While dating, most couples try to look their best physically and try to get along and have a good time. Some couples love to talk about deep subjects and keep up mentally with one another and life. Does this description fit you?
As the relationship develops and you marry, you probably just naturally begin to take your partner for granted. It can be common for either of you to neglect your appearance. When that occurs, you may gain a lot of weight, become careless about personal care or hygiene, or otherwise not take care of yourself in healthy or attractive ways. Sometimes either of you may just excuse yourself because of your busy career or other life responsibilities.
These actions or lack of actions can be real turnoffs to your spouse as well as give the impression that you don't value your relationship very much. Neither response is desirable. One way you can check yourselves on these possibilities is to see whether or not you feel really confident about your appearance when you're around other people you respect and value.
Another common relational issue is that you may no longer be in touch with or have disconnected from some of the things you used to enjoy. You may need these activities to stay interested in life. I'm thinking of things such as pursuing hobbies, going for walks together, taking classes, getting together with friends, and, of course, having fun with children if you have them.
At this point, I am referring to the importance of each of you doing individual activities as well as together activities. Both are very important, as shown by research studies. Often, if you don't take the time to care for yourself, you begin to get "stale" and "boring" even to yourself. Naturally this state is not attractive to your spouse either.
Remember to stay engaged with life and interests! Creating a balance of together time, recharge alone time and time with family members or friends can be a challenge in our busyness. But it is very important to prioritize.
Frequently, as I have worked with hundreds of couples, I find that one or both of the spouses are no longer doing anything for fun or of interest. Each may have fallen into the go to work, sleep, and eat pattern-and then do it all over again. Usually at that point, each may be feeling depressed and trapped. Sometimes one or the other may even think a new relationship is needed when the problem may not even be about the relationship.
The arrival of children complicates self-care. While there are times when it seems impossible to get everything done, none of it will matter if you lose the foundation for your family by losing your marriage. It is the rock on which your family stands, not the children.
Becoming a Detective on Yourself Leads to Self-Awareness, Self-Care
Becoming a detective on yourself can be one major tool that leads you to take better care of both your relationship and yourself.
Much of the time when couples come to see me about their marriage, the concern is not just about the marriage but also about each of their "own stuff" that is impacting their marriage.
Sometimes when people say they want a divorce, they are at a juncture in their personal life. They are ready to make a major life change and don't believe they can do it and stay married too.
Amazingly, as we look together at the presumed future, often those who said they wanted a divorce have never shared their desires with their spouse. They just make the assumption that their spouse would never support them in their dreams.
Happily, numerous times we've discovered together that their spouse is relieved and happy to support their mate in their dreams. The good news is that these couples are then able to rebuild their marriage.
As mentioned earlier, in many other cases, it turns out that neither of them wants a divorce. Very often it turns out they just want the marriage pain to stop.
They are then able to move forward in creating a new marriage to the same person. I have still awed by being a part of these "miraculous" turnarounds again and again.
Another way to become a detective on yourself is by asking: "Where in my body do I store my stress?" Often wherever you store it is a lifelong habit.
Some people have stomachaches, headaches, tight muscles in their shoulders or neck, back pain, and so on.
One of the ways you can find out quickly is to practice deep breathing. As you discover where you store your stress, you can at the same time relieve or relax some of it by that deep breathing process.
Becoming Aware of Your Self-Talk
You can also become aware of what you are saying to yourself in your head. It is one of the best ways to take better care of yourself.
Many people are unaware of their self-talk. We all talk to ourselves; and unless we have worked on changing it, nearly 100 percent of our self-talk is very negative and sometimes even downright mean.
Take care of yourself through countering or replacing self-talk, and use the words you would use with a good friend going through the same situation.
You can check for yourself the power of your thoughts and self-talk. One way you can experiment is to simply think of a negative event and tune into your feelings and next thoughts. You will notice how almost instantly you can upset yourself and make yourself feel down.
The good news is that you can use that same power to bring yourself up by purposely saying the words to yourself that you would say to a good friend who is going through a hard time.
Deep Breathing is another way to take care of yourself when you are tired or stressed out. Most of us are totally unaware of how we automatically begin to take quick, short, and shallow breaths when stressed or tired.
Experiment with how deep breathing brings fresh oxygen to your brain and shortly helps you begin to feel better. You can start with counting to 5 as you take in as much air as you can, hold it for 5, and then let it out as slowly as possible on 5. If you do this several times, you will notice it helps.
If you can think of your stomach as a flat balloon you are blowing up by sucking in your breath. Next, you are holding it, and then you are letting it out very slowly, to the same count and think of turning yourself into a rag doll. Within the past year, technologists have been able to image the oxygen traveling up through a person's body to the brain! Pretty awesome!
Writing or Journaling is also an awesome tool. If you have not tried it for your marriage and are struggling with very strong reactions and nearly overpowering feelings, it is a valuable option.
Writing gets to thoughts and feelings that for some reason you can't seem to access by just thinking alone. Many clients' experiences, in addition to my own, have taught me the power of writing. It works much better than just having the thoughts whirling around and around in your brain in an unproductive circle, wearing a groove!
Some people do not want to start writing because they are worried someone will read what they write. I encourage people to use a shredder after getting their thoughts out if that is a concern.
I also encourage everyone to keep the "action part" or "what are my choices now" part of writing or journaling, which is how I encourage ending your entries.
It helps to take you from feeling like a "victim" of your situation or circumstances when you look at the choices you have. You will even see the baby steps that you can start taking right away to gradually lead you to the things you really want in your life.
There is another reason some people do not want to journal and they feel as if it will become a requirement. The good news is that there is no rule. You only write when you want to - when something extra good happens, or extra bad happens and you believe it might help you to write about it.
Writing or journaling is a great thought clarifier! You may see things in a way you never had before when you only thought about whatever was bothering you over and over again.
There are so many ways and styles of journaling, so you cannot journal wrong or incorrectly. Whatever helps you is the best way.
One simple way journaling can be done is to ask yourself:
What am I stressing or upsetting or depressing myself about now?
After free writing about that question for a time, often after a few pages, something may come out that you were not even aware was bothering you because it was outside your conscious awareness. This insight can be helpful as it may make you realize why you were feeling upsetting.
This next question will help you make an action plan:
What are my choices now?
Even though these action steps may not fully solve the problem, they will be positive actions you can begin taking the next day to move yourself in a positive direction.
Another approach to journaling that can be helpful is to think about all the feelings you had during that day. As you think about all your feelings, pick out your one or two strongest ones and write about them. Think about what had happened right before that feeling hit or what you were thinking about before that feeling came up for you.
This approach is another way to check yourself on how you may be upsetting yourself unnecessarily. In this manner, you can change your patterns to prevent yourself from saying hurtful things that lead toward either bringing yourself down or leading to the destruction of your relationship.
You can learn to nurture your relationships and yourself. You can do this by becoming aware of your own predictable patterns - your "dance steps," habits, or ruts - and how you automatically act or react to various situations.
Think about the things that have worked successfully for you in the past. Also, begin to use some new ways of communicating and the conversation tools and new actions you can take with your spouse.
Though no one should make big decisions according to feelings or emotions-the feelings we are experiencing can be clues to some of the needs we have. Stopping long enough to tune into them can assist you in staying in touch with what is happening inside you personally. It also can help you stay in touch with what is really happening in your relationship.
Giving yourself a "time out" is one of the communication tools you can use to prevent yourself from saying hurtful things that lead toward the destruction of your relationship.
Journaling about your disagreement is also is a great tool for use during the beginning of an argument between you two as a couple. As each of you learns to take a time out for yourselves before you get into the heat of a fight, you will discover you can often prevent it. Journaling is a great tool to help you clarify your thoughts and calm down, so you are ready to have a peaceful conversation together later.
Many times your anger has little or nothing to do with your spouse and can destroy your relationship if you don't stop yourself. If nothing else, you could possibly share your writing to explain yourself better later if you'd like.
How do you handle your own anger when it arises? Are you a slow burn until you erupt like a volcano? Are you an instant temper tantrum or a bulldozer?
Have you trained yourself to be responsible for your own anger responses?
Some blow-up types learn to take a "time out" for themselves before they blow. They take the time to examine what is really going on for them and gradually write about it or dispel their upset without taking it out on others.
In closing, I hope you will be willing to experiment with some of these practical ways to understand yourself and your spouse better and begin to experience a closer connection with and a deeper love for one another.