family

How to Have a Healthy Relationship

I was honored to be a resource for this article by Meg Scanlon. Check it out for some specific and practical tips:

https://lovetv.co/how-our-brains-are-designed-to-look-for-whats-wrong/

Jerry & Barb by tree.jpg

How Our Brains Are Designed To Look For What’s Wrong

How Our Brains Are Designed To Look For What’s Wrong

20 Sep

How to turn it around in a relationship

We all want to live our best lives and have the healthiest relationships possible. But we may not know how to get there and what to do. I spoke with Barbra Russell, MA a counselor, speaker and author of Yes! I Said No! about how we can create and maintain a relationship of optimal wellness.

Creating Boundaries

We know that boundaries are important. We understand that we should have them and we know when it feels like someone has crossed them. But how do we set and maintain good boundaries? The biggest fear most people have with boundaries is coming across as rude, harsh or mean, especially when it is someone we care deeply about. We may also worry that we may hurt someone’s feelings or that they may not want to continue to have a relationship with them if we have a serious discussion about boundaries. We want to compromise, but we also need for our own needs to be met. 

Barbra Russell gives us 3 steps to follow when setting a boundary. 

“Step 1: Say what you don’t like (without attacking the others character) Step 2: Say what you want (specifically) Step 3: Set a consequence.”

This sounds pretty simple, but let’s look at exactly how to put it into practice. Barbra explains two examples. Here is an example of a woman who might set a boundary, “Step 1: We’ve been so busy, we don’t take time to show affection and that’s important to me. 

Step 2:So I’d like for you to kiss me every morning before work and we talk to each other for at least half an hour after the kids are asleep. Step 3: I’ll remind you for a few times until we make this a habit.” 

Here is an example of a boundary a man might set, according to Barbra, “Step 1: I need time to myself when I first come home from work so I can clear my mind.

Step 2: I’d like 30 minutes of quiet time before I help with dinner or with the kids. Step 3.I’ll go into my ‘man cave’ every day for 30 minutes.” 

It can feel scary or needy to ask for more affection or for time away from your significant other and kids. We may worry we will hurt their feelings or make them feel judged or criticized. But if we don’t communicate our needs, we can feel stressed or resentful and that can be toxic to a healthy relationship. 

When expressing what you don’t like, try to make it a request that your partner can easily fulfill. Try to keep emotions such as anger, frustration, etc out of the equation. Make sure what you want is something reasonable and specific. The consequence should not skew negative. It may take some time to put the new actions into place, since it can take some time to change and break a habit. So be patient and kind to your partner as this transition is happening. Also ask for your partner to be patient with you. 

Communication Between The Sexes

Communicating with anyone can be hard, and there are some fundamental differences in how men and women think and communicate. Understanding these differences can help us feel more seen and heard. Barbra explains it very clearly, “She ‘connects’ more memories, words and thoughts faster, and tends to talk ‘in  circles,’ bringing up one thing, then another before arriving at the final thought or solution. His brain works more efficiently, thinking in a ‘straight line,’ solving a problem by quickly giving advice or a solution.” 

Communicate directly what you want from your partner. Barbra gives the examples, “She says, ‘I just need you to listen, while I talk this through.’ He instructs, ‘Write down what you need me to do, because I’m likely to forget.”

Again, ask for what you want and communicate what you think can be helpful to your relationship. Make sure it is a request and an actionable step, such as writing something down or listening as someone processes their thoughts. Keep any judgements out if, you don’t want to judge your partner for thinking and processing things differently that you do. Use positive reinforcement to encourage each other. 

One main reward is your relationship will probably start to feel easier and you will both feel more supported. Compliment each other frequently and let them know how much you appreciate them doing what you asked for and explain how it makes you feel so much better. 

This is a process, so patience is key. Understanding these communication differences can help same sex couples and can also help you communicate in friendships as well. If you identify as gender fluid or non-binary then you may find yourself falling somewhere along this spectrum. 

How Our Brains Look For What’s Wrong

Sometimes couples that have been together for a while start to focus more on the negative aspects of their relationship and less on the positive ones. They may lose sight of what brought them together initially. 

This can become even more challenging as couples build a life together, raise children together, focus on extended family and career obligations. Barbra states, “Our brains are designed to look for what’s wrong – a survival mechanism to keep us alive – but in a relationship, the ratio often becomes 90:10, with the 90% of what’s right, what you like about the other person is taken for granted and we focus on the 10% — what you don’t like, what’s irritating, etc.” This can start a negative pattern or downward spiral. Barbra explains, “What you focus on gets bigger.  Therefore, the more you focus on what’s wrong, the bigger problem that becomes.” We have all experienced this in other aspects of our lives as well, where we focus on the negative and the problem spirals. We can begin to feel discouraged or even hopeless that our situation can change.

Barbra offers some helpful solutions, “Compliment more than you complain.” If you find yourself complaining alot, take a step back and try to turn the situation around. Try to compliment your partner on what they are doing well and make them feel appreciated for all of their positive qualities. 

Her second tip is, “Do the things you used to do that made them fall in love.” Maybe you used to go on dates to your favorite restaurant in the beginning but now you don’t anymore because you’d have to get a sitter. Or maybe you used to cook together, but with work schedules you don’t have the time. Try to make an effort to do these things together to make you feel more connected and to just have more fun together. 

Lastly, Barbra states,”Provide safety by listening before you talk.” Let your partner get their full ideas out there before responding. Try not to interrupt. It can be easy to get defensive or feel misunderstood. Even if you don’t agree with their comment, try to really see their point of view and why they may feel this way. You want to get to a resolution and both be understood, not be right or wrong or assign blame. 

Trying It Out

Personally I used to be more hesitant to bring up these conversations for fear of hurting the other person’s feelings or worrying how they would react. I also felt like I didn’t know how to communicate what I wanted to say in the most productive way.  But then I would feel as though the issues would remain and that was stressful in it’s own way. Learning how to communicate in a positive and healthy way has made me feel like my relationships are stronger. 

Try using these skills in your relationships and see if you feel more confident and positive about your relationship and yourself. Being a great communicator can help you not only in your romantic relationships, but friendships, family and work relationships. Setting boundaries and having a positive mindset can make you feel like the best version of yourself. 

About The Author

Meg Scanlon - Meg Scanlon is a writer, actor, improvisor and creator of the comedy website ALittleBitFunny.com. Her work can be seen on Funny or Die, Bark Post, Taste of Home, The List, Home Life Media and Bridgehead Media. She loves flamingos, palm trees, pizza, binge watching Netflix and her really awesome dog Jack. Twitter: @meganrscanlon | Website: www.alittlebitfunny.com | Instagram: megscanlon


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Four Christmas Killers

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Four Christmas killers:

 

1.  Rushing

2. Living in anxiety

3. Doing too much

4. Forgetting our greatest gift is who we are, not what we do

Four antidotes:

 

1.  Make a list of what needs to be done, then say “there is plenty of time.“

2. Make time to breathe deeply three times a day

3. Learn to say no – I know a good book for that!

4. Every day be grateful for the abilities you have

Cancer Saved My Life

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Cancer Saved My Life

With a sense of wonder and awe, our son said, “I just realized that cancer saved my life.”

“That’s a strange statement, “I thought, but upon reflection, I had to admit it was true.  We had been reminiscing during the Thanksgiving season about the major physical challenges Dane has endured.

It all began when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  As you can imagine, our family immediately experienced the fear, doubt and questions about why God let this happen.  Why did this healthy young man who had served God all his life be struck with cancer?  In spite of our prayers, the cancer didn’t miraculously disappear.   Unable, of course, to answer those unanswerable questions, Dane followed the doctor’s recommendation to have immediate surgery to remove the malignant organ.

Then, as if that bombshell wasn’t enough to deal with, the anesthesiologist found a problem with his heart. And that problem required open-heart surgery.

 Open heart surgery? Really, God? What’s up with this? Hasn’t he gone through enough?

Probably others facing such life-threatening news or continuing problems can fully understand the wide range of emotions we all rode like a wild carnival ride roller coaster. 

Once again, we prayed for a miracle.  We hoped for a miracle.  We believed for a miracle.  But nothing seemed to change.      

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  Dane still had to undergo two major surgeries and all the rehabilitation required afterward.   

We didn’t fully realize that a miracle had happened until years later.

 I believe that can happen to anyone. When you are going through struggles, especially ones that stick around, it’s hard to see that anything good is happening.  How many people despair after years of seemingly unanswered prayers?

  •        Are you still struggling with a health issue?

  •         Do you have a dream that God has not yet granted?

  •         Do you have other prayers that have not been answered?

You, like Dane, may not realize that God is working a miracle on your behalf. And this Thanksgiving that’s what Dane realized.  First, it was a miracle his thyroid cancer was even discovered. The doctor said usually this condition is not discovered until it’s too late.  Secondly, because he had to have surgery, the problem with his heart valve was discovered. Either one of those conditions was a silent killer, waiting to pounce suddenly, without warning.

            But a miracle did happen and, as Dane declared, “ cancer saved my life.”

            Don’t get discouraged when you think God has forgotten you; it may be years later that you look back and realize a miracle happened. It might even show up as cancer.

 Barbra Russell, MA, LPC                                                    

                                   

Five Tips for Summer Fun

Five Tips For Summer Fun

    The Potter's House of Denver's staff and leadership team recently filmed a promotion for the upcoming all-church Summer Blast, an event with food, games, and ministry opportunities.  Our pastor emphasized this was to be a time of joy and laughter, and the video needed to demonstrate that.  

    Under the TV Ministry’s direction, we released balloons, squirted each other – and the pastor - with water pistols and super-soakers as well as water balloons.  We acted like kids at a water park and sure enough, we had great fun!  We also experienced joy, laughter and a true spirit of camaraderie as we worked together to show people having fun together.    

    You might not undertake something so elaborate, but you can easily and inexpensively find ways for your own family to spend time together laughing, learning and creating warm memories.

    Here are some ideas:

  • Have your own water fight – you can buy a few water pistols, splash in the pool or spray each other with the garden hose.  Kids especially love to drench mom and dad, and laughter is guaranteed.

  • Become a tourist in your own state.  My husband grew up in Arizona but never visited the Grand Canyon until he moved away.  We live in Colorado, but it was our friends from Texas who introduced us to some fantastic mountain scenery.

Hanging Lake by Glenwood Springs CO

Hanging Lake by Glenwood Springs CO

       

  • Create memorable moments.  I’ll always remember the Sunday morning we were traveling with a group of church friends and stopped by the side of the road overlooking Ouray, “The Little Switzerland of Colorado.”  We shared a loaf of bread and bottle of grape juice as we participated in communion.  Memorable?  You bet!  It just took a little planning and stopping by the grocery store.  

  • Give the gift of an experience.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear that my young niece preferred going with her mom for a manicure and pedicure than to receive the normal “birthday present.”  When you offer an older child the choice of a gift or an experience, you might be amazed yourself when they choose a new adventure.    

  • Learn  and play -  A day with mom or dad learning how to prepare dinner or ride a bike is a wonderful treat for both the adults and the kids.  Little girls love to play “grown-up,” go to the grocery store, get all the ingredients for a meal and then fix it, messes and all.  And my grown son still remembers as a boy how his dad spent one summer teaching him how to throw a football, practicing again and again until he got it right.  

  What can you do this summer to ensure you have lots of laughter, fun and memorable moments?  You don’t have to take a world cruise or go to Disneyland; have a water fight in your own backyard!

 

                                    


 

True Love, Marriage Advice and Wisdom of the Years

My nephew and niece's daughter (does that make her my grand niece?) is getting married this month and I was asked to provide some marriage advice for the newlyweds.

In my years as a counselor, teacher and married woman myself, I thought this would be good to pass on:

To The Groom: Remember to step up and speak up; it's important to say what's on your mind, whether that's how much you love her or how much something is bothering you. Both pay off in the long run! It's also important to keep doing the things which made her fall in love with you, so if you need to set a reminder on your calendar for 6 months or 6 years from now, you'll still be planning special occasions, or sending flowers or whatever it is you do!

To The Bride: For most women, we have to remember to shut up! Because of the way we're wired, we tend to look for what's wrong and what needs to be fixed and point that out -- and keep pointing it out! But men will begin to shut down and not talk about real things if they feel whatever they say will be criticized or whatever they do is never enough.

Here's wishing you will both experience many years of love, happiness, respect and honor.

#truelove #marriageadvice #wisdomofmanyyears

We married, then started dating

We had our first real date on Valentine's Day, he proposed a month later, 3 months later got married then started dating😃😊😳💕❤. While I don't recommend that as a usual practice, it did set the stage for us to keep learning about each other and we were determined to make it! 2 helps? Learning about and respecting personalities and using gender communication humor- "that's my female brain talking" and "that's just my male brain that forgot." No sitting in rockers on the porch for us - nope, working, playing and making a difference- that's the Russell Plan. 

What are your helps to stay married?

What are you plans for your future? 

Would love to hear from you:  barb@barbrarussell.com

“What Did You Mean By That?”

couple design over white background vector illustration
couple design over white background vector illustration

What did you mean by that?”  Bob’s question took Susan totally by surprise because he had never asked her that before.  But his tone was so respectful, with a genuine “I- really- want- to know” attitude that she quickly recovered and they began to discuss an earlier conversation.  As they talked, both realized he had misunderstood her meaning and intention.

It was a good thing he asked the question.

After a few minutes’ discussion, the confusion was resolved.  They both exclaimed, almost at the same time: “Hey!  This is way different from what we’ve done before! ”

That prompted Susan to inquire, “How did you think to ask me that, Bob?  It was so helpful.”

“I decided I’d do things in a healthy way, too” he answered, referring to her new-found skills discovered through counseling.  They discussed what they previously did when there was such miscommunication between them.  They’d either fight, or go to their respective “corners” and not talk at all for days, both reeling from hurt feelings and misperceived motives.

This interaction between them inspired Bob to try that phrase at work as well.  It wasn’t long before he had an opportunity to ask a co-worker, “What did you mean by that?”  They found a solution by first discussing the issue with his co-worker, then the supervisor.

Once again, a potentially ugly or explosive situation was resolved.  Bob just shook his head as he reflected on how things often happened at work.  Guys wound up leaving their jobs or remaining miserably unhappy and feeling trapped, all for the lack of using six words.  “What did you mean by that?”

I recently heard a respected speaker utter this well-known phrase:    [bctt tweet=" “I wouldn’t be divorced today had I known then what I know now.” " username="@BarbERuss"]

One of the things he said is that he, like Bob, needed to let his wife know when he was unhappy.  In that first marriage it seemed other things he tried never worked.  So, one day in hopeless despair, he left.  He had come to a lot of conclusions about the futility of things changing and didn’t know at that time how to even bring up the subject.

All too often, guys feel they must just “suck it up” when they are displeased with what’s going on, whether at home or at work.  They’re fearful of the confrontation that will likely follow.  And just as often, wives or bosses don’t make it safe to say anything when they look for what’s wrong and criticize more than they compliment.

We have a long history in the West of the strong, silent man.   For many years, guys have absorbed this mantra:  “Real men don’t eat quiche, they don’t ask for directions, and they certainly don’t ask for help!”

daniel boone
daniel boone

Daniel Boone declared, “I was never lost but I was powerfully bewildered once for three days.” As goes the Pioneering Western man, so goes the Modern man!"

So what are men and women to do?  I, of course, always suggest counseling to couples but often men don’t like that idea.  It doesn’t fit into the creed that “Real men don’t eat quiche, they don’t ask for directions, and they certainly don’t ask for help!”  One very creative approach is this web site:  http://mantherapy.org/ which talks about therapy done “the manly way.”  I laughed when I checked it out.  It’s definitely done with humor. Click on the link to see what you think.  Men do things a different way!

Bottom line: "Ask the question – “What did you mean by that?” It could save your marriage; it could save your job"

And gals, if you want a better relationship with your man, here's some things to think about. We women have a tendency to look for what’s wrong and we’re not usually hesitant to bring that up.  Plus, we also like to talk and talk!  So, sometimes we’ll take an opposite point of view with men just to keep a conversation going.  But that can quickly backfire when he feels disrespected and judged.

A common complaint I hear from married men is this:  “No matter how hard I try, I can never do anything right.”  If he helps with the dishes, she informs him they’re not put in the dishwasher correctly.  When he offers to do the laundry, she instructs him to divide the clothes differently.  Usually, she means to help, but he perceives those “orders” as critical complaints.  And perception is reality.  That’s why I say:  

"Compliment more than you complain!"   

and

"Appreciate more than you argue!"

When you make it safe for him, he won’t be afraid to ask:  “What did you mean by that?” 

Thank you for reading.  If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe, comment or follow me on Facebook.  Or follow me on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/BarbERuss

WHAT IF WE'D BEEN FIGHTING?

j&B in cafe
j&B in cafe

“You never know…… We have been going to the same restaurant for many years and a worker there often commented about being scared to be married. This morning, we were complemented to hear her say that because she had been watching us, she decided it was OK to get married. She announced her engagement to us today. You never know how you are going to impact someone's life, just by living your own.”

After I posted the above paragraph on Facebook, people posted some additional comments and scriptures which led to more reflection.

  • Matthew 5:16- “Let your light so shine before men, that they may…glorify your Father in Heaven.”
  • “Living your life out loud”
  • “People are watching how you live life. 1 Peter 2:16 – Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

Nobody said it, but I thought it:  What if We’d Been Fighting?  What if We'd Been Looking At Our Phones and Ignoring Each Other? What if We’d Been Calling Each Other Down and Acting Disrespectfully?

Like most couples, we’ve been guilty of those things in our marriage; I doubt there’s a perfect relationship on the face of the earth.  But, what if we had done those things in the restaurant?  Would that worker still have a bad feeling about marriage?  I bet she would have.  Would she have changed her perspective, then changed her plans for her own life?  Possibly.

Because here’s a truth I know -- every choice you make changes the road you are on and sets your direction.  And how often do our choices affect the choices made by others?  Probably more than we realize.  We won’t always be told that we’ve impacted someone’s life.  But we do.

My husband and I have been Christians most of our lives, and we even work in a church!  So we’re expected, and we expect of ourselves, to lead by exemplary example there.  It’s not just leaders, however who look good at church!   Most people have a “Sunday-go-to-meeting” outfit and a “Sunday-go-to-meeting” outlook.

Often, however, we don’t think about our behavior at the grocery store, a football game or at a local restaurant.

What if someone is watching us there?  What if what you do Monday through Friday is being observed by your co-workers?  You can bet it is!

We impact others’ lives, just by living our own.