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Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships

Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships

I had a funny dream the other night. In the dream, I was at a hair salon getting a service done to my hair and the price quoted to me kept changing until the time of payment. The price quoted went from $30 to $300, $30,000, and finally $300,000!  Obviously, the whole dream was ridiculous, but when I woke myself up from the dream, I thought about our current podcast on Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships and how small choices can cost us much more than we could ever have imagined.

If you have ever been in an emotionally unhealthy dating relationship or marriage, you understand there are emotional, social, physical, financial and spiritual costs to unhealthy relationships that we never could have comprehended at the time that we agreed to the start relationship.  The problem is that we can only know what we have been taught or have seen modeled. Most of the time, we don’t really know our issues or the issues of others until we are fully invested in an intimate relationship with that person. Intimacy with someone seems to pull out the unresolved issues of our childhood. Did we have controlling or abusive parents?  Were your parents co-dependent with others? Did our parents give us a voice to say what we thought, felt, or wanted to choose? Were we modeled healthy conflict resolution in our childhood home? Your attachment pattern was established in the first three years of your life and your worldview was formed in the first twelve years of your life. Consequently, we really need to resolve and receiving healing from the wounds of our childhood before we enter into a relationship with someone so they do not affect others. There is hope! You can be restored! You can be healed! Your relationships can be repaired! However, this will involve the uncomfortable process of ripping off the band-aid that covers these childhood wounds and allowing yourself to receive healing and learning new skills and ways of doing things.

Do not be deceived, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you according to Philippians 4:13. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss eleven different elements that make a relationship emotionally healthy.

Do You Stink?

Do You Stink?

Recently the power went out in the building where I work and I wound up having to do three counseling sessions via candlelight that night.  The candle lighting was subtle, however, the fumes from the five different candles were so overwhelming that they overpowered my sense of smell.  I was so overcome by the fumes to the point that I questioned whether I was high by the end of the evening.  One scent may have been tolerable over the course of three hours, but five different scents were toxic. I had that smell burned into my olfactory sense for days!

Since that evening, I have been thinking of the aroma that I and others emit.  We know we can be overpowered by someone’s bad breath or body odor, but we can also be overpowered by someone’s “emotional” smell.  Sometimes the emotional aroma is so powerful that it can affect those with whom we share life. How do we “emotionally smell” to others?  I tell my family when they are emitting unpleasant physical smells so that they have the opportunity to do something about their aroma.  The truth is that unless you are middle school boy who finds terrible smells amusing because you can annoy others, most people do not want to smell unpleasant to others.

I remember the days of my perfectionism when it came to entertaining people in our home.  Nobody in our home except our guests experienced the event with great joy because the aroma of tension, anger, and anxiety filled our house before our guests arrived. I needed things to be perfect!  My family was forced to take in my unresolved emotional issues of perfectionism and they had to experience the unpleasant aroma I was producing.  Fast forward twenty plus years, and I and my family are in a much different place. I have empowered them to tell me their feelings when my behavior aroma is negatively impacting them.

Here are the steps you need to take to create a more pleasing aroma in your relationships:

1. Talk about and use vulnerable feeling words within your home. This will enable your children to learn the language of feelings at a young age. Then, they can openly talk about the unpleasant things they are experiencing from you instead of acting out their emotions.

2. Permit your family and friends to let you know when you stink.

3. Take the feedback given to you and ask yourself if there is a way you can be a more pleasing aroma. You may need to work on your issues to eliminate those unpleasant emotional aromas!

4.  Don’t make excuses for the way you smell by blaming it on others or by focusing on someone else’s smell.  If you want to be a pleasing aroma, you need to work on your own scent.

5.  If someone else stinks, you have a choice of how much you allow their unpleasant aroma to affect you.  If you walk in relationship with them, you are responsible for telling them about their offensive aroma. However, it is not your job to convince them of their smell or tell them what to do with it. You only have to choose how close you sit to them.

God calls us to be a pleasing aroma.  He says in Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full

You Cannot be Knocked Over Easily When Your Water Bottle is Full

 

I am not sure if anyone ever told you that you were a water bottle, but you are.   When your water bottle is full, it cannot be tipped over easily; however, when your water bottle is empty, you will be more readily knocked down physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  When you are born your body is about 78% water, and by the time you are an adult, men need their body to have a water hydration level of 50-60% and women need their water hydration levels to be 45-60%.  Water runs all of the systems of our physical body including our brain, and we need to take in water to keep our systems running in a healthy manner. This is a good correlation to keeping yourself hydrated spiritually and emotionally; if you’re not hydrating yourself in these way, then when troubles come, you will be knocked to the ground easily.  When you are hydrating yourself emotionally and spiritually, you will make better choices in the care of self and others, but when you are not…well, the consequences are apparent. I believe that from the moment you are born, you have needs and longings that are hardwired into you from your very creation. From the moment a baby is born they are crying to have their physical and emotional longings fulfilled, but somewhere along the way, we learn to suppress those longings and we use addictions and control of various things as a means of suppressing those longings.  However, no person can fulfill all the longings of another, and thus we have a puzzle of how to let in our spiritual creator and other safe humans to take care of these longings. Proverbs 13:19 states that a longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but most people who have no idea what they have natural longings for because they have been suppressing those longings for so long. When your needs and longings have received the emotional and spiritual water they need to to be healthy, you will make better emotional and spiritual choices and will be less likely to medicate or control things in life.  What do you need today to fill your water bottle? Here is my general list of emotional and spiritual elements people needs. What would you add to the list?

 

⚪Healthy Touch like a safe hug, a comforting hold, holding hands, snuggling

⚪To be heard- talking with someone who listens so I feel valued and heard

⚪Affirmation – need to hear something good about myself

⚪Joy – a good laugh, doing something I love, being with people who are joyful, having a spiritual experience, singing

⚪A need to create – art, music, dance, write, decorate, cleaning, organizing, building,  fixing.

⚪Peace – quiet, alone time, a nap, a bath, etc.

⚪Beauty – Outdoors time, beautiful things, color

⚪Passion – something to get excited about, vision, new experience, new knowledge

⚪To feel useful- to feel like I am making a positive impact on my world

⚪Other ______________________________________________

 

You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abound in glory that just pours out into eternity. Phil. 4:20 (MSG)

How to Stop Leaking onto Others and Yourself

What is it about the American culture that makes us feel powerless whenever we feel emotional pain? It seems that we have grown weaker in our ability to feel pain with someone, to walk someone through pain, and/or deal with painful topics because it triggers our own painful experiences from our past. We somehow have come to the place where we avoid topics and conversations that are painful for fear of how the other person will react, and so we stay in a powerless place instead of dealing with that which is painful. We have been talking about powerlessness in our communication a lot this week in my office. Our words can reflect powerlessness through the need to argue, correct someone or devalue what someone states because whatever they are saying is triggering emotional pain in us. For example, we may have an unexpected event occur at work, and we leave work feeling powerless and arrive home only to be argumentative, critical or disagreeable with our family or friends. If we were able to express our powerlessness and what we need to our family and friends upon our arrival home, much of our reactions would have been averted. So, how do we keep our own powerlessness and triggers from seeping out onto those whom we interact? Self-awareness is the answer. Self-awareness allows us to understand what we can and cannot deal with on any given day. Jesus himself was very self-aware. He knew what he could and could not deal with on any given day and instead of taking back his power in how he communicated with his friends, he stated what he needed for himself and he stated what he could or could not do. Jesus never needed to argue a point to prove he was right because he simply knew what he needed. Self-awareness is built by daily reflection on my own emotional and spiritual state and moving toward the things that will fill the need or void. When I fail to do self-reflection, I put myself in a position where I will be surprised by how I interact with a person, surprised in my yielding to a temptation or feeling unfulfilled. It’s time to reflect on what you are feeling and needing so that we can walk one another through difficult times instead of reacting to people. So what are you feeling today? What do you need?

“Find a quiet, secluded place, so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:6 Msg)

Transitioning with Your Family Flock

This morning, there were many Canadian geese flying through the sky and honking at each other, and it was downright noisy as they passed over my head. After the raucous choir overhead had left me, I decided to investigate on the internet why they were all honking to one another. I found it interesting to read the various reasons they were honking at one another; the main reason being they are family members communicating during a flight to keep everyone together. This communication process is right for humans in changing seasons as well as Canadian geese! What once I was able to do while grounded is not what I can do while I am in the process of moving with the changing seasons. As people change and as the season of life changes, the amount of communication with family and friends needs to increase; otherwise, people will get confused as to where they are going and what is happening. My household is in the midst of several huge changes and the level and detail of conversation have had to increase for everyone to be aware of the path we are taking and what will need to happen during these changes that are different than they were in the past. Here is a brief list of what needs to occur in family (flock) communication and positioning if you are in the midst of some significant change of seasons:

1. Flock members need to communicate more on their whereabouts and simple day-to-day planning more than usual so that anxiety is not heightened by a lack of communication on simple things. Geese communicate in flight much more than on the ground.
2. Flock members need to honestly share their emotional state during the transition so that others do not misunderstand their silence or “excessive honking” as something other than what is occurring. While isolation can be comfortable during phases of being overwhelmed, greater depth of vocalization needs to happen.

3. Flock members will require more love and reassurance during times of transition. Do you know your family member’s love language? You need to give them what they need, not what feels good to you. If you are not a hugger, but your family member needs physical affection, then you need to give them what they need and vice versa. Geese communicate in many different ways in flight, sometimes as means of reassuring other flock members of their presence.
4. Flock members need a general roadmap of where this transition is taking them and how it will affect them. Before moving south for the winter, families of geese practice flights of various lengths to become confident in traveling as a group. What does practice look like when it comes to transition during different seasons?
5. Flock members will need more rest during migration due to the toll the change is taking on them. Planning large chunks of rest is necessary and essential to the completion of the transition.
6. We will need people to move with us through the change of seasons, but the group size will be smaller than it was when grounded.
7. A greater need for contact with the Creator is required during a transition. Just as Canadian Geese flying south for the winter is an awe-inspiring endeavor that God orchestrated when he created them, we need time to interact with the God of creation to move in the right direction.

• Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

Relationship Change is Exhausting and Invigorating – Just Like Moving.

Around this time last year I moved. It was exhausting and difficult, and every day I crawled in bed close to tears. Change is hard on so many levels and this is true in relationships as well as household changes. I was recently reflecting on how difficult it can be to change how you relate to your spouse when you have related in the same ways for so many years. Like moving, transition in relationships can be hard. You have to decide what you are going to keep and discard in your relationship transition. As people grow and change, what they need in the new relationship is not necessarily what was needed in the past. Many changes in the course of a marriage will impact what the marriage needs and what each person needs as time marches forward. Births, deaths, illness, the ages of your children, the work status of each person, spiritual crisis, emotional crisis, extended family issues, holidays and many other things will impact how your relationship needs to transition. The new relationship will require both parties to move around how they had positioned themselves toward one another. Rare is the occasion when how the furniture was positioned one house can be positioned in the same way in the new location. In all relationships moving, to the new way it is to exist will require some difficult conversations often filled with pain and hurt. The pain and hurt is usually so large that it is exhausting for the couple and yet they must push through the pain and exhaustion to get to the other side. One person cannot move the relationship alone. You just cannot carry the relationship to the new without both parties doing the heavy lifting and feeling the pain, but that is a hard task. Rare is the person who embraces emotional pain and allows themselves to sit in it until it can be moved and yet it is what is necessary to make the move together. Relationships cannot be moved to the new alone, but they require heavy lifting, pain and exhaustion close to tears. We cannot do it alone. We need the supernatural medicating power of God to assist us through all transitions as he has the power that we can lean into when we do not feel it in and of ourselves.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

 

Secret Garden

When I was a child, I loved to read and one of my favorite books (besides the Nancy Drew series) was “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The story details all the discoveries of a girl when she moves in with distant relatives who she had never met. One of the main character’s discoveries is that of a secret garden that had been locked up and untended for many years due to the pain of loss tied to that garden for her family. I had a similar discovery of a secret garden recently when doing yard work at our new home. For whatever reason, the previous owners allowed the weeds of the wetlands that back up to our house to take over a rose garden that had been planted and landscaped; we did not realize the rose garden existed until things began to bloom and we began tending our flower beds. It was a small discovery that brought me joy on a number of levels because it reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books. It made me wonder to myself what else has yet to be discovered! The concept of secret gardens exists in people as well as gardens. There is so much beauty that has been locked up, hidden and undiscovered due to losses individuals have endured throughout the course of their life. I am constantly challenging individuals to pull away all the weeds and briars that they have allowed to cover up the beautiful aspects of their being. The painful briars that keep the beautiful things guarded are the same painful briars that keep us from enjoying the beauty. Most people will respond to my challenges by saying it’s just too painful or too hard to remove the walls, but when given assistance by those around them that also want to see the beautiful parts of the individual uncovered, they can allow the progress to occur. Finding discoveries of hidden beauty in people is not uncommon but finding assistance in helping to remove the painful briars of protection can be. When was the last time you complimented an individual on something emotionally, spiritually or physically beautiful about that person? We need people to pull the beauty out of us and with us; otherwise, the weeds of life that come with loss and trauma slowly choke out the beauty. God can help us, but we must also tend to our gardens, The Bible says it this way: 1 Corinthians 3:9 Amplified Bible (AMP) 9 “For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building.” Go pull some weeds today so that the beauty of who you were created to be can be visible to yourself and others. Stop keeping your beauty in a secret garden.

 

The Paradox to Vulnerability

I was rude to several people yesterday while attending church. During the official greeting time of the church service, I refused to shake their hands. My rudeness was a really a desire to protect people from the head cold I have had for the last week. As I was greeting each person, instead of shaking their hand, I would place my palms in front of me as if in the surrender position and declared to each person, “I do not want to give you my cold germs.” Each person I greeted me thanked me for not shaking their hand.

How many times do we do what is socially polite with people instead of doing what we really feel we need to say? How many times do you ache to say how you really feel or what you really struggle with inside of your head? We tend to worry how people will perceive us if we share the “sick” parts of ourselves and worry how our “stuff” will impact others so we do not share. We probably will not be able to change the longevity and strength of our physical illness by sharing our germs with others. However, we can significantly impact the longevity of our emotional suffering if we share our story with safe people. This is one of the most powerful aspects of the counseling room. Counseling is sharing our story with an individual who will extend grace and healing to those parts of our story that we share with them.

There is a paradox to the vulnerable sharing of our story with others. At the same moment our chance of being hurt increases is the same moment that fresh and new perspective can occur. If we never share our story, we are assured us that that part of our story will not receive further hurt, but it almost always assures us that new life will not be able to touch that part of our story. The benefits outweigh the risks on the balance scale. If we want new life to be the byproduct of two people sharing, then we must vulnerably share our story and hear new perspective with safe people and with God.

Who are the safe people from whom you are hiding your story today?

Pray with me today.

“God, I need to grow in my ability to share my story with others so that new life can occur. Please help me identify the people, the times, and the places I can share my story today and the rest of this week. My motivation is to receive new life into the parts of myself that need new life and to break the grip of shame that keeps me hidden and not moving. I choose to trust that my sharing with safe people and you God will produce new life in me.”

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Three Tools to Help You Begin to be More Vulnerable with People in Conversation

1. Do not allow yourself to give a pat answer to a friend who is asking you how you are doing. This would include responses such as “fine”, “good” and ” fine, how are you?” Many people have been taught that polite conversation is appropriate in all situations. Yes, it is good manners in general society, but when it comes to friendship, it sends the message that you are walled off.

2. Include some mention of how you are doing emotionally. ” Feeling words” will evoke a sense of opening up to the person on the receiving end of the response.

3. Answer in small paragraph form. For example, instead of replying with your standard ” fine, how are you? ” response you could respond by saying something like; ” I am really worn out emotionally and physically from staying up with sick children this week. The whole week has made me feel a bit POWERLESS.” A vulnerable word such as powerless will invite people who are safe into your vulnerable world.