Relationship Success with the subtitle: How to be Happy Together. Although it does not specifically deal with substance abuse the concepts and ideas will be useful for anyone who wants to learn how individual changes impact on relationships. You can find it at
Today I want to talk about the powerful effect that relationships have on the individual. To simplify the discussion I will focus on couple relationships. Couples adapt to each other. Their communication and actions settle into predictable patterns. It works well if each person feels valued and accepted by the other. However, when one person feels the need to make some changes their relationship will have to shift to incorporate the change. This is where some couples run into difficulty as they deal with change that is started by one of the partners.
Let me give you an example. Jane began to feel that she was losing her identity. She was busy with work, children and daily demands. She was a giver and making sure that the needs of everyone were taken care off. Gradually she became aware that, as she put it, “I was disappearing”. The role she had been comfortable in at first now had become a burden.
Jane decided to make some changes in her life. First she had to change her definition of being a giver. She had to add herself to the people she was giving too. At first she struggled with feeling guilty when she began to set limits at work and home as to which tasks she could realistically do. Saying NO to requests was hard but she could see that it made her feel more in control of her life. She was now putting herself in charge of deciding what she was willing and able to do. She realized that she had naturally fallen into the role of caretaker since that was the role she had in the family she grew up in. As she began to make changes it meant that the balance in her marriage also had to shift. Knowing how individual change affects the couple relationship will be the topic of my next article.
Did you know that one of the most important ingredients for living vibrantly is energy? Most of us know that regular exercise and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and getting the right amount of sleep are crucial to creating energy. Did you also know that there are many additional things you can do that will gives you more energy?
When you eliminate the things that annoy you will find that you have more energy for daily living. One of the ways to start is to make a list of ten things that you have been tolerating. It could be something like sewing on a button, taking stuff to the dump, taking the car to be serviced, organizing a drawer,etc. These are things that have been hanging around your mind zapping your energy. It is when you take care of some of these tasks you will realize that you feel lighter. Give yourself the task of systematically beginning to take care of the items on the list and then add new items to the list. You will be amazed how much more energy you have when you are not so weighted down with tolerations that you have been meaning to get to.
Relationships can be energizing or they can also be big energy drainers. Pay attention as to what energizes you in your relationship. Do more of that. If you focus on the positives it is easier to also bring up some of the things that you have been meaning to discuss. Remember to say no when you feel that your kindness is being taken advantage of.
Think of yourself as having to be an energy creator so that you can have a vibrant life. When you feel good about yourself you are empowered to make your life the way you would like it to be.
When you think that you want to make some changes in your life it takes courage to get going. I have always liked the way Maya Angelou summed up the process: “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, I am with you kid. Let’s go”. This just says it so succinctly. We have to grab ourselves by the lapel and decide what matters to us in life and go after it. She is a great example because this is how she dealt with her own life. With her willingness to say to herself LET’S GO she overcame what could have remained permanent obstacles in her path. Instead she chose to move forward.
Our desire to grow and make changes begins on the inside. You start to hear this little voice inside you that nags at you. Something is bothering you. It could be with yourself, at work, with your relationships etc. It is a sign that you are being shaken by the lapel and you would be wise to pay attention to it. Your nagging voice is telling you that you need to take action in order to move forward.
Let’s suppose you dream of making a job change. You may not at all be clear as to what that would be. Yet just by having acknowledged that you want to make a change you have started the process of change. The thinking is just the first part because now you have to follow up by taking action. This new goal gives you a focus. Set yourself incremental goals. Take small steps that are doable in your search for what to do next. Are there skills that you can develop while still in the current job? Would it help to take a course that would give you the knowledge you need in the work you would like to be doing?
Having started the process you are in for a surprise. You find that you have renewed energy for living because you are doing something about your discontent. Feeling stuck or bored saps energy. Taking action that is based on trusting your own voice is energizing.
During the past year I have had the joy of writing for the magazine Magnifique. It is full of great ideas as to what you can do so that your life will shine. From learning to apply the Law of Attraction to specific how to articles you will be inspired to take your life from where you are now to where your dreams want to take you. You will learn from many well known teachers and leaders whose mission it is to support people in their journey to achieve success and experience joy.
What I especially like about the magazine is the emphasis on practical suggestions and tools that you can immediately apply. Here is a simple idea: when you first awaken express thoughts of gratitude. As you think of what you are grateful for you will start the day on a positive note.
In my role as the relationship expert I have written a number of articles on how to make changes in relationships so that both people can be happy. Magnifique also includes a special addiction corner and a column where you can get answers to some of your questions.
As you scroll down on the right hand side of this blog you will find a link to Magnifique. The magazine is only available on the iPad and iPhone and includes videos and sound. Click on the photo of the two happy people and you will be there.
Most of us are very aware of the benefits of physical fitness. We know that eating nutritious food, engaging in regular exercise, and having a sound sleep pattern will give us the energy we need for living vibrantly. When we take care of our bodies we clearly value our physical well-being.
There is another part to fitness which requires just as much care so that we can function at our best. That is emotional fitness. It has to do with how we feel about ourselves and the coping skills we have for dealing with whatever life brings. As we strengthen our emotional fitness we grow in self-confidence. The result is that we value who we are. We will want to treat ourselves with love and dignity and expect others to treat us with the same respect. We know that feelings of worth grow in an environment where differences are respected and we strive to create such an environment for ourselves and those we care about.
Physical and emotional fitness are the foundation for growing to be who we are capable of being. The benefits of strengthening both are that we will feel alive, energized and curious, in charge of our life, expect things to work out, are open to new possibilities, trust we can create our future and enjoy having a vibrant life.