IMMEDIATELY GUARANTEE A BETTER MARRIAGE

marriage illustration of wordsChuck and Charlene sat on opposite ends of the couch.  They hugged the armrests so tight each was almost turned away from the other.  Which was really the point because neither Chuck nor Charlene believed their marriage was going to survive.  While neither had very much good to say about the other, the couple was willing to try this one last time.  At least, they said, for the sake of their kids.

They told me that their marriage began happily as their family grew and Chuck built his career.  Somewhere along the line, neither knew where, Charlene became blaming and critical.  She was no longer supportive Chuck said; in fact she put him down, even around their friends and was disrespectful and mocking especially when she had too much to drink.  When asked he admitted he sometimes had too much to drink, too. 

Words of kindness were rarely spoken between them.

Their arguments became fights with slammed doors and holes in walls.  Increasingly, Chuck slept on the sofa or left the house overnight.  They complained of being stuck; having the same fight over and over.  Sexual interaction was strained —  Chuck likened it to f***ng a dead body; Charlene would do her duty but she was emotionally removed. 

Charlene said Chuck was always spending time playing golf with his clients, hanging out with them more than he did with his family.  She would inevitably cry, sure it wasn’t just clients he spent all that time with.  Chuck would threw back that Charlene didn’t know what it was like to have a full time job and be financially responsible and that sure, sometimes he went out with the guys, just to unwind and relax since Lord knew it wasn’t pleasant to be at home.  Each was doing, in good faith, what they thought was agreed on early in their marriage: her responsibility was the home front; he was responsible for making money and protecting his family. 

Like the cherry on top of a sundae, the reason they’d finally come to therapy was Chuck’s “friendship” with a female client and Charlene’s tearful assertion she could no longer trust him.

This couple wanted a better marriage but didn’t have a clue how to create one. 

Having a better marriage isn’t rocket science.  Well, in a sense it is.  Just as in rocket science, fitting things together, knowing how they work, and keeping it all from breaking is essential for success.  Even rocket scientists get married, so they’d better know the rules.  Here are some that Chuck and Charlene broke:

Communicate!  Learn how to talk and listen.  You might think you’re doing a fine job; probably you’re not.  Are you listening for understanding, not agreement?  Are you understandable when you talk?  A communication workshop for couples, like the one offered by Being Heard, can cool an inflamed relationship.  Learning  to problem solve successfully is always a good idea.

Body language:  How you position yourself, what your body language is saying, can contradict what’s coming out of your mouth.  Crossed arms, smirking, looking away (especially at t.v.) speak volumes.

Maintaining the negative.  Reinforcement for negative beliefs comes about when you never question long-held beliefs, challenge them, or change them.  The habit of awfulizing works with a negative outlook to solidify beliefs.  Is your marriage over?  Repeating skewed evidence can confirm the worst.  

Not paying attention.  Ever get from here to there without remembering anything along the way?  Many couples are so committed elsewhere they can get from year 3 to year 5 without noticing the growth in each other, the changes in their lives, and the small but significant events that define a relationship over time. 

Choice of words.  Words meant to hurt, criticize, minimize, blame, ignore, fight with, mock, demean, disrespect, etc. destroy love.  They can instill defensiveness, depression, and deep dislike and can foster divorce.

Substance, emotional, and physical abuse.   An alteration in reality’s perception is like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle with the light pieces missing.  Extremes of emotion are extreme:  being angry colors perception as much as happiness does.   Physical violence against people or property take things to a new level and may indicate a problem much deeper than marital distress.

Expectations and Misunderstandings.   Many factors go into designing our version of the world – hardwiring,  experiences, especially in family of origin.  When things don’t match the picture in our heads, automatic put down, correction, disagreement, or dismissal may result.  Misunderstanding is similar in that the filters on seeing and hearing are set to “automatic” – in other words, our way.  When little room is left for variation, arguments ensue.

Rigid Roles.  Defining someone by what they do is dangerous because it ignores the facts of life –  who we are changes over time and circumstance.  Staying stuck is the result of ignoring the inevitable.  

Sex.  Here’s a jam-packed issue, one that incorporates every rule in this list.  Establishing a healthy sexual relationship demonstrates the knowledge and practice of every relationship rule. 

Can you see mistakes that Chuck and Charlene made?  Do you make those same mistakes, too?  What are the rules in your relationship?  Have you thought about them?  Talked about them?  Agreed on them?  Modified them from time to time? 

Guaranteeing a better marriage begins as soon as a couple consciously creates one.  Establishing rules for your relationship ought to be part of what each of you promises to protect, treating your love with respect for the growing, changing, living thing it is.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist  specializing in couples work.  Married for almost 30 years, she and David live in Colorado Springs with their two hooligan cats.  Find out more about her and the Communication Workshop for Couples they teach at www.BeingHeardNow.com and www.CouplesWhoTalk.com

Copyright, 2015  Being Heard, LLC

NASA’S PHOTO: PROOF OF GOD’S EXISTENCE?

NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

What’s a hand doing in deep space?

And what’s it attached to?

Is God just a big hand?

Wait a minute.  Is that a hand at all?

The so-called “Hand of God” is the result of a combination of NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuStar, combined with Chandra X-ray Observatory’s imaging.   God (and Superman) only knows what that pulsaristic, X-ray, and magnetic energy stuff’s about.

That we humans jump quickly to proof of what we so desperately want proof of is telling.

When familiar objects are seen in otherwise vague ways, a phenomenon known as pareidolia is at work.  Examples include seeing the face of Jesus in an apple core or your neighbor’s poodle in a cloud.  When the need to believe is strong enough, we “see” what reinforces what we believe.  Those who are especially adept at recognizing and interpreting such “signs” are attributed with magical abilities that enable them to  understand the past, explain the present, and foresee the future.  They’re called shamans, therapists, or witches, and every culture has them.

Anyone who holds the hand of God is powerful indeed.

Our fervency at making a disconnected connection can be seen everywhere in our lives, not just in questions about transcendence. When we’re always looking for signs, signs are always found.  For some of us, magical thinking beats realism every time:  I’m always a bit miffed when my husband can “explain scientifically” what tingles to believe.  Like yeti or synchronicity.

A peek at the animal kingdom demonstrates how natural it is to go for  glitzy — brightly colored and smiling is more alluring than earth-toned and frowning.  If you still aren’t convinced, go to Vegas.  Shake its pockets and the likely fallout will be all manner of charms, amulets and carved stones.  If you’ve ever played anniversary or birth dates in the lotto, you’re exercising the same belief in magical power.

How powerful is it to “know”?

People have been hung or burned alive for failing to share explanations we want, figure they have, but would rather die than tell. Curiously, we never fault our dysfunctional thinking when plague continues after we’ve roasted all the cats.

Distressed couples or the chronically ill may get caught up in the myths of “other reasons”, blaming themselves or those around them for what is ultimately ours to carry, even when understanding is absent.  Better communication in marriage or the development of chronic illness are examples.

Nevertheless, many of us feel helpless when comprehension fails.  So far-reaching is our need to know that we look outside ourselves for a “magic cure”, “quick fix”, or to blame.  It’s as if we were cognitively incapable of apprehending knowledge by ourselves, alone.

Facing the Great Unknown is frightening.

We call for help that protects, soothes, and explains.

And that’s as good a reason as any to search out the Hand of God.  

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Specialist.   She’s especially keen on working with couples whose relationship includes invisible disability (e.g., cancer, lupus, hearing loss, depression).  Kathe and her husband, David, live in Colorado with their two cats, Petey and Lucy.  They know that holding the hand of god is as easy as adopting a pet.    
 
©BeingHeard LLC, 2014

READ IN 92 COUNTRIES!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Wowee zowie!

There’s still a long way to go in making people aware of invisible disabilities.  And that so many of us experience them.

Of course, ILIKEBEINGSICKANDDISABLED is about much more than invisible disability.  That’s as it should be because our lives are so much more than how we feel or what chronicity label we carry.

If you read my blog because of my sly humor or because something has touched you , made you laugh or think or angry, I’m happy for that.  I challenge you to share with someone you know who might appreciate something I’ve said.  Oh…and please let me know what you think about something I think.

Thank you, readers, for putting on a smile on the face of the last day of 2013.

Click here to see the complete report.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach in private practice.  Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 35 years she’s like many who experience invisible illness — most of what happens in her life is not directly attributable to being disabled.  With her long-suffering husband (that doesn’t have anything to do with illness, either), they’ve been married almost 28 years, sharing their Colorado home with two resourceful hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy.   Read more about the Skinners at http://www.beingheardnow.com

© 2013 Being Heard, LLC

IT BEGINS AGAIN. HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE FOR 2014

stressed man giftsI love presents; who doesn’t?  Wrapped or unwrapped, gifts can be delightful.  And while this holiday giving season is over, shopping for next year’s holiday has already begun.

My gift to you is a gift-giving guide of sorts.   Garnered from over a quarter-century of giving presents great and small here are some pointers:

  1. Buy now based on later. That little boy will be a year older by time the next holiday rolls around and what’s on-target now will be babyish.  Fads, sizes, skill levels, and interests often change over time, especially with the under-20 crowd.   For some things and some people, wait to buy.
  2. Revisit the closet.  Set aside space in a closet for cadeaux that never made it to the wrapping stage.  I’ve found that what I was going to present to a friend’s son back then is perfect for someone else’s boy now.  We often forget what’s in our stash; those great buys-that-are-too-good-pass-up.  I once covered my whole list with what I already had.
  3. Shop local.  Bypass the mall to find unique and interesting goodies you may not have to spend big to give.  Buying local supports regional artisans and makes your gift more meaningful.  Be sure to avoid those times of year, like tourist season, when prices are marked up.
  4. Keep track of who got and gave what:  Some things are perpetually on the gifting-circuit and great care must be taken to avoid re-gifting to the gifter.  I once gave a book to a special friend because the title described her so well; turns out she had given the book to me in the first place.
  5. Avoid giving just to give.  Stores are full of meaningless things we give to each other because we have to, are expected to, or are directed to.  When we resent having to give, the gift itself reflects our feelings, like the pack of bobby pins I got in a $10 gift exchange.  Give a gift card for gasoline or food, something everyone can use.
  6. Match your gift to the recipient.  You might not be jazzed about a 4-pack of the latest nail lacquers but a girly-girl might.  And just because you’d want a set of graduated drill bits someone else (probably) won’t.  Who do you have in mind when you give?  Are you giving a gift you want the other person to want, or a gift they truly want?  Do you even know?
  7. Go in together.  At times, a big gift that’s too pricey for just you to give would be perfect.  When groups like families, colleagues or friends honor very special occasions together, the result can be impactful.   Linking pocketbooks enables more choices and lets us give what we want to rather than what we can afford.
  8. Give exponentially.  Most of us, especially children, already have too much. stuff.  Parents, who limit the number of kids’ gifts, are raising children who aren’t overindulged or numbed with plentitude.  Giving to toy or clothing drives gets the overstock to children in need; when children themselves are involved in the giving, the original gift is given many times over.  Likewise, a gift given to a helping organization in someone’s name is thoughtful and caring.  Think of how many people such a donation can touch!
  9. Pass it on or throw it out.  Like other fun lovers, I’ve been known to have an out-of-season holiday party as a way of getting rid of the what was I thinking? stuff.   A battery-operated spatula or cartoon character that grows grass out of its nose is too goofy to keep to yourself.  Take a tip from professional organizers:  give it away or throw it out, but get it off your hands.

For several years, kitties Petey and Lucy have taken the place of store-bought presents under Kathe and David’s Christmas tree.  The absence of ribbon and wrap has given them both a clearer view of gifts, both given and received.  Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach with a private practice in Colorado Springs where she specializes in couples work.  Find out more about Kathe at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.

THE BUSINESS OF A TOGETHER BUSINESS

small business logo 1Coming on the exhausted heels of Black Friday, Saturday the 30th is Small Business Saturday®.

As most men will agree, the only thing more bracing than Black Friday shopping is more shopping. This isn’t big-name, big-box stuff.   Small Business Saturday® encourages consumers to SHOP SMALL®.   American Express developed the program as a way to help small businesses market themselves.  While the financial giant’s small biz bolstering is less than selfless, it’s still very cool to encourage spending of which 52% stays within the community.

If you’re a small business owner, like I am, it’s sometimes not so cool to be a business partner with the person who’s also a romantic partner.

1.  Wear another hat.  Lots of relationship problems arise from mixing what are two very distinct entities.  Keeping the purpose of each is absolutely necessary to keeping them both alive.  For example, a business can’t thrive when one partner is trying to undermine the other as a way of “getting back” after a fight.

2.  Keep clear goals.  Is it the purpose of the business to create loving, relaxed time together?  Hardly.  Likewise, it’s deadly to a romantic relationship to bring rude customers, money worries, or business planning into the bedroom.  A top agenda item needs to be agreement on what each of those relationships look like.  Especially who you will look like as a businessperson as opposed to a partner. Who gets to be on top?

3.  Don’t fight in front of customers.  You don’t have to actively argue in front of other people for them to know that something’s wrong. Want customers to walk out?  Bring tension into the room.  However, it’s easier said to keep from having animosity leak out your pores when you’re angry with each other.  For couples who work together having communication skills that work is essential.  If you don’t have ’em, get ’em.  To your accountant; investing in communication classes might even be a deductible business expense!

4.  Leave your children out of it.  It’s often convenient for small business owners to have their children around their business.   What’s especially off-putting is when those kids have roles within the business.  Personally, I don’t want the house cleaner’s eight-year-old doing the vacuuming or playing hopscotch on the tile floor.  Whenever there’s a personal face on your business, treat your customers professionally.

5.  Be professional, not personal.  There’s a line that some business owners cross when it comes to customer relations, especially when the relationship is with one of the business’ owners and not the other.  Giving discounts, freebies, sharing personal information, can set up tension among owners and customers to say nothing of how this kind of practice crosses business and home thresholds.

6.  Remember who you are.  Family expectations start early and run deep.  Both partners need to be absolutely clear about themselves: who they are; what they want for themselves, each other, and the family; and the relative role a family business plays in their lives.  If you inherited a business, be clear on whether you both want in or out.  I’ve counseled partners together and separately about the destructiveness that business can cause to togetherness.

I’m not kidding when I say that learning communication skills isn’t just for a marriage.  Make continuing conversation part of your business plan.  Success in one sphere is intimately tied to the other.  Separating the two will always challenge you.

Kathe & David Skinner have been business partners for the past 14 years, beholden to Being Heard, a business dedicated to teaching and coaching romantic relationships.  They were romantic partners first, married for over 27 years.  They’ve learned, through some prickly times, to keep the two relationships separate.  Kathe is also a Marriage & Family Therapist in addition to be a Certified Relationship Expert.

LOVE ME, LOVE MY CHAIR

Rachel1A couple of weeks ago I introduced Rachelle Friedman to those of you who don’t know her.   If you recall, she became wheelchair-bound due to a freak accident at her bachelorette party.  I promised to tell you more…

Not to be cheesy, but Rachelle and her husband, Chris, are nothing short of inspiring.  They never chose to be in the spotlight, but they are.  Their lives together have a level of transparency they’d never planned, where privacy doesn’t look anything like it used to.

The very act of being married is a prime example.

He stayed with her?  Actually married her?  No shit!  Uh, what about sex?  They don’t “do it”, do they?

The answers are all “yes”.

Much is made of Chris’ staying with her.  It’s not just that she had an accident, ended up in a wheelchair, and except for that everything else stayed the same.  Rehab was long and painful.  With paralysis, her body changed and she’s plagued by low blood pressure, which makes activity dicey.  And even though she can’t move her legs, nerve pain still exists — something medication doesn’t completely take away.  So why does Chris stay?  “The extra hardships don’t outweigh his love,” Rachelle will tell you.  It’s not that he “stayed with a girl in a chair that makes him great.  It’s that he’s loving and giving no matter what.”

I hope people are inspired by our love, not because of my disability.   – Rachelle Friedman  rachelle2

Rachelle doesn’t understand the fuss that’s made of her everyday life, either.  “Just because I wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, work out every now and then and play sports with a disability…does not make me inspiring.”

One of the biggest changes has been in Rachelle’s career path, and the corresponding change in life plans because of it.  She can no longer teach aerobics, nor can she be a reliable 9-5 employee.  This young woman likes to inspire and also to educate.  She is registered with a speaker’s bureau and has been doing some cool speaking gigs.  If money was not a roadblock, wants to be a coach, helping other people.  With the loss of that second income, the couple struggles financially.

You could call her the Queen of Lemonade, but I think there’s more to Rachelle than that.  I’m sure there are moments…   But she is blessed with talent, beauty, and drive, so Rachelle would be a winner no matter what.  That she has a wheelchair in the way, well, that’s just a lotta lemons.

Visit Rachelle at www.facebook.com/rachelleandchris and on Twitter at @followrachelle.  Watch for her book next year!

Kathe Skinner is a Relationship Coach, Certified Relationship Expert and Marriage & Family Therapist in Colorado where she conducts communication workshops for couples, pre-married’s, the invisibly disabled, and the over 50 crowd.  Kathe enjoys collaborating with KatheSkinner marriage & family therapistother professionals in order to reach more relationships affected by hidden disability.  She sits on the Executive Board of the Invisible Disabilities Association, is a regular contributor to Disability.gov., and is an ardent-and-natural-teacher-without-a-classroom.  She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 30 years.  More about Kathe at www.BeingHeardNow.com.