Keeping the Love You Have

The pathway to love seemed so hard when I was single, and to be honest…even when I first met my husband. Keeping the love you have requires just as much work, if not more than the hunt. The difference is your investment and your perspective on how this person fits into your life long-term.

Relationships are like plants. They are all a little different, and require a specific type of care, but the basic principles are the same. You water it, fertilize it, give it the right amount of sun and attention, and it grows stronger each day.

For some the difficult task may seem to be finding your partner in life, your person, or as I like to call them – your lobster. The reality is that its harder to keep the love you have, than find it. Some may believe once I have netted that delectable lobster, I am all set and get to enjoy the fruits of my sea voyage. The truth is, your real journey begins. It takes work to meld two lives together. Two hearts, two minds, two belief systems, two sets of values, financial understandings, parenting beliefs, behaviors, etc. It only took your whole life to become who you are, is it realistic to think you can change another person overnight to do everything you want – or think is “right”? Of course not! A marriage/relationship is about coming together with a common set of beliefs and making it work for both people, then creating a new reality that honors the life you want to live – together.

Over the past few years in my marriage I have learned Five Principles that have helped us build a happy life together.
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Creating a Vision for your Future

One of my favorite exercises in the substance abuse IOP group therapy sessions was Life Mapping. My supervisor used to remind our clients that the work we were doing was great work for all people, including folks with addictions. It was just plain old, good therapy! This exercise helps clients create a clear picture for what they want in their lives. It grew out of some work one of my previous supervisors had done with a Covey leadership development class.

So, how does it work? First, you identify your core values. Examples may include family, career, spirituality, integrity, health, education and sobriety. Then you identify how your current behaviors go against those values. How are the choices and decisions I make dishonoring my core values? For example, if family is your value, perhaps your current behavior is isolating you from your family or causing arguments. Or for career, perhaps your lack of follow through or completion of deadlines is inhibiting your career growth.  Here is a worksheet to get you started:  VALUES WORKSHEET

Next, you identify what outcomes you would like to see for each value. What do you want in your life? For family, perhaps it is a closer relationship with loved ones, for spirituality maybe it means a closer relationship with God, and for health perhaps your outcome would be feeling well, reducing risk factors or unhealthy behaviors.

Next, you identify the tasks associated with each outcome. These would be the specific behaviors or actions that are critical to accomplishing your outcomes and staying true to your core values. Examples of tasks for health may be: eat 5 small meals a day, count my calories, exercise 3 days per week for 30 minutes, practice meditation 5 minutes each day. For family, some examples might include: eat dinner together every night at 6pm, spend time as a family outside the home 2 times per month for at least 2 hours doing an activity in which we are engaged with each other (not going to a movie), implement a date night on Fridays with my spouse. For career, tasks may include: get to work 5 minutes early each day, ask for additional training, meet with my supervisor to develop a development plan.  I created this worksheet:  LIFE MAPPING WORKSHEET to assist you in Creating your Vision.

The next phase is consolidating your Life Map into a Vision Statement. This one can take some time, and I recommend doing a talk-through-walk-through first. Pretend I am an old friend and have not seen you for a year, and I see you at the supermarket and say, “Hey there! I haven’t seen you in such a long time. How are you? Tell me what’s new in your life?” Using the information you gathered about what outcomes you want for your life from your Life Map, speak as though you are currently living the life you have envisioned in your diagram. Use the tasks and outcomes to describe the changes that have occurred in your life. An example may be something like this:

Gosh, Missy, so much has happened! Life is great! I feel calm and peaceful, my family relationships are loving and connected and we spend time together having fun and learning. My body is strong and ready for each new day that comes. My career has moved to a new level where I feel proud and motivated each day. My relationship with God grows each day through prayer and meditation.

As I blogged about before, creating clarity is the beginning of the process of change. Iyanla Vanzant said in a speech she gave on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, “Your eyes adjust to the amount of deficiency present.” Think about that.

Read it again….Your eyes….adjust….to the amount of deficiency present.

So you get used to deciphering life through fuzzy eyes, you adapt and compensate, and inevitably miss things. If our vision for our lives is unclear, or we cannot even see an outcome that we would like or need, than we begin to believe that the possibility of our hopes and dreams are unachievable. The deficiency may be the story we tell ourselves, the doubts we allow others to speak into us, or the insecurities that stifle us. Sometimes we let others talk us into or out of what we truly want and sometimes we do not need any help setting ourselves back. We may even begin to believe that the dreams we have are unrealistic. How will you nurture and foster your dreams to create a vision for your future?

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?” ~ Henry Ford

Being thankful in the face of adversity

Thank you.  I appreciate it.  I appreciate you.  Gracia.  Many thanks.  That meant a lot to me.  You helped me more than you know.  You rock!

These are all ways to express gratitude for the gifts large and small that come upon us in our lives.  Thanksgiving is a good day to celebrate your life and revel in the blessings that you are surrounded with each day.  It may be difficult to find something to be thankful for sometimes, especially for those that may be managing a tragedy such as a job loss, financial troubles, mental health concerns, illness, the death of a loved one, or other misfortunes that come around in life.  Even in these most difficult times, finding the things that make you smile, that offer you even moments of joy in your life may build the momentum to bring you out of the life situation you may be in.  There is a saying, “Choose your attitude”  and, “live your  life with intention.” Continue reading

Counseling Theories

What did I learned in my last Counseling class before my field experience?  I thought I knew something about Counseling Theorists, but then Dr. D had this way of showing you the theories in such a way that they really stick.

The class structure was a great format to dissect and dig into theories.  The process of presentation followed by professor overview, then movement into a live role play, and finally into an activity created an environment of learning that leaves room for participation, learning and feedback.  I got the most from the role plays, as these helped me see how different theories can impact individuals and problems.  These experiences have helped me choose the theories that I believe in and trust will work for my style and my view of human nature and development.  I have learned that theory is the second most important part of working with clients. Continue reading