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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.

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)

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.

 

Five Phrases that will Bring You Greater Emotional Connection

In the world of counseling, we frequently discuss relationships and how to interact with people in positive ways. I regularly am directing people to learn new communication skills that promote positive emotional connections in their relationships. Learning a new way of how to speak to others is often like learning a foreign language. It takes a long time to learn how to connect with people on a more intimate level when you are learning a foreign language or when learning how to speak in an emotionally connecting manner. Most of the people I meet were raised in homes where neither languages were taught.
The following are five positive phrases we can use with friends, family members, and coworkers to connect with them in positive ways:
1. “You should be proud of yourself for __________________ (fill in a behavior or action).” When we focus on the fact that the individual should be proud of themselves, it causes the person to take ownership of their actions instead of just hearing the ways we are proud of them. Although we may state that we are proud of them, our main focus needs to be that the individual is encouraged to take ownership of their good choices.
2. “I am sorry that you have to deal with this______________ (fill in the blank).” “That must make you feel_________ (fill in the blank with an emotion).” People need to hear that we have empathy for their situation so that they do not question the validity of their own feelings. All humans need to feel understood in order to feel emotionally connected to another person.
3. “You are good at _________________ (fill in a skill or a behavior) and I benefit from your strength in this way_________________(list how their strength impacts you).” All of us need affirmation and to know how we are impacting our world in a positive way. Are you telling people how their strengths impact you?
4. “Everyone makes mistakes, myself included, and this is what I did that was similar __________ (share a similar mistake)”. We need to hear that our mistakes are part of the normal human condition because when we do make a mistake we tend to blanket ourselves with shame. We need other caring individuals to help remove that shame by letting us see that we are not defined by our mistakes.
5. “I notice you______________ (fill in a positive action or attribute).” All people need to be recognized for their positive contributions that they bring to the world and when you recognize another individual for their contributions, they will feel loved and valued.
I have no doubt that most people reading this post wish to be more loving individuals, but most people were not taught the language of emotional connectedness. Try to introduce one of these phrases each day this week.
8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults.[a]

Dog Named Ranger

I have dog named Ranger who loves to give hugs. He has been giving hugs to people since he was a puppy. On occasion, I have brought Ranger to my offices to act as a therapy dog. He loves it. He gets to hug numerous people and some of my clients have gotten to experience their very first dog hug. It is fun to see them experience their first hug and when they are done with their session, they want more. Why do they want more? Because the love is given freely and without conditions. 

I think about my dog’s interactions with people each time I bring him home and I think about how we all crave love. We have an inborn need that has been hardwired into us that needs to feel love. So what do we do with that inborn need when those around us do not give love freely. When love comes with conditions or not at all? It is a loss when people do not know how to love us or do not know how to give love freely. Loss stirs so many unhealthy coping mechanisms to the surface . We do not wish to feel loss so we do all sorts of things to help us not feel that loss. We keep our minds occupied with tasks, the internet, TV, reading, food and alcohol to keep ourselves from feeling loss. We “busy our brain” to avoid the loss and ashes the loss has created. God promises to exchange our ashes for beauty, but rarely do we give him the ashes. Most of the time we busy ourselves with things that will distract us from the ashes of loss. It is time to stop our unhealthy coping mechanisms and take those ashes to God in prayer. It’s time to trade in the ashes of loss for the beauty that comes from God’s love.

Write a short journal entry to God today asking him to trade in these losses for beauty and write about how you need to learn to receive love in healthy ways from people around you and from him.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me. To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion–to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit–that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1a,3 Amplified)