If your life was your favorite book or movie you would value every part. It is each chapter and scene that make the story.
You love a story not because it is linear, but because it has dimension. It has ups and downs. It has a climax. Drama. Humor. It has a scene where you think there is no hope, but then things take a twist.
Lets start and fast forward through a classic movie and bullet point some notes:
If you erased all the parts where things felt unpleasant, the story would not be interesting. The good parts would not be elating. It is the contrast that makes the story so rich.
In your marriage, you have all the parts that make for a great story.
There is the part where your husband does __________ and you feel ___________.
There is the part where XYZ happens and you feel __________.
Then there is the other part where you ________ because _________.
In my marriage there is the part where I feel giddy. And annoyed. And happy. And mad. And bored. And excited. And disappointed. And in love.
Those are all the parts. When the part comes where I feel the feeling I don't love, I just notice that my thought is creating that feeling and I can just allow it or I can change my thought.
When I am not ready to totally change my thought, I just sort of change it by thinking, "This is the part where I think this thought and feel anxious."
And then its not so bad. It is just part of the story. And who doesn't love a good story?
I just got off a call with a client.
She thought something was wrong with her because of persistent negative feelings about her marriage.
She understood her thought perpetuated the feelings, and yet it felt dismissive the way she was applying that knowledge.
She thought it meant she should just change her thought and feel better about things.
She felt shame for the way she was feeling and the ways she was thinking. She wanted to perfectly manage her mind and for her marriage to be "ideal".
What she didn't understand was that as human beings we feel negative half the time.
It does not mean that you are not a good enough Christian, wife or that you are failing.
We can just notice this is part of living in a fallen world, AND it's not who we ARE.
However, when we start judging and resisting our thoughts, we are dismissing ourselves. We are exacerbating agony by agonizing over it.
When we resist, it is the equivalent of trying to push a beach ball under the water. The more we push it down, the more it pops up. It is a futile and counter-effective effort. It takes a lot of energy. It can consume us.
The more we push happy and resist negativity the more the negativity comes up.
This does not mean we indulge the negative or unpreferred emotion.
Rather we allow it. We allow without indulging or resisting.
We notice thoughts creating the feelings. We notice our thoughts about our feelings. We notice and allow it much the same way you allow a toddler to throw a fit at the store.
You don't' have to give into the toddler and you know you cannot stop the toddler from throwing the tantrum.
You allow him to do his thing because that is what he is going to do anyway.
When you stop resisting without indulging you are allowing. And when you allow, you aren't forcing life, yourself or your relationship to fit your preconceived mold.
Allowing is gentle. It is loving.
And when we love, it is always enough.
It is normal to have an imperfect marriage. It is okay to be an imperfect wife. Nothing is wrong if you husband is imperfect.
That's just how it is when you live in a fallen world.
I get to decide how I think and feel about you. And you can't stop me.
I want to be married to my husband. I want to love him and our life together.
I decided that I am going to think things that make me feel loving towards him regardless of what he does. When I do this, I am choosing unconditional love. I want to feel love for him no matter what because that feels better to me than hate or judgment.
When we feel things like hate and judgment, we are the one who suffers most. Because your feelings are an internal experience, they are felt by you, not by the person you are having those feelings about.
You can love someone or hate someone and you are the one having that experience. There are people I adore and admire and they hardly know I exist. I feel strong positive feelings toward them. That love is my experience not theirs.
Even if they know I exist and I act loving toward them, they don't feel my feeling. They only interpret my actions that come from my feeling of love as their thought. Their thought. Not mine. They think something about what I do or say and they they feel what they feel based on their thought. That is the feeling they experience.
I have my feelings and you have your feelings.
You can hate me and I can still love you.
It feels so much better to love you than hate you. So why wouldn't I choose that?
Some tell me it hurts to love.
Loving never hurts.
If you love someone and they leave you, cheat on you or say something horrible its not the love you have for them that hurts. What hurts is the meaning you give to the thing they did. Your feelings may hurt, but the love never caused the hurt.
If I love someone and make a bid to connect and they don't reciprocate, I might make that mean I am not interesting, lovable or good enough. I might feel unloved. I might say it hurts to love. However my feeling of love did not cause the feeling of hurt. The meaning I gave their actions caused my pain.
Withholding love never protects you or hurts someone else. It only hurts you.
When you say, "They don't deserve my love," you are simply denying yourself the feeling of love.
You are the only one who feels your feeling of love.
Love is an emotion you experience in your body. It fuels what you do and don't do. It is your experience. It does not jump out of your body into someone else's body. It is simply your feeling.
No matter what someone does, we get to feel love. It is such a great choice.
This does not mean we don't set boundaries. It just means we don't have to feel hate or anger doing it. We don't have to react.
Humans do things from a place of pain. We can hate them for it or love them as a human.
You decide how you want to feel about someone. Why not choose love?
It feels amazing.
Monday my husband and I will celebrate our 19th anniversary and take a 2 day stay-cation in the middle of a work week. It isn't a long time and we have little planned, but we will be together.
Our birthdays are 2 days apart in November, six months after our anniversary. It has become our bi-annual ritual that we can count on. Every six months we send the kids to family or friends and take a short trip or keep it simple and stay in town.
Rituals of Connection are attaching points in your relationship that you can count on. They can be mundane or more festive, but they are a healthy and intentional part of a marriage.
I like the idea of establishing daily, weekly and annual rituals in your relationship.
I have always been a big fan of bedtime for my kids, ONE because my kids function so much better with adequate sleep, and TWO, because my marriage functions so much better on shared time.
It gets a little trickier as the kids get older, but Rich and I sill have protected time in the evening, often between 9 and 10 where we come together kid free. Usually it involves watching "our show" (whatever that is at the time). Sometimes swapping back rubs is included, but other times its just sharing the couch and space together with our attention on the same thing.
Another daily ritual that I have noticed Rich does is when he leaves and when he comes home from work he always hunts me down and gives me a kiss. He always tells me "bye" or "hi" in this way. I might be more likely to yell, "see you!" and fly out the door, but Rich always does this and I have gotten use to it as something I can count on even if it is very ordinary for us.
A monthly ritual of connection of ours is we have a date night. That does become easier with older kids, but even if your kids are young making this a priority can be such an investment in your marriage. I have a client who has a babysitter on reserve for the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month. They picked Tuesdays because there are never kid's activities and so they put a tag on this night that says. "For US."
What are your rituals of connection? I bet you have some. What rituals would you like to build into your relationship?
Sometimes we get stuck in negative thought loops. We know we are in one when we keep getting the same unwanted results over and over again. This is part of the flesh, or the old man referenced in Romans 7, "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."
Sometimes we behave as though our actions "just are." In default mode, we never consider that our thought is the first domino in a series. When we start to believe new things, we change the results we get. Notice change starts on the thought line, not on the action line. We must start from the inside out. When we believe a new thought, our heart changes and from that our actions become renewed.
The better your new thought is, the easier time you will have believing it. When you completely believe it, you will create the result to reflect the belief.
I mentioned in my last post that my coach Brooke Castillo suggests 4 strategies for creating new thoughts by re-purposing old thoughts:
1. Up-leveling: Ladder your thoughts from easy to believe to more difficult. I love the example she uses with her clients who want to stop drinking. It is hard to go from the belief, "I can't stop drinking," to "I don't ever drink." When you think the second thought you are probably adding to the thought, " That is hogwash," so you don't really believe it.
When we Level Up thoughts, the process is gradual and the thoughts are more believable. Here is Brooke's example of up-leveling she uses with drinking. Notice how the thoughts build:
2. Add ons: By adding words to a current thought you can soften it, and even change it. I love John 16:33 which starts with a fact which standing alone is disheartening. "In this world you will have trouble, but (ADD-ON) take heart, I have overcome the world." The first feels heavy-hearted, while the Add-On brings peace.
My favorite Add-On is "...and that's okay."
You can also Add-on to the beginning of a thought, "I am thinking the thought__________." This will help you look at the thought rather than getting lost in the thought as though it were an inevitable fact.
3. Flipping: Take the thought and flip it to the opposite.
Thought: My husband does not care about my thoughts or feelings.
Flip #1: My husband DOES care about my thoughts and feelings.
Flip #2: I don't care about my husband's thoughts and feelings.
When we consider flip thoughts, we find evidence of the opposite. This experience opens us to the idea that the original belief is optional.
4. Ask "How would I like to think instead?" When we consider what we would like to think about a circumstance we give ourselves permission to consider other options:
If you would like to believe new things and want to see what working together looks like, set up a free mini session and I will give you your before and after.
We can look at all our marriage problems in terms of thoughts, feelings, and actions. There are HERS. And there are HIS.
In a relationship, we each assess the other person's actions based on our own thoughts. It is in our mind that we experience the other person. The relationship is actually a figment of how you think about it. In this sense, the relationship exists independently in each of your heads.
It feels great when your thoughts and feelings match up with someone else; you both desire the same thing; your values and interests feel in harmony.
Unfortunately, this is never a permanent state of a relationship. Often, what you intended by your action and what he perceived are two different things. That is just the nature of relationships in a fallen world. What you value in your mind (a clean kitchen perhaps?) and what he desires (a movie marathon?) don't always match up. (or maybe its the other way around).
Thoughts create feelings.
When we think something, we feel something, which fuels action or inaction and ultimately this little cascade creates our results.
If we want to create change in how we are experiencing life, the process starts by finding out exactly what is creating our current results.
You will want to think it is the circumstance creating your outcome. But, I promise you it is not. It is your thoughts.
To create change, you must notice, name, and feel your feelings, find the thoughts causing those feelings, then notice how those feelings are creating your actions and results.
You can do it in any order, but it is the awareness of all those components that begins the process.
Once we understand our patterns and the thoughts causing them, we will inevitably want to change our thinking. This is very different than putting your energy toward trying to change another person's actions. In the the word's of C.S. Lewis, "Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much."
So now that we are clear that relationships do not improve by trying to change another person, just how do we change our thoughts?
It is easy to intellectually understand this, but on a conscious level, we don't really get it.
The implications of this are, we don't try to feel better about an unwanted situation, but rather we recognize that the only thing making the situation unwanted is our own thinking.
Once this is established, the next step is to create a new thought. Learning how to create thoughts is the most powerful skill you will ever learn. It takes awareness, commitment and practice.
Here is basically how you do it:
1. Find the current thought causing your current pattern. If you identify more with emotion, notice what you are feeling and identify the thought creating that feeling.
2. Decide what you want to think and feel instead. If you want to feel a more positive feeling, like delight for instance, ask yourself, "What must I be thinking about my husband (without changing him) to feel that feeling?"
3. Go through the process of believing the new thought. This is something I go into detail with all my clients.
4. Rehearse, practice and believe before you have evidence.
Language can help as we create new thinking from old thinking. Here are 4 strategies I learned from my coach Brooke Castillo that I really like for creating new thoughts:
2. Add ons
4. Ask "How would I like to think instead?"
In my next post I will tell you all about these strategies.
In the meantime, if you have some area's where you need to do some thought work and believe new things, I would love to help you. Get your free mini-session to begin transforming your mind and relationship!
If you have been stuck in "relationship let down," indulge your imagination a little bit as you think about your marriage as more satisfying and fulfilling than it currently is.
When we aspire for a happier marriage, it will bring up all the obstacles that are currently blocking us from having it.
What comes up for you?
For most of us, what comes up is the things outside of our control: Who are husband is (or isn't); the things he does (or doesn't do); how different we are from our spouse.
The first rule in creating a happier marriage is we cannot put our spouse changing in our result line. That never works. Believe me I have tried and when I do, I only feel helpless, powerless and frustrated.
The obstacles to your dream marriage are your feelings and actions, as well as the thoughts about your husband /circumstances. What are you making his behavior mean?
Simply put, to be happier, I must become a different person. It is in this process that the real treasure is found. Even more so than the achieving of a happier marriage.
This, in and of itself, is why I think we should aim for better relationships and lives: When we do, it requires us to become the type of person who is willing to be exposed. Humility is required. Honest searching of our heart is in order. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the way everlasting. " (Psalms 139:23, 24).
When we aren't puffed with pride or hiding in justification, we become free. We become redeemed. We become refined.
The process of heart examination anchors us to depend and trust in our Creator and Redeemer. We surprisingly find security and love as we volunteer our hearts.
We are no longer bracing ourselves or resisting. That feels so amazing!
Additionally, moving toward a better relationship gives our brain structure and supervision. Our brain is in many ways like an unsupervised child operating from a place of default. When we are intentional in our pursuits, however, that deliberate concentration tells our brain what to do.
When we move toward greater love, peace, and joy, we do so from a place of abundance recognizing what we already have.
The cool thing about pursuing a happier marriage in this manner is that you will become a better person in the process. Its a win win.
Who doesn't want to feel secure? To know everything is going to be okay. You have all you need.
Sister, that security you long for...it is totally yours.
As a believer, the essence, the core of who you are is ALWAYS safe. You are always provided for in abundance.
What in your mind do you value most? What consumes your energy and your time? Where is your hope?
What you feed in your heart is what grows within you. Where your treasure is, there is your heart.
What thoughts and feelings are you feeding? Is appeasing your flesh your priority or do you fuel the spirit residing inside of you?
When our treasure and heart is on things above, we experience the full joy of our salvation and what Christ has done for us. We position our self to receive.
In this place, moths cannot destroy. Thieves cannot steal. Waters cannot drown. Pests cannot devour. Fire cannot consume. Man cannot harm.
Nothing and no one can rob you of your inheritance. You are the daughter of a king. That is your identity. Its who you are.
You are loved. You are chosen. God has plans for you. He sees you. He longs to prosper you and not to harm you.
When we know this is true, we can relax. We can live in peace and joy. We can love from a place of abundance.
Stay close to your Good Father. Focus on Him. Ask him for wisdom and He will show you what to do.
Man and circumstances may be unreliable, wavering and disappointing, but you have a constant, steady and reliable foundation.
Sometimes we just lose sight of that.
If you could feel any emotion you wanted to in your marriage TODAY what would it be?
There are so many incredible feelings available to us that we can choose to feel.
And yet, so often we choose bitterness, resentment, annoyed, or angry.
We have good reason.
He is acting stupid.
He never helps me.
He is always telling me what to do.
This is no fun.
Yet, the thing is when we choose a thought that creates an unwanted feeling, we ONLY HURT OURSELVES.
Resentment and bitterness strangle the person having the feeling. They choke you. You quit thriving.
Anger and hurt drain. They steal. They don't produce great results.
The person these feelings hurt is the person feeling them. Not the person being hated.
You can choose to feed any thought or feeling you want in your relationship, but why not choose love?
Love never fails. Its always a win. Love feels good.
You may think you are withholding love from another person, but really you are holding out on yourself.
We can love someone no matter what.
Even if they do not love us back.
When we love someone, we get to experience LOVE. The other person gets to experience their own feeling.
When you hate someone, that is a experience you are creating for yourself. You experience it alone.
What if you just loved on purpose? Regardless if someone deserves it or wants your love?
Love will never fail you.
Are you in a rut in your relationship and want things to be different than they currently are?
The reason we stay in a marital rut, is simple. It is because we don't take action. We repeat the efforts that are getting us our current experience.
The reason we don't change anything is because of a thought in our mind.
When we do take action it is because of a result we want to have.
You THINK you are doing or not doing something because of the work you have to do or the time it takes to do it. That is never the reason. The real reason is because of a thought that you are having right now.
That thought creates a feeling which then drives our action or inaction.
If you are unhappy in your marriage or life and not taking action, its because of your current thought.
Stop right now and find that thought. What is it?
Now, what feeling is that thought causing?
You want to think your husband is causing that feeling but its not true. Your thought is. How you feel is ultimately determined by what you choose to think.
So how do you get unstuck? You change your thoughts.
You cannot change your thoughts if you are not even aware of what you are thinking. And until you start paying attention, your thoughts will unintentionally run the show.
Would you give a toddler a knife and let him run around the living room while you went to work? Of course not! Yet,that is what we do with our thoughts when we don't manage them. Unintentional thinking starts running the show and then we act like we have no choice but to feel the way we are feeling.
What do you want to feel? What would you need to feel to take action? That feeling is yours.
There are so many thoughts available to you. You get to manage the thoughts running around in your mind.
Find the thought that creates the wanted feeling that leads to desired action and that my friend is how you get out of a marital rut.
If you are in a rut, change is totally possibly. I totally know how to help people get out of ruts and have better relationships and lives. Set up your free mini session.
Where we are in life proves what we are thinking. When we change our perspective, we can change our lives and our relationships.