How My Own Words Hold Me Back

I’m not someone who reads non-fiction books. I just can’t finish them.

I’m not someone who wears gold jewelry. It doesn’t look good on me.

I’m not someone who is good at following through on things. Never have been.

These are all statements I have believed about myself, told myself, told other people about myself over the years. All of these statements were totally true at the time I uttered them. But just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s helpful!

Earlier this year I bought a “self help” book. I own a lot of those books. I’m a therapist after all! This book had been recommended to me by a client and I immediately started recommending it to some of my other clients. The trick was I had never read it. I know! I know! That is not a good idea! But I trusted the client who told me about it, and I just wasn’t someone who could finish books like that. I had tried. I had read about four chapters of most of the books on my bookshelf at work. I just couldn’t get any further!

One day I recommend this book to yet another client. This time, however, she came back the next week and told me she hated it. What? What did she hate? We had an amazing conversation about the specific issue this book triggered in her, and it was actually really helpful in her healing process, but I finally decided I needed to read this book for myself.

So I bought it and started reading. And guess what? I loved it! It is taking me several weeks to finish it, and in the past that would have made me discouraged enough to quit, but not this time. It’s so good I just can’t quit reading it. Even if it takes me months! I am going to finish this book!

That got me thinking. How many times am I telling myself stories about me – stories about what I can and can’t accomplish in life – that are holding me back!

Our words are powerful, and most of us are well aware of the affects our words can have on those around us. But the words we use on ourselves are just as powerful! They have the power to feed our soul or destroy it. They have the power to push us forward or hold us back!

I am someone who reads books that help her grow.

I am someone who can do hard things and actually finish them!

I am actually someone who wears gold jewelry once in a while now.


What stories are you telling yourself that hold you back; that hurt your heart. Don’t be your biggest critic! Be your biggest advocate! You don’t even have to believe them at first. That’s the amazing power of words. They sink into our hearts the more we use them and have the power to change us from the inside out!

erica blog

I Believe Cute Things Will Fix My Life

I have this weird magically belief.  Actually it hasn’t been very magically because it hasn’t really worked out for me, but it is magical in the sense that it makes no sense whatsoever.

I have a belief that if I am struggling to follow through on something then the answer for that problem is . . . wait for it . . . buying something cute to help me accomplish my goal.

That is why I own about one million really cute journals that all have one entry in them.  It is why I own a bunch of cute water bottles, so I’ll work out more.  It’s why I was tempted the other day to buy a new Bible.  You know because if I had one of the cute new ones from She Reads Truth, I would for sure read it more!

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Seriously! Aren’t these the cutest journals? I found myself thinking I might actually use them! I wouldn’t, but I do like them!

(You can get those journals by clicking here.  This doesn’t benefit me in any way except that someone will get to own these cuties!)

I can’t be the only one who does stuff like this.  Maybe for you it isn’t buying cute things.  Maybe it’s always waiting for Monday to start that new healthy living goal.  Maybe it’s waiting for your spouse to change, and then you’ll do it too.  Maybe it’s buying that 500th organizing container and then your house will finally be clean (Guilty!).

Whatever it is, we are really good at finding excuses for why we aren’t actually doing the things we say we want to do.

No more excuses!

I didn’t figure out that I was doing this until this past year.   I think I started doing it so much that it became impossible to ignore anymore.

I have nothing against cute things, or any of those other things I mentioned above.  In fact I am a firm believer that if I’m going to own something it might as well be cute! But using that – the shopping, the time it takes to acquire something new, the money spent – as an excuse to not just do the thing I know I should be doing isn’t doing me any favors.

kate spade

So I made a new rule for myself this year: It’s not that I can’t buy the new cute Bible, or water bottle but I have to prove that I’m actually using the ones I have first.  You know, show some actual follow through on my goals.  Either I will start accomplishing more of my goals, or I will save a lot of money not buying those cute things!

What do you need to be following through on that just seems so hard for you?  Do you have a delaying technique that you successfully use to put it off even further?  What is a step you could take this week to just go ahead and do it?

For me?  I’m going to read the Bible I already have.  It’s even cute!  See? No excuses!!

bible

Man! This She Reads Truth Bible is nice looking though . . .

You can pick up your own if you are in need of a new Bible by clicking here.  This follows right along with my belief that if you are going to own something, it might as well be cute!

If you love that Kate Spade tumbler you can click here.  Seriously where else can you get anything Kate Spade for $18!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Unless otherwise noted the links in this post are affiliate links, and I will earn a small fee if you purchase an item through this link.  This will not cost you any extra money, but is a service that allows me to share things that I actually use and love with you. 

 

 

You Need to Learn How to Fail

Maybe I should have called this, “You need to learn to be okay with failing.”  I think we all know how to fail.  We do it spectacularly all the time.  At least I do!  We fail as parents, friends, and spouses.  We fail at work, at home, and at keeping our cool in traffic.

Right about now you are probably feeling really good about yourself!  You’re probably thinking, “Man! If I wanted to feel crappy today, I could have done that all on my own!”

The truth is that we are going to fail in all those areas I just listed, but what we do with that failure is far more important than whether or not we fail in the first place.  There have been a lot of messages in social media lately about being okay with failure; about seeing it as an opportunity to learn and move forward.

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But how do we do that?  How do we let go of the shame that floods in when we fail at something that feels important?  What if everything feels important, and we are failing at all of it?

The key lies in how we talk to ourselves.  My daughter went through a phase a couple of years ago where she was saying things like, “I’m just not good at anything!” or “No one likes me anyway!” I would always respond by saying (in a super shocked voice), “Hey! You’re talking about someone that I love, and I don’t let anyone talk to people I love like that!” That would often lead to a smile from her, and the message was received: the way you are talking to yourself is hurtful.  The hard truth is that we often talk to ourselves with the most negative, mean, and hurtful words that we would never use on someone else.  We do this most often when we feel like we have failed.

So what do we do about this?

  1. Watch the language you use when you talk to yourself.  The first step in changing anything is diagnosing the problem.  So start paying attention to the language you use when you feel like you’ve failed.  Is there a theme or pattern to how you talk to yourself?
  2. Now that you’ve done the diagnosis, you can start to change what you say.  This will not be easy.  We have years of experience beating ourselves up, and so it is unrealistic to think that you can stop those negative thoughts from popping into your head right from the start. But that’s the amazing part!  You don’t have to stop them!  All you have to do is notice when they come, and then try something like, “No!  I’m not a bad person just because I failed.  I made a mistake, and no one is going to be upset about this as much as I am right now.  I’m allowed to make mistakes!” Don’t try to stop the negative self-talk, talk back to it!
  3. Admit to someone else that you screwed up.  I know! Right about now you are thinking that I am totally crazy.  That’s the last thing you want to do! But here is why this is important: shame always lives in the dark.  Shame tells us to hide, because what we’ve done makes us not good enough.  The only way to combat that is to tell someone, and let them show you that it’s not as big of a deal as you’re making it in your head.  Obviously you want to choose this person carefully.  Don’t try this with someone in your life that is likely to add more shame to the situation. This person needs to be an emotionally safe person that you know will help reduce your shame.
  4. Give yourself permission to just try things.  I am the kind of person who likes to succeed, and if I think there’s a chance I won’t, I am likely to not even try.  About a year ago I started using the language of “try” when I would think of doing something new.  I want to start working out 4 times a week?  Well, I’m going to try that for one week, and see how it feels.  If I didn’t accomplish it, that doesn’t mean I failed.  It means I need to ask myself a question: Why wasn’t I able to do it? Then I can tweak my goal, or my methods, and try again next week. See? That week turned from being a failure to being an important learning opportunity in working me towards what I wanted to accomplish.  I yelled at my kids today? Why? Was I too tired? Too hungry? What do I need to tweak next time to decrease the chances that I lose it on my kids?

I have used this language with my clients to great success this year.  People who were too scared to try anything new, or take any steps forward in their goals to grow because of the fear of failure.  This fear was often rooted in real life experiences of failing in these areas over and over again.  Having permission to just try it out for a week or two and then reevaluate what little changes can be made helped them make real progress towards their goals eased the pressure, and gave them the permission they needed to not be perfect.

It is absolutely okay to fail.  It is the only way that we learn.  It’s okay to fail a lot.  What’s not okay is beating ourselves up emotionally and mentally because of that failure.  We have enough of that coming at us from the outside, we don’t need it inside too!

A Journey Toward Rest

burned-out

I used to think I was great at resting.  Seriously – I watched a lot of TV, read a lot of books just for fun, and grabbed naps whenever I could.  What I have learned over the past year is that I was great at go, go, going until I crashed, which is when I would do all that “resting.”

We all need rest.  How much we need varies from person to person, but we all need it. We live in a culture that puts a lot of emphasis, identity, and worth on busyness and productivity.  The more we do, the more crammed our calendars are, the more money we make, the more important we feel.  So we spend more time in our cars then we do at home.  We listen to that little voice inside our heads that says we only matter is we’re DOING something.

What that attitude creates though is not just more success but also more depression, anxiety, physical illness, stressed families, stressed marriages – stressed people!

Over the past year, I have been working with my naturopath to recover from adrenal fatigue.  It has been a rough year.  It involved taking a lot of supplements, radically changing my diet (which was good since it was mostly pizza and ice cream anyway), and most importantly – RESTING.  That was so hard for me to do.  I wasn’t allowed to work out like I was used to (really I wasn’t supposed to at all, and I didn’t have much energy to anyway), I had to say no to more things, and even a “normally” scheduled day would completely overwhelm my body.

The year before my adrenal fatigue diagnosis I was spending a lot of time doing nothing.  I struggled to follow through on anything, struggled to get stuff done around the house, and was napping all the time.  I didn’t choose that.  It was literally all I could do.  That’s not rest.  That’s burnout.

Learning how to rest means listening to your body, and then being okay when it tells you to stop.  Learning to rest means evaluating what you already have going on in your life before you say yes to a new commitment.  Learning to rest means resting before the burnout happens.

Here is how that looks for me now: today I started to do a workout.  It wasn’t going to be super strenuous, and thankfully my adrenal fatigue is slowly healing so I am allowed to do more than I was six months ago.  Two minutes into the workout, I could tell my body was like, “Nope! I do not want to do this.  I can’t handle this today!” A year ago I would have pushed through that workout, and then had to spend much of the afternoon napping to recover from that choice, or I would have quit and then beat myself up all day that I couldn’t do it.  Today, however, I stood up, turned off the computer, drank some more water, and got ready to continue my day – guilt and shame free.

I listened to my body, and rested.

Rest can look like different things for different people.  There is active rest where you are doing something you truly love that fills you with joy and brings a sense of emotional rest like playing golf, swimming laps, yoga just to name a few.  Then there’s what we typically think of as rest like taking a nap, reading a book, or watching TV.  Your version of rest doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s, and it might not even look the same from day to day, but you do need it.

One of the sayings I like the most that illustrates this is, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I would add to that, “and try not to let the cup get empty in the first place.”  There are times in life where events outside our control drain our cup faster than we can fill it.  We will get burned out.  That’s okay.  There’s no shame in that!  But if we are letting our cup get empty in our day to day life, can you imagine how much harder those tragic times are going to be?

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What fills your cup?  Maybe you need to look at your Happy List again!  Maybe this takes some mental, emotional, and spiritual growth on your part, because the thought of having permission to rest feels really overwhelming, or off putting to you.  If that’s the case, I recommend asking yourself where you learned it wasn’t okay to rest.  That’s a great therapy question, and can help you identify the root belief driving your behavior.  And then start small.  No one is great at anything overnight.  Pick one thing that sounds restful to you, and schedule it in that overwhelming schedule of yours.  That’s right – sometimes the most Type A people need to schedule their rest or it will never get done!

I don’t have this all figured out yet.  This is an area in which I’m still growing.  I fail at it all the time, but the times I get it right feel amazing.  It feels good to take care of yourself!  Once your cup is truly full, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish!

So what fills your cup?  What’s the hardest thing for you about engaging in true rest in your life?  Let me know in the comments!

rest

I didn’t take this picture, and I have never been here, but this sure does look restful to me!

 

 

The Discipline of Happiness

water in the desert

Finding water in the desert always makes me happy!

How much time do you spend doing things that actually bring you joy, or make you happy?

I am in the middle of reading an amazing book, that I will share about once I finish it. I figured it wouldn’t be smart to recommend it until I’ve read the whole thing!  In one of the chapters, the author wrote about dreaming big dreams for your life.  She suggested making a list of your dreams even if you think they are ridiculously unattainable.  As I was doing this, I also started to make a list of things that I just like doing, things that bring me joy!

My list included things like:

  • zumba
  • barre workouts
  • floating in water
  • taking baths
  • reading
  • eating ice cream
  • being alone
  • being with friends
  • my houseplants
  • TRAVELING (Yes, I wrote that one in all caps on my list.)

This is not the comprehensive list, but you get the idea.  Then once I finished the list, I really looked at it and asked myself: How often am I doing the things on this list?  I think it is really easy to go along in our busy lives and slowly crowd out the things that bring us joy.  So that evening I suggested we go to the pool so I could float in the water. You know what?  The pool was COLD! That definitely tempered the enjoyment I got out of floating around, but it felt good to do something for myself, something on that list.

do more of what makes you happy

Throughout the week, my list started to grow.  It was like the act of starting the list focused my attention on what things around me were bringing me joy.  There is incredible power in what we attune to in our lives.  When we attune to the negative, the difficulties, or the hardships we feel them more deeply, and they crowd out the positives that are all around us.  When we attune to the good in our day, the bad doesn’t magically disappear, but it does lose just a little bit of the power it has over our mental and emotional states!

So make a list! Study that list! Start to find ways to incorporate more of those things in your daily life, and then pay attention to the feelings that come up when you do! Take a moment to enjoy that feeling of happiness, joy, peace, or contentment.  When you do, you actually grow your ability to see the good in your life, and who doesn’t want more of that!

So what’s on your list?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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People Pleasing and Me

Funny-Recovering-People-Pleaser

About one year ago, I stopped writing on this blog.  The reason?  Well part of it was I was dealing with some health issues at the time that left me with little energy or motivation to be able to do anything above and beyond the things I HAD to do – you know, like go to work, and take care of my family.  That was for sure a contributing factor.  But the other reason?  The one I don’t really like to think about?  I got one negative comment about a post a wrote, and I could. not. handle. it.

If you know me in real like you probably don’t think of me as a people pleaser, and I’m not even really sure that is the best term to describe my struggle.  I am pretty secure in who I am (that comes from years of growth spiritually and emotionally – and some good therapy), and I am okay if someone doesn’t like me.  Until someone doesn’t like me.  Whoo-boy, I have a thing about being misunderstood.  If I feel like someone really understands me, and what I’m saying and they still disagree, I can usually live with that.  If I get feedback though that makes me say, “That’s not what I meant!!!” I can have a really hard time.  I get in my own head in a way that paralyzes me.  I spin and spin about what I could have said or done differently, or sometimes I just pout.

Getting that one negative comment combined with my utter exhaustion made me shut it down fast.  That’s something else you will learn about me over time – feeling overwhelmed = shutting down for me.  Some people dig in.  Not me.  Shut it down – that’s my motto!  But it’s not a very helpful or healthy motto, and so I am writing this post after a year of silence.  It was important year.  I started on the road to recovery with my health issues giving me the stamina to even think about doing something extra.  I learned more about myself as a person.  I grew in my relationship with Jesus in a way that allowed him to show me some of these areas I was pretending didn’t exist in my heart.  I had time to think about what I wasn’t loving about the old blog.

So here we are, and changes are afoot.  Last year I was trying to write a “therapy” blog to be able to share the wisdom I share with clients for people who are never going to be sitting in my office.  There are things I love about that, but it never felt like enough.  I felt like I was watching my words too much, which is exhausting in its own way, and not getting to share the real me.  You know what?  If you do therapy with me, you get the real me maybe more than you would from some other therapists.   I use me, my stories, my personality, and my sense of humor to connect with clients in what I hope is a really authentic way.  That’s what I want this blog to be- plus some!  I want to share about the things that God is teaching me, the things I know about growing yourself as a person, the things I know about healing relationships, and the areas I’m struggling in as a woman, wife, mom, friend, follower of Jesus.

Here we go – it’s a brand new year (at least for this blog), and I excited (and curious) to see where it goes.  Here’s to being obedient to what God has planted in my heart even though part of me is going – oh my word, let’s just shut it down!

A Marriage Without Generosity Might Just Be a Marriage Without Love

Last week the kids were finally in bed, and my husband and I sat down to talk.  This is our pattern.  The kids are in bed, but they are not asleep.  If you have little ones at home then you know that means they will be out a combined total of 1.2 million times before they finally go to sleep.  We often use this time to catch up on the day while we wait for that blessed moment when they are finally both asleep.  As we sat and talked, my husband said, “I have a crazy idea that I want to run by you.”  Hmmm – a crazy idea could be really good, or really bad.  I waited for the details.  What he shared with me was that a church leadership conference that he had always wanted to go to was going to be coming to a city we used to live in this fall.  That meant that not only could he go to this conference he was so excited about, but he could go with a good friend of his that he used to work with.  The problem was that it would be over the days that I work, which would create a childcare issues.  Our schedules now are that when I’m at work, my husband is with the kids, and vice versa, so childcare can become a big deal.  He waited for my response.

Five years ago I would have immediately said no.  I would have had a ready list of everything that made him going to that conference really difficult.  Five years ago we may have talked it over for a while, and eventually decided yes together, but it would have taken a lot of convincing on my part to support this dream he had.

Last week?  Last week my response was, “Sure!  Let’s talk about how we can make it work!”

What was the change?

It was simple really – we have grown in our marriage over the past few years in generosity.  We have made a conscious decision to find ways to say yes more often in our relationship.

generosity loveGenerosity is something that is given so easily when we are dating.  In fact, I would argue that if generosity is not part of your dating relationship, you most likely won’t end up marrying that person.  But somewhere along the way, we lose that.  Marriage becomes a competition, and the resources become limited.  Kids, finances, work schedules, day to day living annoyances, health concerns, boredom all get in the way of our willingness and ability to be generous with one another.  Generosity is often treated as something that accompanies feelings, but the truth is that generosity is a choice.  We can choose generosity even when we don’t feel like it, and who knows maybe with a little generosity that spark that was so easy to feel in the beginning of your marriage will reignite!

So how do we do this?!  One of the simplest and most effective ways I have found to increase generosity in marriage is to be generous with “yes.”

I have read many parenting articles and blog posts about making your “No’s” count with your children.  That if you say no too much then your “no” loses power, and robs you of relationship with your kids.  So often that means saying yes to what feels like the hundreth game of Candy Land, or going to the park when you would rather just stay home.  I think the same concept should be applied to your marriage!  Look for ways to say yes to your spouse!  Are they asking for time with you?  Say yes! Are they asking if it’s okay for them to have a night with their friends? Say yes!  Are they asking if they can go to a conference out of town even though it will disrupt the family schedule?  Try to find a way to say yes.  Here’s the thing.  Some of you right now are worrying that if you say yes more often, then you will be run over, used up, and taken advantage of in your relationship.  That is why in the best circumstance both people will be practicing generosity.  That is the best case scenario, because if you are both finding ways to say “yes,” then both of you are feeling supported.  You feel like a team.

The Bible says that when two people get married, they become one.  If that is the goal, then choosing generosity makes so much sense.  If we are one, which would be the definition of true partnership, then being generous with my husband also benefits me.  When we can extend generosity to one another then no one gets used up, or taken advantage of.  Instead we create an environment of oneness that says my dreams are your dreams, your dreams are my dreams, and what is good for you is also good for me.

This does not mean that we blindly say yes, and hand over common sense or our own will.  There are times when one person wants or needs something, and it honestly doesn’t work or isn’t possible.  However, we can too easily create a culture of a knee-jerk “no” response.  That often comes out of a fear that if I say yes to you, I won’t get what I need or want.  For some of you that is a valid fear.  Your marriage has become strained, and it’s hard to trust that the other person will reciprocate that generosity.  I would encourage you to try it anyway.  One of the phrases we use a lot in our house with our kids (and honestly I use it a lot with the couples I see in counseling) is, “What would it cost you to . . .?”

So what would it cost you to be generous with your spouse even if they are not generous back?  There is a song I love called The Kitchen by a band called Tow’rs.  In that song there is a line that says, “You don’t say you love me so I’ll do the same.” So often in our marriages we extend good things to our spouse with the expectation that we will get them back immediately and in equal measure, but if we truly believe that those good things are the right thing to do, we need to be willing to give them as a gift with no strings attached.  That is true, unselfish love.  And if both of you are doing that? Then everyone gets what they need, and you have created fertile soil for your relationship to flourish.

generosity quote

Why the Divorce Selfie Makes Me a Little Sick

The Divorce Selfie.

Let’s all just stop and think about that for a minute.  In case you’ve missed this on social media let me paint a picture for you.  The divorce selfie contains two smiling people who have just signed divorce papers to end their marriage to each other.  There is usually some caption about how they still love and respect one another, and are committed to work together to co-parent their kids.

I’m sorry.  I have to take a moment to take some deep breathes.

Why you ask?

Because these divorce selfies make me frustrated.  Okay the truth is they make me a little angry.

Divorce is not something to be celebrated.  Even the people I know who escaped truly horrific marriages that involved abuse of every kind, have not celebrated their divorces.  They don’t even have the energy to celebrate.  They are so beat up by living with that other person that they simply feel lucky to still be alive.  And they know that if they have kids with that other person, their interaction with them is not over.  Ever.

If you have the emotional energy to celebrate your divorce, then you didn’t truly need a divorce.  If you still love and respect one another, then you didn’t truly need a divorce.  If you can figure out a way to co-parent successfully all while having love and respect for one another, then you for sure didn’t need a divorce.

The divorce rate is not as high we we think.  We are always told that on average 50% of marriages end in divorce.  That was never even a true statistic. It was a prediction based on what the divorce rate would become if trends continued.  Guess what? Those trends didn’t continue. This blog shares some of those numbers:

  • Of all the people who have ever married, 72% are still married to their first spouse.  That comes from the Census Bureau.
  • The 50% statistic commonly heard is just a prediction, and a prediction that has been countered with other numbers.
  • Church attendance can reduce your chance of divorce by anywhere from 25-50%.

Divorce selfies celebrate something that causes pain to the children in those families.  Somewhere along the way, we convinced ourselves that kids actually do fine in divorce as long as the parents get along.  But is that what we want?? We want our kids to do FINE?  The truth is that divorce hurts kids.  Kids of divorce will feel shuffled around, and stuck in the middle in the best of circumstances.  The best of circumstances is rare though, and often children experience significant distress that lasts through adulthood.

If you have the proper ingredients for a divorce selfie (2 smiling faces on the day of your divorce, love, respect, and a commitment to co-parenting) then you have the ingredients for a healthy, committed, and happy marriage.  It’s true.  Marriage is work.  Any long term relationship is work.  Unless you are going to spend the rest of your life having 1-5 year relationships, then at some point you are going to have to put in some serious work.  But it is so worth it.  There is something really safe about spending your life with someone who you know has your back, and you have theirs.  Someone who sticks around long enough to know your history – to truly know you.

So my proposal is we start a new hashtag.  I vote for #marriageselfie.  Let’s show the world that successful marriages are worth the fight.  I know mine is!

marriageselfie

If You’re Going To Have An Affair – Why Not Just Have It With Your Own Spouse!

Last week I wrote about how to protect your relationship from infidelity.  The truth is that we are never more vulnerable to having an affair than when we are not putting up protective boundaries around our relationship, and then that relationship becomes strained.  We will all go through periods of time in our marriages when we aren’t clicking; when we aren’t feeling connected; when there is so much fighting that we begin to feel hopeless.  Those are the times when we are most open to the attention of someone else.  Those are the danger zones.

Affairs are exciting and fun (in the beginning) for a number of reasons.
– They are secretive, and secretive things seem more exciting.
– We know they are wrong, and unfortunately that also makes things seem more exciting.
– They are insulated from real life.  Affairs don’t have to deal with who is going to pick the kids up, or broken water heaters, or crabby spouses.  When you are having an affair, you are only seeing that person at their very best, and you are only doing fun things with them.  Real life cannot compete with that. (That is also the reason by the way that over 90% of affairs that become real relationships where the individuals left their spouses end within 3 months of the real relationship starting.  Still think that grass is greener?)
– They are still in the honeymoon period of a relationship.  There was a time when you felt about your spouse the same way you would feel about someone you had an affair with.  Time killed that feeling.  If you spend any amount of time in a relationship with another person that really intense feeling at the beginning will fade.  It just will.

So what to do when you are feeling disconnected from you spouse, and you don’t know how to get back to that place where you feel that love, like, and excitement again?

Have an affair!!  But do it with your spouse!

Affairs are a lot of work.  They take time.  They take money.  They take attention.  So what if instead of destroying our lives, and imploding our families, we took some of those resources and directed them back into our marriage?

Here are 5 ways to do just that:

1. Spend some time alone reflecting on what you found most attractive about your spouse in the beginning of your relationship.  What did you admire about them?  What made you excited to spend time with them?  Now think about how many of those things are still there.  Often those things that we loved in the beginning are the things we stop paying attention to as life gets in the way, but they may still be there.  Try to put on “new relationship” eyes when you look at your spouse so that you can recapture some of that feeling you felt in the beginning when you felt so lucky just to be with that person.
Another question you can ask yourself is, “If someone wanted to have an affair with my spouse, what would they find attractive?”  Living with another person is the fastest way to kill romance.  We get to see all the gross things that they do, and all the little irritations add up.  Seeing them through the eyes of others can help us set aside those annoyances, and appreciate what we have right in front of us.

2. Send flirty texts, messages, emails.
A lot of people get busted when they are unfaithful because of technology.  Someone who is having an affair takes the time to flirt.  Emojis are great for this!  Not only is it fun, but it lets your spouse know that you are thinking of them during the day.

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3. Get a room!
People who have affairs have to spend time together somewhere, and it often involves hotels.  If you are going to take time off work, and spend money on a hotel, please just make everyone’s life easier and do it with your spouse!  Hotels give you that space from daily life that can help you remember why you fell in love in the first place.  There’s no laundry piled up in the corner, or dirty dishes sitting in the sink.  You could even find another couple to swap having the kids sleepover to make this possible.

4. Sneak off to lunch.
Are the kids in school?  Meet your spouse for lunch during the week, and put some effort into looking great.  (This is true for guys and the ladies!)  Think of it this way – you won’t have to pay a sitter!

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5. Use your words to encourage and love.
Most affairs start because people feel heard, understood, and cared about by the other person.  As a married couple, you can do that for each other!  When you were first dating, or first married, you set aside time to care about what the other person cared about.  The relationship was not a competition, but instead it was a team sport.  Work to get to that place again.

Building a solid sense of friendship, partnership, and a healthy sexual relationship are the three top indicators of having a successful long term marriage.  Taking some of these steps to invest in your spouse can go a long way to bringing some fun back into your relationship, and feeling connected again.  When your grass is green, you won’t care what the grass on the other side looks like anymore!

You Are Capable of Having an Affair. Here’s How to Prevent It.

Infidelity.  It seems like it is everywhere.  With the recent news about the leak at Ashley Madison, and the revelation that Josh Duggar had an account there, I have been thinking a lot about this.  I see the devastation that cheating causes in my office every week.  I feel like the news that a high profile pastor, politician, actor, etc. has cheated on their spouse is almost not even news anymore it has become so common.

So what’s the deal?

Why do so many people continue to cheat on their spouses despite the devastation that it inevitably causes?

The long answer is that we are selfish, short sighted people that seek to numb the pain that we are experiencing in our lives instead of getting to the root of it, and treating it in a healthy way.  The short answer is because we don’t believe we’ll ever do that, and so we don’t protect against it.

Infidelity is absolutely devastating.  Absolutely.  It doesn’t matter if you ever get caught.  It is devastating none the less.  Let’s say you do get caught.  Research shows that being cheated on very often leads to very real symptoms of PTSD.  Research also shows that being cheated on is often more painful than the death of a spouse.  If you don’t get caught, cheating is damaging to your own health.  Unless you are a sociopath, which then this is going to be just one of many of your issues, living a lie takes its toll on your mental, emotional, and physical health.  It might not happen right away, but it will eventually happen.  Cheating hurts your married.  Even if you never get caught, the relationship will suffer.  Cheating also hurts the person you are cheating with.  I have had clients who are the “other woman” in a relationship, and the reason they became my clients is the intense pain that comes with being in a relationship where you are the secret, and you are not the one he’s “really” with.  Pain is everywhere!

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So how do you prevent it?  I actually think that taking simple steps, and setting up simple rules in your life can make it fairly simple to protect yourself from infidelity.

1.  Believe you are capable of having an affair.
Please hear me in this – if you do not believe that you are capable of having an affair, you are not going to do anything to protect yourself and your marriage from it.  It is much, much easier than you think to cheat on your spouse.  That’s why so many people end up doing it!!  Most people who have affairs do not set out to do so.  If you are living a life that involves intentionally cheating on your spouse, then there are bigger issues at play with you as a person that should be addressed in therapy!  But what I hear in my office 90% of the time is the spouse who cheated eventually shouting in frustration, “It’s not like I woke up one day and decided to have an affair!!”  And that’s probably true.  Affairs happen slowly and subtly until you are in so deep emotionally that it is difficult and painful to extricate yourself from the relationship.  That is why it is so important to stop it early, and you can’t do that unless you can recognize the early warning signs, and you will never do that unless you believe you are capable of going there.

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2.  Do not complain about your marriage to members of the opposite sex.
Look, living with anyone is going to take some of the bloom off the rose.  If you are married, and living together, you are going to have fights, you are going to be disgusted by your spouse from time to time, they are going to do things to hurt you, and frustrate you.  That is a guarantee.  Wow!  I make marriage sound so fun!  So if you complain about those things to a member of the opposite sex, guess what is likely going to happen.  They are going to sympathize with you.  They are going to listen.  They are going to say something like, “I would never treat you that way!”  It is incredibly easy for them to say those things, because THEY DON’T LIVE WITH YOU!  If they did, they would probably feel the same way that your spouse does.  This is an incredibly dangerous road, and a very important rule to protect yourself from having an affair.

3.  Once you are married, do not be friends with members of the opposite sex.
This may be a controversial one, but I think it is so important.  If you are a married woman, you can be friendly with other men you know, but you should not be close friends with them.  You should not be texting back and forth, you should not be facebook messaging, you should not be meeting for lunch just the two of you, and I could go on and on.  Listen!  If the conditions are right, having an affair is the default!  You don’t have to try to have an affair.  It WILL just happen.  You have to try NOT to have an affair, which means not putting yourself in situations that are risky.  Why is this rule important?  See rules number one and two to answer that.

4.  Know the warning signs of an emotional affair.
Most affairs that become physical start as emotional affairs.  This article from the Huffington Post is really great at outlining some good warning signs, such as, “You find yourself not being fully honest with your partner (or others) about how often you see this person or what you share with them.”  I would recommend going and reading this article for the full list.

5.  Water your own grass.

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Affairs are fun and exciting in the beginning.  That’s why people do them.  But affairs are also a lot of work.  It’s a lot of work to live a lie.  You spend money, you spend time sneaking around, you spend a lot of energy.  If your marriage is struggling, or if you are feeling unfulfilled in a way that makes you vulnerable to having an affair, try taking the energy you would have spent having the affair, and SPEND IT ON YOUR MARRIAGE.  The grass is greener on the other side, because it hasn’t been used yet.  No one has trampled on it.  No one has overwatered, or underwatered it.  It’s green because it’s new.  When your relationship with your spouse was new, the grass was green there too.  So instead of burning down your own lawn with infidelity take some time to figure out what it needs to thrive.

Join me next week for a post that so far is entitled “You Want to Have an Affair?  Why Don’t You Have it With Your Own Spouse?”