Dealing With Hurtful People

We all know the world isn’t what it was meant to be. People say hurtful things and it is often difficult to know how to handle it. Similarly, it is difficult to not take what they say to heart. What’s important to keep is mind is that we can’t control what others do, but we CAN control how we react.

Theology of The Body reminds us that we are all works in progress but the best way to see that God’s plans are fulfilled in our lives is to build each other up, not tear each other apart. When we are frustrated, we have a tendency to criticize and pick at each other. It’s good to address the problems and concerns we have with others, but we need to make sure we are approaching people in a way that is respectful, loving, and solution-focused, instead of angry, hurtful, and problem-focused. With God’s grace, we can learn to address the frustrations we have with each other in a way that leads us to be closer to each other instead of worn out by each other.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for dealing with hurtful people:

Clarify and Do-Over–Believe it or not, sometimes hurtful people don’t know they are being hurtful. The first step in addressing another person’s criticisms is not to take offense or even to respond to what they said, but rather, to clarify. When you feel criticized, picked on, or attacked by someone, the first thing to do is say, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to come off as hurtful, but something about the way you said that really seemed hurtful. Can you say that again so I can hear what you’re really trying to tell me?” Don’t attack back. Don’t argue the point. In fact, don’t respond in any kind of substantive way. Instead, give the hurtful person a chance to think about what they are really trying to say by first giving them the benefit of the doubt, then telling them how their statement made you feel, and finally, inviting them to say it again–more thoughtfully this time.

Don’t Ask Permission to Be Offended–Sometimes, even after you’ve told a hurtful person how much they’ve hurt you, they react by denying it. “I didn’t mean anything!” “I was just kidding!”  “You’re too thin-skinned.” Don’t fall into this trap. The best response is to say, “Listen, I’m not asking you permission to be offended by you. I’m telling you that what you said was hurtful. If you want me to hear what you’re really trying to say, your going to need to say it again.” Then leave it to them. If they decide to respect you enough to listen and correct themselves, do your best to listen respectfully and move forward with the conversation. On the other hand, if they refuse to take a more respectful approach, it’s ok to end the conversation even if they act put out about it. Don’t ever ask permission to be hurt by someone. If they hurt you, say so and stand by it.  If they love you, they’ll adopt a more respectful approach going forward.

Build Good Fences–If your attempts to clarify and be respectfully assertive are not effective, it’s time to set some boundaries. Limit your relationship to those places or contexts where the person is less likely to be hurtful. Do they do better in public? On the phone? For shorter visits?  Limit the time you spend with them to these contexts as much as you can. If they complain, simply say that you’d love to get more time with them but in order to do that, they’d need to be more sensitive about the ways they speak to you. Then see how they respond. If they manage to be respectful in the contexts you’ve limited the relationship to, then you can re-evaluate some of your boundaries, but if they continue to be hurtful in their speech or actions, you can either hold the boundaries where they are, or further limit the relationship.  Let their good behavior determine how close you can be.  Good fences really do make good neighbors.

For more on how to effectively handle hurtful people, check out Unworried—A Life Without Anxiety and tune in to More2Life—weekdays, 10am E/9am C—on EWTN, SiriusXM 130!

Overcoming The Resentment Overload

We all know the feeling of resentment. It can grow slowly and then quickly feel overwhelming, or it can hit us all at once. No matter how resentment sneaks up on us, it can be extremely difficult to let go of.

We often feel guilty about resentment and, of course, resentment isn’t something we want to hold on to. But the Theology of the Body teaches that God designed our bodies to work for our good and the good of those around us. If we learn to listen to the ways God is speaking to us through our bodies, we can hear him guiding us on how best to take care of ourselves and other. All of our emotions–including feelings like resentment–are part of our body’s response to our environment. When united to God’s grace, our emotions can give us important information. But what could God possibly be saying to us through resentment?  Well, Theology of the Body tells us that healthy relationships are mutually self-donative. That is, a healthy relationship can only exist when both people are doing everything they can to take care of each other. Resentment is the feeling we get when we feel like we are giving more to the relationship than the other person is. Resentment is a warning light on the relationship dashboard that asks us to check if our relationship is really still mutually self-donative or, if somehow, we are allowing ourselves to be treated more like an object than a person. Understood properly, resentment shouldn’t lead us to pout or withdraw, it should lead us to do healthy things like express our needs, or ask for help, or clarify the other person’s intentions. If we deal with our resentment gracefully, it will help us make sure that each person in the relationship is giving as much as they can to protect the health of the relationship and doing as much as they can to look out for the wellbeing of each person in the relationship.

What can we do to truly be able to overcome resentment?

Name the Need–The first thing to do if you are feeling resentful is to identify and name the need that isn’t being met. Do you need help? Do you need a little TLC? Could you use help getting a break? Is there a problem between you and another person that needs to be resolved? Resentment tends to occur when a need sits on the shelf too long and it starts to spoil. Instead of beating up on yourself for feeling resentful, bring your resentment to God. Say, “Lord, help me to name the need that is feeding my resentment and help me to address it in a way that glorifies you and makes my relationships healthier.” Once you know what the need is, you can make a plan to meet it instead of letting it continue to spoil on the shelf, feeding that growing sense of resentment.

Speak the Need–Sometimes, even when we have identified a need, we have a hard time feeling like it’s OK to meet it. We tell ourselves, “We shouldn’t have to ask for help.” Or, “I shouldn’t have to say anything about this.” Remember, the theology of the body tells us that the voice of God speaks to us through our bodies. If you are feeling resentful, God is asking you to find a healthy, godly way to meet an unmet need and make your relationships healthier and stronger. Trying to talk yourself out of meeting that need is like trying to ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit! Once you’ve identified the need that is feeding your resentment, it’s time to make a plan to meet it. Go to the people around you and say, “I really need your help with X.” Don’t worry if they aren’t receptive at first. Be confident in the need that God is asking you to address. Remember, healthy, godly relationships are mutually self-donative. Sometimes that means that we have to be willing to stretch ourselves a little bit to work for each other’s good. That’s not always fun, but it’s always good. Give the people in your life the opportunity to stretch themselves a little for you. Don’t let doubts about others rob them of the opportunity to learn to love you as much as you love them.

Get Help to Meet the Need–Sometimes, even when we have tried our best, getting our needs met can be…complicated. If you find that you can’t stop feeling resentful no matter what you do, or if you are struggling to actually identify your needs in the first place,  or articulate them in ways that the people in your life can actually hear and respond to, it’s time to get some new skills. Don’t give into the temptation of thinking that there is nothing you can do just because you can’t figure our what to do on your own. Remember, if God is calling your attention to a need, God has a plan for meeting it. Talk to a faithful professional counselor who can help you learn how to cooperate with God’s plan for meeting the unmet needs that are feeding your resentment.

To learn more about overcoming resentments check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts! Making Peace with Difficult People and be sure to tune in to More2Life—Monday through Friday, 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 130.

If you are looking for a faithful professional counselor, contact Pastoral Solutions Institute at 740-266-6461 or visit us at CatholicCounselors.com.

Dealing with Jekyll and Hyde

It seems like you are best friends one day and total enemies the next. We all have those people in our lives—friends, family members, co-workers, bosses, you name it—who lash out at us and then pretend like nothing ever happened. Although this Jekyll and Hyde type of personality is not uncommon, it can still be difficult to know how to handle gracefully.

Theology of the Body reminds us that, in all things, the Christians’ responsibility is to love others; that is, to work for the good of other people. That remains true even when it’s hard or costs us personally to do it.  The Jekylls and Hydes in our life don’t like to be called on their behavior, but we aren’t being loving–that is, we aren’t working for their good–if we just play their game and pretend that nothing ever happened. Bearing wrongs patiently is the right thing to do IF an offender recognizes what they have done wrong and are trying–on their own–both to take responsibility for their actions and get the help they need to make real changes.  In these cases, to call further attention to their bad behavior is to just to rub salt in their wounds.  But when a person refuses to acknowledge that they have done anything wrong, or worse, wants to pretend nothing ever happened so that they can keep acting that way, it’s time to use a different spiritual work of mercy and admonish the sinner.  Even if the verbally abusive person would rather just ignore what they have done, we have a responsibility, in love,  to gently, but persistently insist that they change their unacceptable behavior.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for dealing with those Jekyll and Hyde personalities in your life:

1.  It’s Not Over Until YOU Say It Is–As we mentioned earlier, Jekylls and Hydes want permission to lash out whenever their feelings get the best of them but then pretend that nothing ever happened when they feel calmer.  Just remember, they can only get away with this if you let them.  The fact is, no conversation is over until YOU feel that your needs and concerns have been adequately addressed.  It doesn’t matter that the other person doesn’t want to deal with it. You have a responsibility to be loving–to work for the good of others–even when it is hard.  Assuming you are not fearing for your physical safety (in which case, you need to be making plans to get yourself to safety) the most loving thing you could do when the abusive person comes back to you is to say, “I’m glad to see that you are in a better place, but we’re not ready to move on until you can tell me how you are going to handle the times you get upset with me differently because unless I know that you have healthier ways to manage your anger, you aren’t a safe person to be around.”  They won’t want to hear it, but that doesn’t matter.  Insist, in love, that they be willing to address their problem behavior with you and get whatever help they might need to make it stop for good.

2. Don’t Settle for the Magic Words–Many people who struggle to hold Jekylls and Hydes accountable feel obliged to accept even the most poutily offered, “I’m sorry, alright?!?” as a genuine apology. They know that the verbally abusive person doesn’t mean it, but they feel like it would be mean to hold the abusive person responsible once they have said the magic words.  This is nonsense.  A genuine apology requires that your  offender be able to empathize with how badly they hurt you, they they acknowledge that you have a right to expect that they do better (instead of trying to tell you that the REAL problem is that you’re just too sensitive) and, most importantly, that they are willing to sit down with you to make a plan so that the offending behavior doesn’t happen again.  If the verbally abusive person in your life is unwilling to do any of these three things, they aren’t really sorry and you cannot let them off the hook.  Don’t settle for the magic words.  Keep working for their good and the good of your relationship by insisting that they be willing to work with you to make a real plan for change.

3. Get Support–It can be hard to hold a verbally abusive person accountable.  They will try to make you feel guilty.  They will try to turn the tables on you and say that it’s REALLY your fault. They will accuse you of being unforgiving and unchristian.  If you feel your resolve flagging in the face of these attacks, don’t give in. Get help. Reach out to a trained pastoral counselor who can help you be loving, confident and firm in your effort to set appropriate limits with the Jekylls and Hydes in your life.  The fact is, we teach people how to treat us.  If you are not satisfied with the way people are treating you and you don’t know how to change the situation, you need to get help to learn what to do differently.  Verbally abusive people CAN control their behavior when it suits them.  Learn how to be the kind of person it takes to let the Jekylls and Hydes in your life know that they need to be on their best behavior around you.

For more on how to handle difficult relationships check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts! and tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139!

Men, Keep the Ball in Play!

Guest blog post by Dave McClow, Pastoral Solutions Institute.

Fighting that works!

Ever been in conflict and not known what to do?  Some men like a fight, some avoid it at all costs.  Too many of us drop the ball during a conflict….But first, let’s look at the bigger picture.

The Ball

When I taught a marriage class at a local Catholic high school, I held up a 10-inch playground ball and said, “This ball is going to teach you about the deep mysteries of life, relationships, marriage, and the Trinity.”  Yes, I went big!  I threw the ball back and forth with volunteers in each class.  I asked them what they learned about the Trinity from this.  They understood immediately that it reflected mutual self-giving, or extending and receiving, between the Father and the Son, which becomes the Holy Spirit.  I explained that the body speaks this same language in sex—males extend and females receive, bringing forth new life—babies and/or bonding.

The Infinite and Primordial Liturgies

Extending and receiving is the basic movement of life and love.  This movement within the Trinity I called the “infinite liturgy,” defining liturgy as a ritual and routine that communicates love and creates communion.  God uses liturgy to remind us who we are in God, to form our identity—think the liturgies of creation, the seventh day, and the Mass.

On a psychological level, this movement is seen in all our communication, starting with hello.  “Hello” is an extending; and if the other replies, “Hello,” the cycle, the liturgy, is complete, bringing new life to the relationship.  Deeper exchanges increase both our risk and rewards, while no response causes a little death.  Since our human extending and receiving was from the beginning, in the Garden, it could be called the “primordial liturgy.”

In the domestic church, the family, the primordial liturgy is our expression of love and the bedrock of our identity.  Without love, St. John Paul II says our lives become senseless and incomprehensible.  Without love, we live in fear.  Even more, these liturgies are the very structure and movement of love which casts out fear.  In fact, I think this extending and receiving should be the foundation of all spirituality, especially a lay spirituality—the micro-level of Therese’s little way.  Families should not imitate a monastic spirituality, carving out hours of time for prayer and feeling like failures when life interferes.  Instead, what if every interpersonal exchange, where extending and receiving is completed, is considered a prayer and a gift, directly reflecting the Trinity’s love?  That’s a liturgy we could practice all day long!

Fear, the Ball, and Bad Liturgy

In the class, I talked more about fear, explaining that while love moves us towards others, St. Augustine says sin (or fear) curves us back in on ourselves.  I then demonstrated our fear reactions of fight, flight, and freeze, or as we call them in our counseling practice, tantruming, pouting/withdrawing, and expert mode.  When my volunteers threw me the ball, I smacked it to the ground—tantruming on the receiving side.  And I faked a hard throw that made the first rows jump—another tantrum, but on the extending side.

Next, my volunteers threw me the ball, and I caught it and walked away.  This was pouting/withdrawing, or flight.  Expert mode happens when one person has a wonderful solution for the other person (extending), but the other is not interested (not receiving).  To represent this, when they threw me the ball three times, I let it hit my chest and fall to the ground.  Teasing, I told the kids I was sure they never did this to their parents.

Satan’s Anti-Liturgy

The tantruming, pouting/withdrawing, and expert modes are fear responses and always disrupt the primordial liturgy.  They are Satan’s plan for relationships and illustrate the literal meaning of his names: Satan—to accuse, and Devil/Diablo—to separate.

Conflict: Rally Ball vs. Ping-Pong

In conflict, we tend to forget love, the extending and receiving, and respond in fear—we “drop the ball” in some way.  The primordial liturgy is disrupted.  We start playing ping-pong, where we try to outsmart the other person to win.  But rally ball is the model needed during a conflict, where the object is to keep the ball going back and forth as long as possible.  If the ball is dropped, you simply start over.  The ideal in conflict is to receive the other’s hostility with empathy while not allowing yourself to be destroyed.  But sometimes this can be difficult, and you may need to end the argument with, “I am too upset to continue this conversation,” so you don’t move into ping-pong.  More on this in upcoming articles.

The Trinity, with its extending and receiving, the infinite liturgy, is the new foundation for a lay spirituality. Reflecting the Trinity in the primordial liturgy of the domestic church can make every interaction between persons a connection with God.  Men, radiate the Father’s love by living the extending and receiving in your families—and keep the ball in play, even in conflict!

 

For more about Dave McClow and Pastoral Solutions Institute, visit us at https://www.catholiccounselors.com

Stop Pressuring Me!  How to Stand Strong in Face of Manipulation

Peer pressure. We’ve all dealt with it throughout our lives, but does it still effect us as adults? Social Psychologists from SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland recreated the well-known Milgram Obedience Study (Milgram Shock Experiment) and discovered that the results were astoundingly similar to the results of the original experiment in 1963.

Like the Milgram study, the participants of the current study were provided with 10 buttons. The participants were led to believe that each button caused an individual in an adjacent room to receive a higher “shock” level (although, in reality, no one was receiving any type of shock). The participants were then encouraged by the experimenter to “administer” increasingly higher levels of the supposed shock to an individual in another room. The researchers of this experiment discovered that 90% of the participants were willing to go to the highest “shock” level.

But why do we act this way under pressure?

The Theology of the Body tells us that we are, first and foremost, persons who have a God-given right to be treated with love—as well as an obligation to treat others with that same love. When others try to pressure, manipulate, control or bully us–or when we do the same to others—we turn other people into a project, a thing, or a means to an end. In those times, it’s OK to set appropriate boundaries until we can either be sure that what we are being asked to do is genuinely in our best interest or that the other person will stop treating us as a means to their end. Although self-donation requires us to be willing to prayerfully consider, with a generous heart, the things others ask of us, we should never say, “yes,” to something we aren’t certain will either help us become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people God is calling us to be or respects the relationships and obligations God has already asked us to be faithful to.

These More2Life Hacks are helpful tips to keep in mind when dealing with pressure from others:

Ask, “Is It Good?”—No one ever has the right to manipulate, control, or bully us. But people are permitted to attempt to influence each other IF they genuinely believe the things they are asking us to do would help us become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled people we were meant to be OR help us do a better job fulfilling the obligations God has asked us to be faithful to. Just because someone asks us to do something we don’t want to do, or even leans on us a bit to do it, doesn’t mean they are necessarily behaving inappropriately. When we feel pressure, the first question we need to ask ISN’T, “Do I FEEL like doing this?” But rather, “would doing this help me do a better job of being the healthy, whole, loving, well-integrated person God is calling me to be?” If the answer is yes, then I should say, “yes,” regardless of how I feel. If no, then I have an obligation to oppose whatever pressure the other person may assert. Our first obligation is never to either our feelings or other people, it is always to God’s call in our lives to grow into the saints we were created to be.

Always Propose, Never Impose—St. John Paul used to offer this rule of thumb, “Always propose, never impose.” Even if others are genuinely trying to work for our good, or we are trying to work for theirs, we always have to be careful about turning people into projects. It is possible to pursue the right course of action in the absolutely wrong way. When someone is asking us to make a change we don’t care to make—even when it IS in our best interest—or if we are asking someone else to do the same, a good question to ask ourselves is, “Is this request becoming the entire focus of our relationship?” If it is, chances are we are either being treated as a project instead of a person OR that we are treating the other as a project instead of a person. In those instances, we have an obligation to set some boundaries and say something like, “I appreciate that this is important to you, and even that this is a good thing, but I need to know that there is more to our relationship than this one thing.” Then figure out how to reclaim the connection that’s been lost even while finding ways to keep growing in necessary ways.

Stand Firm—Once you have prayerfully determined that the thing someone is asking you to do is either helping you become the whole, healed, godly, grace-filled person God wants you to be, stand firm. As Jesus said, let your “yes be yes and your no be no.” If you believe that the thing someone is asking you to do is really in your best interest, keep doing it even though it is hard.  And if you genuinely believe the thing you have been asked to do is NOT in your best interest, then say “no” and stand firm no matter how they try to pressure you. As we mentioned earlier,  our first obligation is to grow into the people God is calling us to be, not to make our feelings or other people a false god. Discern the best response to a request, and stick with your answer unless you are given new information that doesn’t just make you relent, but really helps you see that this is a truly good change to make.

For more on how to handle pressure from others check out God Help Me! These People Are Driving Me Nuts! and tune in to More2Life, Monday-Friday at 10am E/9am C, on EWTN/SiriusXM 139.

Maintaining Your Marriage Connection

It’s easy to tell when someone is happy. People often express outward signs when they are feeling good, such as smiling, using an upbeat tone, or having a bounce in their step. But it can be harder to tell what someone is thinking when they are feeling down, tired, or upset. These emotions are often masked or do not come with as markedly definitive expressions. While you may think you know all of your partners’ “tell tale signs” of their emotions, new research suggests otherwise. Psychologist Chrystyna Kouros states “We found that when it comes to the normal ebb and flow of daily emotions, couples aren’t picking up on those occasional changes in ‘soft negative’ emotions like sadness or feeling down…They might be missing important emotional clues.” Because of this, there are a few things that we must keep in mind to maintain the connection in our relationships.

Theology of the Body reminds us that we were created for communion, but of course, sin ruptures that communion.  Because of sin, instead of coming naturally to us, making connection to others takes effort.  It requires us to be intentional about asking questions, scheduling dates, praying, reflecting and planning in order to create the kind of closeness and intimacy we were created to enjoy naturally. The sense that great relationships should “just happen” hints at the time before the fall, where Adam and Eve enjoyed Original Unity and it also hints at how things will be once we are united with God and the Communion of Saints in heaven. But here, in this sinful world, creating connection takes real work, and doing the work that is necessary to create loving communion–first, within our families and then in the world–is what it means to “build the kingdom.” Doing good works, serving in the parish or community, saving the world are all important things, but creating connection is the most important work a Christian can do.  Remember what St. Paul said, “If I have the faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Let’s refocus on the great work of being intentional about creating meaningful connection with the people closest to us and let God multiply our efforts to bring the world to him through our efforts to consciously connect.

1. Don’t Assume–Too many couples assume that things are “fine” if there isn’t any conflict.  They think that the lack of arguments is the same things as satisfaction. But there are a million reasons a couple might not be fighting that have nothing to do with intimacy. Don’t ever assume your marriage is on solid ground just because you’re not arguing. Instead, ask. Make time everyday to say to each other, “What can I do to make your day a little easier or more pleasant?”  Make sure you get meaningful answers. Don’t settle for “I don’t know” or “Nothing.” If those are the answers you get more often than not, make a point of scheduling more focused conversations–at least weekly–about how close you feel to each other, what pressures you might feel are challenging your sense of togetherness, and what you might need to do to grow closer–even if things are good. Happy couples, don’t wait for conflict to tell them they are off-course, they regularly check their course and make tiny course corrections every day so they can make sure to stay on track

2. Give Your Connection to God–God wants you to have a great marriage, both because he wants to fill your hearts with his love AND because he wants to show the world–through your relationship–that the love that everyone longs for is truly possible. But God doesn’t expect us to create that kind of connection on our own.  He wants to teach us, and he will, if we bring our relationship to him everyday.  Take a few minutes every day to sit down together with your spouse and say to God, “Lord, we give you our relationship.  Help us to love each other the way you want us to. Help us to really listen to each other, take care of each other, be honest about our needs, and be generous in our response to each other’s needs. Teach us to be a couple after your own heart, so that our hearts would be filled with your love and so that the world would see your life in us.” Let God teach you how to create and maintain a powerful, loving connection. Sit at The Master’s feet and learn to love each other with his love.

3. Connect Consciously–Most couples assume their relationship will “just happen” since they’re living under the same roof. But truly happy couples are conscientious about creating times to connect. Make a point of scheduling even 10 minutes every day to work, pray, talk and play together. Working together might mean setting the table together or cleaning up the kitchen together after dinner. Praying together just means bringing your day and your relationship to God and asking for his grace. Talking together means asking, NOT just about what happened in the day or what’s on the schedule tomorrow, but about how you’re feeling about the direction of your life and relationship and how you can better support each other. And playing together can be as simple as taking a 10 minute walk around the neighborhood, or playing a couple rounds of a favorite game. The point is, happy couples don’t assume relationship connection will “just happen.” They make mini-dates everyday to briefly maintain their ability to work, play, talk, and pray together, and then they look for bigger blocks of time to have more significant opportunities to connect across those levels as well. Being conscious about connecting daily, helps prevent you from feeling alone even though you’re always together.

For more on how to maintain the connection in your marriage, check out For Better…Forever! and tune in to More2Life—weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN, SiriusXM 139.

Tending the Fire—Hey Married Couples, Here are 3 Ways to Keep The Spark Alive!

God gave us the gift of marriage so men and women could learn to truly cherish each other and feel loved, supported and treasured in each other’s arms.  In Christian marriage, especially, passion and romance shouldn’t feel like an optional add-on. But some days, it can feel more difficult than others to cultivate that peace and romance in your relationship, especially with all the distractions and pressures of life getting in the way.

On top of this, we Christians have a rather ambivalent relationship with romance. We tend to think of it either as a Hollywood invention that we should be suspicious of, or as something that couples do in the early stages of the relationship that should just naturally fall away in a more mature love.  But the Theology of the Body reminds us that marriage is a sacrament, in part, because the world needs to be reminded that God’s love for us is a passionate love. By first dedicating the passionate and romantic dimensions of their marriage to God and then intentionally cultivating those dimensions of their love for one another, a husband and wife remind, first, each other, and then the world, that God doesn’t just love us “from a distance” or “as a group.” Rather, He cherishes us personally and passionately, loving us with a free, total, faithful, and fruitful love that never fails. Like love of the bridegroom for the bride in the Song of Songs, God’s love is an all-consuming fire that proclaims, “You are precious to me and I desire all of you.”

By keeping the following More2Life Hacks in mind, having a truly romantic, passionate marriage doesn’t have to be a daily struggle!

1.Make Your Romance a Prayer–It can be hard to love each other the way God wants us too, and that is doubly true when it comes to expressing romantic love. The first step to keeping the spark alive in a Christian marriage is making your romance a prayer. Each day, take a moment with your spouse and, in your own words, pray something like this, “Lord, I give you all the love I feel in my heart for my spouse–all my desire, all my longing. Help me to love my mate with the love that comes from your heart. Help me look for little ways throughout the day that I can make my spouse feel desired and cherished, so that my spouse will know how precious they are–both to you and to me.” Then follow up on that prayer, knowing that every time you do some little, loving, romantic act for your spouse that day, you are making your marriage a prayer, by communicating how precious your spouse is, not only to you, but to God.

2.Make Romance a Daily Event–Don’t save romance for date night. Make it an integral, intentional part of your daily lives. Tell your spouse, “I love you.” Say it, text it, leave little notes about it. No, you don’t have to be dramatic, but it’s ok to make at least a little fuss. Is your spouse special to you? Are you glad they are in your life? Find some little way to show them today. Right now. Don’t let the moment pass. Give them a meaningful hug or kiss. Make a point of sitting next to each other (instead of across the room). Make a favorite meal or a special treat.  Bring home a small token of your affection. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or take a lot of time. It’s really the thought that counts. Just find tiny ways throughout the day to say, “In the middle of my crazy, busy, day, I just wanted you to know that I’m still thinking about you, and I’m glad you’re mine.”

3.Guard Your Spouse’s Heart–Nothing kills romance faster than little criticisms, petty sniping, or jokes at your spouse’s expense. Guard your spouse’s heart. Be gentle when they make mistakes. When you see them struggling, instead of criticizing or poking fun, offer to help. Find things to give them sincere compliments about. Remind them what they’re good at. In a world filled with people who want to tear your spouse down, be the one person your partner can count on to make them feel safe, special, and appreciated. Research shows that the most romantic couples maintain a 20:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. They make a point of being 20 times more complimentary, encouraging, supportive, affirming, and affectionate than they are criticizing, complaining, or argumentative. It’s not as hard as it sounds. It just takes a little mindfulness. Think before you speak, and ask yourself if what you are about to say says, “I think you’re an idiot.” or, “I think you’re special–even when you aren’t perfect.”

For more information on keeping the spark alive in your marriage, check out Holy Sex! and tune in to More2Life, Monday-Friday—10am E/9am C—on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 139.

Family Food or Family Feud—Surviving or Thriving During The Holidays

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The holidays are wonderful, however, as some of us may have experienced during Thanksgiving, they can also be very stressful. Spending time with extended family can often lead to arguments or strained relationships. While we all made it through Thanksgiving, chances are, you’re preparing for Christmas, New Year, and the entire holiday season where you may be spending more time with your extended family. So how do you recover from the family conflicts that may have occurred over Thanksgiving, and what do you need to do to prepare to see them again in the coming weeks?

Theology of the Body reminds us that families are School of Love, but too often they feel like battle grounds especially when it comes to disagreements about politics, religion, sexuality, and all the other issues that families feel passionately about. When we get into these discussions with family members, we can forget that the most important thing isn’t winning the argument, but rather, loving the person. The question we need to be asking ourselves isn’t “What can I say to convince my idiot cousin to repent of his idiotic ways?” But rather, “How do I need to respond to my cousin (or other family member) in a way that makes him feel genuinely heard and cared for even if he knows I don’t agree with him?” People aren’t projects. The more we can remember that, the more we can be effective witnesses to the people we love, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for managing conflict with extended family:

Will I Be Able To Follow This Up Tomorrow? –When you’re tempted to argue with your extended family ask yourself, “Will I be able to follow up on this tomorrow?”  In other words,  Having a fight with a relative you only see two or three times a year is not going to do anything except prove to that relative that you are a jerk. Evangelization is all about relationship; that you know a person, understand them, and truly care–not from a distance, but in a personal way–about their lives. If there isn’t any reasonable way for you to build a discipleship relationship with this relative that can allow you to lead them, over time, to a deeper relationship with the truth, the best thing you can do is plant a seed by showing them how God’s grace allows you to remain unruffled, calm, and confident in the face of those big differences that divide your family.  If you can manage to stop yourself from acting like the foaming-at-the-mouth religious lunatic they already think you are, they might just start to respect you, which gives you a better chance to represent the faith effectively in the future.

Redirect the Traffic–Even if you decide that you do have a strong enough relationship with this relative to enter into a real conversation about a contentious issue, avoid a head-on collision by redirecting the traffic. Rather than getting drawn into a “battle royale” at the family table, say, “Listen, this isn’t really the time to hash all this out, but if you’re genuinely interested in discussing this with me, I’d really love to discuss this with you over lunch sometime (or dinner at my house, or some other shared activity). Let’s table this for now and make a plan to really talk this out.” This approach allows you to weed out those relatives who just want to play the “Let’s fight” game while still allowing you the opportunity to disciple people who are genuinely interested in an authentic dialog. Plus, you’ll gain tons of credit from the rest of your family by showing them that you have the grace–literally and figuratively–to prevent THIS family get-together from turning into a ten-car pile-up.

People Aren’t Projects–If someone does take you up on your offer to get together for a follow-up conversation, remember “people aren’t projects,” they are people who deserve to be understood and loved. Before you say anything about what you believe–especially before you say anything about what you believe about their opinions, their life, or their choices, make sure you understand them so well, that even they agree that you get them. Don’t focus on lecturing. Focus on asking question, “Tell me more about why you think that way? Help me understand why that is so important to you? How does all this affect you?” Show the other person that you are more interested in loving them than in changing them. Ironically, they will be much more open to hearing what you say–and even changing their mind or ways–when they feel genuinely understood. That said, don’t think of this approach as some kind-of sneaky technique. Think of it as an opportunity to get to know someones’ heart and to let God’s grace flow from your heart to theirs.

For more tips on dealing with conflict and keeping peaceful relationships, check out God Help Me! These People are Driving Me Nuts! and make sure to tune in to More2Life—Monday through Friday on EWTN Global Catholic Radio, SiriusXM 139.

Find out more about our tele-counseling and spiritual direction services at CatholicCounselors.com

Unsupported? Simple Tips to Get The Help You Need

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Feeling overwhelmed is something that we all experience all too often. Our “to-do” lists are seemly endless between work, home life, family life, relationships, and every other commitment or obligation we may have. Because of this, it becomes very easy for us to fall into the mindset of “I have to get everything done!” and we feel like “everything is up to us” which hinders us from getting the help we need.

Furthermore, sometimes, we struggle to open up to the help that’s available because “it’s just easier to do it by ourselves.”  And other times, we know we need help, but we’re not sure how to ask for it, or if it’s even worth it. However, Theology of the Body reminds us that we’re never alone. We were created for communion. By helping each other and opening up to the help that others are able to offer, we grow together and support each other in becoming everything we were meant to be. We should never hesitate to ask for help or, for that matter, offer help when given the chance. Mutual service is the heart of creating a community of love.

Here are three More2Life Hacks for getting the help you need:

Recognize You Need Help–Sometimes it’s hard to know that we need help. We get so caught up in “just getting through this” that we don’t notice that we’re getting further and further in over our heads. If you are starting to feel harried or resentful, those are your emotions’ way of telling you it’s time to ask for help. Whether you are struggling with keeping up with the house work or having a hard time working through a marriage or family problem, resist the temptation to just keep pushing through. Instead, ask yourself, “what kind of support would help me get through this situation more gracefully?” Even if it’s difficult to arrange for that kind of help right now, identifying the help or support that you need allows you to start looking for ways to get more of that kind of support in the future.

No One Is A Mind-Reader!–Often we don’t ask for help because we assume it’s so obvious that we need it that if other people aren’t offering, they must either be too busy or just uninterested in helping us. People can’t read minds! If you need help, you need to ask for it! Remember, Theology of the Body reminds us that there are two ways to be generous; by helping people, and by allowing people to use their gifts to help us. Don’t you feel good when you can make a difference in someone else’s life? Well, give someone the gift of feeling good about making a difference in yours. No, that doesn’t justify being a “user” but it does remind us that we’re not meant to struggle alone. You have a right to ask for–and expect to get– the help you need.

Keep At It–Sometimes it can be hard to get the support we need even when we ask for it.  Sometimes that help isn’t readily available. Other times, people are reluctant to help. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means you’re doomed to keep feeling like it’s all up to you. Instead, bring the situation to God, and ask him for the strength to keep seeking the help you need to overcome the particular challenge you are facing. God did not mean for us to struggle alone. He wants you to get the help you need to thrive. Don’t stop looking for ways to either find the right help or hold accountable the people who are meant to help you. Remember the parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge. The widow only got the judge to help her because she persisted to the point of driving him mad. If we need help, have the courage to persevere in asking for it until you get it.

For more insight into getting the help you’ve been looking for, check out God Help Me These People Are Driving Me Nuts!, tune into More2Life Monday-Friday 10am E/9am C on SiriusXM 139, or check out our tele-counseling services at CatholicCounselors.com

Are Cola Wars Killing YOUR Marriage?

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We all have our preferred brands: Our favorite kind of soda, our favorite brand of ice cream, or even our favorite type of laundry detergent. But did you know that our personal brand preferences can have a serious effect on our relationships and even cause divorce? It’s not as silly as it sounds.

A new study conducted at Duke University reveals that “preferring different brands can affect our happiness in relationships more than shared interests or personality traits.” Researchers discovered that the more powerful or influential partner in the relationship usually determines what brands the couple uses, however this can have a negative effect on the happiness of the lower power, or less influential, partner. Power, in this case, is indicated by an individual’s ability to shape or influence their partners’ behavior. Because of this, the less powerful partner usually loses out on buying his or her preferred brand, which could cause increased levels of unhappiness long term.

In other words, when one partner is consistently choosing their preferred brands without considering your preferences it can lead you to feel uncared for and undervalued.  Plus, since these are such little things, no one wants to make a big fuss about it, so the petty resentments can pile up into one big mountain of, “You ALWAYS get EVERYTHING you want! When do I get MY turn?”

Take heart, however, because knowledge is power. With this information about brand influence, we have options for how to negotiate this potential problem. First, we can talk to our partner and learn to compromise. For example, one week we will buy Diet Coke and the next week we will buy Diet Pepsi. Second, we can adopt new preferred brands. For example, instead of buying either of the originally preferred brands of cereal, we can go to the store with our partner and find a cereal we both enjoy. The point is, the devil really is in the details.  Even though any one of these micro-conflicts is no big deal, a little thoughtfulness, over the long haul, goes a long way. Taking small steps like these can have a big impact on the overall health, well-being, and happiness of our relationships.

For more tips on how to have a happy and healthy relationship, check out When Divorce Is Not An Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love or contact us at Pastoral Solutions Institute on the phone (740.266.6461) or online at CatholicCounselors.com