Individual Counseling Can Help Your Marriage

This week’s lesson in marriage counseling: on the importance of individual counseling for couples’ counseling.
It’s often a surprise to couples how important or necessary concurrent individual counseling can be.
There are a least two reasons for this.

1) the hurts and unresolved issues of our individual pasts impact our marriage. Especially when you notice you’ve been stuck in a recurring conflict or pattern.

2) the effect of the hurts of the present; it’s hard to process the grief and regret of what has happened in the conflicted marriage with the one who has been the source of that hurt.

     Your spouse doesn’t even necessarily have to be unsafe or for there to be a lack of trust, sometimes being hurt and having unmet needs can make it too hard to contain the intense emotions of your spouse who is also hurt and discouraged. We sometimes say things we don’t mean or believe in grief and it can cause a lot of fear and pain for your spouse to hear those things when trust is fragile or they are not feeling hopeful and confident about themselves or the state of the marriage.
When we first come together, often our brokenness and empty places compliment the broken places and emptiness in our loved one. It feels good to be together because it feels like everything fits together like a missing puzzle piece or hand fitting in a perfectly custom fit glove.

Finally!

     But with time, the movement of life, growth, change, stress, that brokenness, those differences and unresolved issues become jagged, sharp edges that saw and grate against each other.
And we can get caught in a cycle of how we react to how much that hurts, with what we do and say, causing more hurt.
And how messy and complicated that gets is really hard to do in one couples’ counseling hour a week.

Counseling is awesome

Counseling is awesome because it makes your fears smaller and dreams bigger.

I hear amazing things sometimes in counseling, especially from introverts.
Really, counseling is like the TED Talk stage for introverts.
In those moments, what’s amazing is not that they put on a great performance.
It’s that they finally stop.
Performing.
It’s not crafted and rehearsed, they set aside the pretense and give voice to what’s true and real inside.
Unfettered.

The thing about smart people anxiety and the multi-layered introspection of introverts and creatives is that they (we) often over-estimate our fears and underestimate our strengths.

Anxiety seems so loud resounding and rolling around in our own heads.
And this is one great way that counseling is so much like writing, they both help us stay true to ourselves while at the same time, helping us discover ourselves.
They both give us perspective on what thoughts to give credence to and which are lies.
Which ones to take captive and which ones to release.
Yeah, counseling can be tough, it’s hard to see people struggle with grief and pain but I love it because I regularly get to watch people be incredibly brave and authentic and that is extremely inspiring.

The power of simple words and small beginnings

Happy New Year!

In the past few weeks you might have seen folks on social media posting about their word or theme for the year.  You can also see people writing about their resolutions and goals.  Do you have a word or goal for the year?  Here’s something I’m focusing on:

I got an early start and started writing a parenting book in December.  As of today I’ve written 24 days straight and I will write every day until I’m done.  The plan is to publish it later this year, likely in the Fall.

As I was writing this morning, I was musing about the why and how and what of writing. I’m writing to help parents, dads and mom, overcome insecurity and fear.  I’m writing about how what I’ve learned training, competing and coaching Mixed Martial Arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can help with relationships and life.  And I was struck by the question of writing enough, not just “Will it be good enough?” but “Will I say enough? Will it be long enough?”

Not only do I want to encourage parents, as presumptuous as it may sound, I want to write to change peoples’ lives.  I don’t want to shy away from that.  If I’m not writing something that could potentially change someone’s life than why bother.  I want my words to have that type of impact.

This week I started listening to Tim Grahl’s Book Launch podcast and in episode two he emphasizes that you have to believe in the book you are writing will help others.  As I’m writing, I know it will because it is helping me and what I’m writing has helped my counseling and coaching clients and patients for many years.

While writing I was listening to some worship music oo YouTube from the Passion Conference 2017 being held this week. I realized that in songs, the number of words isn’t what makes them powerful.  Complex and artful prose may be impressive but simplicity can be significant and even more helpful. I listened to 4-6 word phrases that shifted my heart and mind and I thought of other songs in my life that have changed my trajectory or kept me on track and it made me realize the number of words and pages my book isn’t the most important target to shoot for.

There is power in simple words and small beginnings.

I’ll go with you.

I’m sorry.

I have a dream.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

I’m proud of you.

You’re hired.

It’s not the critic that counts…

I will…

You don’t have to be perfect.

No.

You can do it.

I need help.  

Thank you.

You are not your past.

I forgive you.

I’m not there, yet.

God, grant me the serenity…

Welcome home.

I’ll listen.

I can’t…but I can…

Let’s start over.

I miss you. 

I love you.

Small shifts in our thinking, in our communication, in our habits can undo patterns that have been in place for decades.  Living a different way, achieving a different outcome often doesn’t just mean changing our outward behavior – the most powerful changes often involved changing what we believe and how we see ourselves.  And if we are trying to make an impact in others’ lives, just the right words, at the right time – even if it’s just a handful – can make the difference. I hope in the stories and metaphor, illustrations and teaching, of my book many of those simple phrases above will sink into my readers in new and deeper ways.  And I hope in the meantime I will write blogs here that will encourage and support you this year.

Are you beginning something this year?  Are you starting over?

What’s something simple but powerfully true that you can tell or remind yourself of today?

What’s one small habit you could start that would make a big difference in your life?

Feeling Stuck and Self-Sabotage, A Video Blog

feeling-stuck-overcoming-self-sabotage

Last month I did a daily Facebook Live video challenge on a variety of my favorite topics.

This video from Day 2 was on getting unstuck and the power of the word WHY has to either keep us stuck or to motivate us to grow and change.

It explains the importance of answering our unanswered WHY’s.

It also explores why insight, introspection and over-thinking aren’t enough to grow.

I wrote a post that offers other questions that are more effective than why?

Calling All Prodigals

perfect

God doesn’t just have a heart for prodigal sons and daughters.
He waits for prodigal parents and spouses too.

You can be going a million miles an hour and feel like you’re not going anywhere.
You can be surrounded by family and feel alone, a million miles away.
You can have a place of your own and not feel at home.

The saying goes: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Sometimes that provided strength is simply the ability to stop and ask for help.
Or the strength to look around and realize how far you’ve drifted and turn towards home.

We are all sons and daughters and dearly loved.

Starting counseling is brave and awesome

Counseling makes your fears smaller and your dreams bigger.

Counseling is awesome because it makes your fears smaller and dreams bigger.
I hear amazing things sometimes in counseling, especially from introverts.
Really, counseling is like the TED Talk stage for introverts.
In those moments, what’s amazing is not that they put on a great performance.
It’s that they finally stop.
Performing.
It’s not crafted and rehearsed, they set aside the pretense and give voice to what’s true and real inside.
Unfettered.


The thing about smart people anxiety and the multi-layered introspection of introverts and creatives is that they (we) often over-estimate our fears and underestimate our strengths.
Anxiety seems so loud resounding and rolling around in our own heads.
And this is one great way that counseling is so much like writing, they both help us stay true to ourselves while at the same time, helping us discover ourselves.
They both give us perspective on what thoughts to give credence too and which are lies.
Which ones to take captive and which ones to release.
Yeah, counseling can be tough, it’s hard to see people struggle with grief and pain but I love it because I regularly get to watch people be incredibly brave and authentic and that is extremely inspiring.

When being great parents disconnects you as a couple

Being a great parent doesn't have to cost you your marriage.Reconnecting when being awesome disconnects you.Day 3 Mental Health Awareness Month, a repost from a FB post for parents: 

In the pursuit of something awesome, like being a great parent, sometimes moms and dads become less than awesome as a spouse.
Just realized this morning, that that is something I am passionate about helping families with.
If you ever find yourself in that space, here’s something I hope will help you talk about it (and maybe skip a session or three of marriage counseling).
Make gentle invitation to a hard conversation with your spouse.
Don’t let feeling neglected, resentful and/or distant build up.
Try saying this, parts of it, or something like it:

I don’t like how this feels right now.
I don’t like where we are right now as a couple.
I miss you.
I don’t want you to feel attacked or blamed but I’m unhappy and I need your help.
I’m sorry for my part in getting us to this place.
I’d like to talk about this.
This is important to me.
I want to be close to you again.
Let’s make a time to talk about it.

Procrastination is Not Self-Care

Procrastination is not self-care.

I started this week with the plan to do some writing tonight.  I’ve been thinking about two different blog posts for the past two weeks (Social Media is the new Materialism.  Instagram is turning us into hoarders and cat ladies. And a post on the Space Between Being and Doing).  And I was feeling a bit bummed that I didn’t post a 1 year anniversary of the blog post last week.  (I did do a short Periscope video.)

§§§

This weekend it hit me: this month that I’m closer to 50 years old than I am to 40.  And I’m still not doing exactly what I’d like to be doing.

My dream or desire to be working for a church doing family, small group or counseling ministry hasn’t happened yet.

But maybe I’m doing what I need to be doing for now.

Maybe I need to keep working at counseling, coaching, writing and speaking in the places and with the people I have right in front of me and keep improving to serve the church of Portland as a whole.  Instead of on staff with one church.

§§§

This post almost didn’t happen.  After getting home and eating dinner, I ended up procastinating instead of writing.

I watched the rest of the SpongeBob Squarepants movie and some of 50th Anniversary episodes of Doctor Who with my daughter.

But then we came across this great TED Talk by Tim Urban: Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator

It is hilarious!  It’s not only humorous, it’s also a powerful talk by a guy who gets it what procrastinators think and feel.

While listening, it hit me, “Procrastination is not self-care.”

I’ll be writing more on self-care and the healthy rhythm between Being and Doing soon but that idea, Procrastination is not self-care, I think is a gamechanger for me.  The resulting feelings when I procrastinate compared to when I take care of myself in a healthy way, are worlds apart.

If you struggle with procrastination, I think this video will help you see procrastination in a new, humorous light.

It helped me hop on here real quick and I’m looking forward to getting to those two other posts here soon.

Is there anything you are procrastinating on these days?

Day 6 Where I ask you to share my blog

For my fellow fathers- A question and A story

It’s Day 6 of the Blog Like A Pro Challenge

It’s also the first full day of Spring Break, yay!

Today’s assignment is to ask folks to share my blog and I’m linking a handful of my top posts below for you to check out.

But first another question and storytime.

I wrote this earlier this week but wasn’t sure about sharing it because it may seem strange if you are a new reader and because I feel like I’ve already filled my transparency and vulnerability quote for the week (or month).

Here’s what I wrote initially:

§§§

Guys, I have a question that I’ve been wondering about for 4-5 months.
I’ve been hesitant to ask but it keeps coming up.
Those of you that know me, know I love families and parents and try to help with the challenges of parenting and marriage, right?
Here’s the thing, besides folks who come to me for counseling, I can count on one hand the dads that have asked me about parenting and being a dad.
And half of that was when we had only Katherine, before I went to seminary for counseling.
And that is confusing and sad to me, because it’s something that is so important to me.
I’d love to encourage men to be there for their kids, to be an awesome dad.
And I’ve literally had the chance twice a decade to have that conversation.


So, my question is: Why do you think that is?

I can’t believe dads don’t care.
And I like to think I’m not unapproachable.
But am I?

I realize I may be just be taking this too personal and maybe that’s just how guys are (that’s how I am) with asking for help or talking to other guys and dads about being a father.
But it’s the part I can control. So, if there’s something I could be doing differently to be helpful, I would love for you to let me know.

§§§

I’ve realized a few things since then:

  1. I haven’t asked many other men about parenting myself.  When I have parenting questions I’ve usually gone to books for advice.
  2. Maybe it isn’t just me, maybe this just isn’t something guys do.
  3. One reason this question is so important to me is my desire to find men to mentor, to pass on some lessons I’ve learned.
  4. I’m not alone.  I’ve connected with a few other dads who are blogging on fatherhood and marriage.  I’m grateful.
  5. Because of #1, I want to write and blog to encourage men because that is probably the most likely way to reach and encourage them.  Pretty motivating.

§§§

Here’s the rest of what I wrote earlier this week:

Sometimes Julie and I have folks compliment us on how the kids are doing.
And sometimes I cringe-smile.
Not that there wasn’t a lot grace and love and hardwork involved but
that there was also a lot of fear and insecurity that goes into that too.
And I want to tell people, we are so much the same.
We are as similar as we are different.

20 years ago, Julie was pregnant with Katherine.
I don’t remember much but I do remember being pretty excited and pretty scared at being a dad.
We found out she was a girl, that we had a daughter, when she was born. It was the most amazing thing!
And I was terrified at having a daughter!
I think one thing I’ve done well as a dad is to allow my deep inadequacy to be replaced by the sense of deep dependency on God’s great sufficiency in every challenge that we face as a family.

I wish I had learned that sooner.

Because when my fears and worries were or become the most important thing and distract me from God’s direction and sovereignty, that doesn’t usually go well.

We limit our kids when we give into our fears.
I’m learning that I don’t want my kids to necessarily experience less pain or struggle than me,
I want them
to be braver at life than me.
To have more faith and hope.
And I am very proud that they are, they do.
Or they are well on their way.

We’ve learned a few other things but wanted to share that today.

§§§

So guys (thanks if you’ve read this far) I’m asking you to share this blog but not just for me, for my sake, I’m asking you to think of a father who might be encouraged by this blog, a married couple who might be struggling, a man who may not be a father yet and share this with them.  Maybe they’re like me and find it hard to open up about their kids (For me, it’s easier to talk about porn) or ask for help.

If you are a father and husband who share this same passion and desire to encourage others, I’m asking you to comment, share your blog, let me know you feel me because I need to know you’re out there.  I know I can’t give up on men, because I know how important it is, what’s at stake for families but sometimes I just think it’d be easier to just focus on other things.

Here’s a few of my top or favorite posts:

Do you have what it takes? – for writers, creatives and procrastinators

One on porn

One on listening to your spouse

One on will marriage counseling help?

and another one for when your marriage drifts, with a video

One on Pixar’s Inside Out and Parenting

My top post so far – A letter to my daughters on dating

Coaching Giveaway: Day 5 Blog Like A Pro Challenge

Coaching Give Away (1)

Happy Friday!  It’s Day 5 of Jeff Goin’s Blog Like A Pro Challenge.

I was sick yesterday and didn’t find a place to guest post for Day 4’s challenge. Hopefully will be able to do that someday soon.

For today’s challenge Jeff encouraged us to Be Generous and give something away.

I’m still working on my short ebook and will be giving that away to folks who sign up for updates to the blog but in the meantime I would like to offer a 45 min coaching call for anyone who wants to work on any goal they are thinking about, or are currently, working on.

My ebook will be on Bridging the Gap between where you are and where you want to be.  You can get a little preview of it, I taught an adult education class recently at church on it.

Regardless of where you are in the process of changing something in your life I can help you take the next step.  You may know what you want to change and work on.  You may not.

I’ll help you explore your values and strengths, your motivation, your barriers, the resources and support you have available, your commitment and help choose the next best steps.

I do this dozens of times a week with my patients and clients.

If you’re interested just comment below.  If you’re brave, feel free to share what you’d like to work on, even if you’re just thinking about it.  If you’ve got a handful of things and don’t know where to start I can help you narrow it down, prioritize and pick one.

I’ll pick winner at random, Sunday evening 3/20/16.

If there’s enough interest, I may do a group coaching video on Periscope, so let me know if you’d be interested in that too.

You can view some of the Periscopes I’ve done here on my Katch Page.