My son told me recently that he feels that I am always busy. He says, “mommy, how come you don’t play with me as much as you used to?” Hearing my 7 year old ask me this question brought me to an abrupt stop. My heart dropped. I mean...I am a teacher. I know how important it is to spend time with my children-quality time-doing things that they enjoy. All the psychological and developmentally informed practices that I have read about, practiced daily in my own classroom and at home, and it takes my 7 year old to be my inner voice? You can only imagine how big I felt at that moment.
In my mind I mustered all kinds of things I could say to him, “mommy has been busy with work;” “we have been making a lot of changes recently,” “the chaos from the move and trying to catch up has been consuming me.” But, then, what good would this do for him other than make him feel that those other things were more important.
Internally asking myself questions, how do you make it up to your child? For being too busy, and how to spend quality time with your child? How to make time for your child when you have no time? These very questions causing me to freeze. What can I possibly say that makes it better?
So in that moment, I dropped to my knees. Looked my sweet boy in the eye and grabbed his hand. I responded, “you have my attention. Thank you for reminding me that we haven’t been spending enough time together. What would you like to do?” From there, I spent the next 27 minutes watching him bulldoze his lego houses with his Dodge Racer and we rebuilt them just to do it again.
In reflection, there was nothing better than pausing and playing. In the middle of the day, while my mind was running, my concentration was on cleaning, unpacking, prepping dinner, finding light bulbs...but for that moment, that split second, he was my light bulb.
Family Time. This is such an important concept; why does it seem like we hardly have enough? Or we feel as though we just don’t have enough time for quality family time?
But, we do. We can. We will.
As we begin to think about ways that we can make more time for our family, I encourage you to sit with yourself for a few moments, just as I did when I heard his little boy voice say such impactful words. Offer yourself a soothing gesture of compassion. If you realize this is an area of growth for you, forgive yourself and know that you will make more of an effort. Growing forward.
Whew!! NOW, let’s look at ways that we can push in some more quality family time children-spouse-immediate family members-neglected friendships.
How to Create Quality Time with Your Family
These are just some of the ways that you can bring in more family time. I, myself, have found success and planning time out and holding myself accountable. I am also putting more effort into paying attention to what they say and making that time in the moment. Living in the moment, at best, is the way to be. We are in our heads too much. It’s okay to step away for a while.
We want to hear from you! What are you doing to push in more family time, making time for bonding with your kids, and your creative ways to spend quality time with your kids?
Share to your loved ones, friends, or anyone who would enjoy this read. Comment Below.
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Getting the last word in is something that I struggled with for a very long time. In almost every relationship, if there was conflict, I had to be heard. I felt it necessary that my words carry the ending tone. During my work with MSC and NLP, as well as my grad learning, I began to make connections with myself and I became aware of certain behaviors that may be inhibiting my ability to successfully form and maintain relationships. I found myself wondering; Why was this so important to me? Why did it matter? In the end, what was I trying to prove?
Now, there are a lot of avenues that this behavior can take us down...self protection, control, debate prone personalities, deflection, difficulties with trust...but my intention here is not to shed light on where this is coming from but more on how to first recognize it, then move towards ways to manage it, especially in everyday life and relationships.
So, what does it mean to ‘get the last word in’?
Essentially, getting the last word in is your drive and forward will to WIN a debate. In fact, you are inclined to do what it takes to be sure your point is heard and that’s it. I often refer to it as the “yes, but…” response to an argument or disagreement. This type of response, also known as destructive conflict resolution, can be hurtful and may send the message that being right is more important to you than establishing grounding within the relationship itself. Furthermore, such behavior can also damage relationships to a point where there is little or no movement for return.
If you feel like this applies to you, please know that we are living the human experience together. It is not like they teach us in high school how to resolve conflict peacefully; and even if they did, our lack of ‘prefrontal cortex’ might make it more difficult to truly comprehend the material. Fortunately, aside from formal education, we continue to learn from ourselves, our experiences, and from others as well. There is a way around this…
Let’s take a look at conflict using a different approach. Let’s begin by reimagining. Think about a time that you and a partner or friend had a heated disagreement. What was said? How did you react?
Now, I am going to ask you to send different thoughts into that situation-that moment where you had the last word, maybe something negative was brought up or there was a need for you to point fingers-acknowledge your feelings and send a breath of light into it. Using a soothing gesture, tell yourself your feelings are important and you do matter. And (key word here), your friend’s feelings are important as well. They matter too. Sit in that moment with yourself for a minute, or few. As you come out of it, sending love to yourself, reflect on what you would have liked for a friend to say to you had the roles had been switched. How might you have wanted them to respond, or, perhaps, not respond at all?
Okay, what strategies can I use to challenge this behavior?
Reflect on your reimagined space for a moment. What can you take away from this experience about yourself and your own conflict management? The first step, as with anything, is recognizing the challenges and then embracing the opportunity to grow.
Let’s take a look at some strategies we can use to tackle our destructive conflict resolution patterns...and if this doesn’t apply to you, but to someone you care deeply about, they may be used to encourage them as well!
Communication in all areas of our lives is essential. How we communicate, solve problems, respond to others, and express ourselves are important and 9 out of 10 times, they are a work in progress. We all, my fellow human friend, are a beautifully crafted, inspirational and motivational, work in progress.
Do you have other ways that you have worked away from destructive conflict resolution? We would love for you to share your kernels below!
For more reading on this subject, along with self reflective activities, check out Jeremy Pollack’s book Conflict Resolution Playbook: Practical Communication Skills for Preventing, Managing, and Resolving Conflict
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I was sitting with a friend the other day and she was digressing about her recent discontent with how her husband was listening to her. She was saying how frustrated she was that he didn’t acknowledge her needs and that he seemed completely oblivious to what she was requesting of him. “I asked him to help with the dishes. He went and sat down on the couch. ‘In a bit’ was his response…”; “I asked him to pick up the baby from his parents’ house because I was going to be late. The next day he calls and tells me that he couldn’t pick him up because he was held up at work…”; “It seems like with every request I have of him, he finds a rebuttal. I just don’t know what to do.”
It was at that point that I realized that perhaps it wasn’t the husband that was at fault here, but their patterns for communication. It seemed, to me, that with each complaint, she stated a claim and provided little wiggle room for him to respond accordingly. Essentially, she asked something from him, expected him to follow through without consulting about it, and he failed to do it, so there goes the relationship.
I was wondering if it wasn’t his lack of action that was causing despondency, but, perhaps, the way that she was asking him to do these things. Sometimes we think we are being clear in what we want or need in a relationship, however, we often are clouded by our own expectations. These expectations end up defining the conversation and it becomes a one-way street. This one-way street leaves the other person involved with little opportunity to give feedback, share their thoughts on the subject, or offer alternatives.
This is something that comes up in many conversations I have had with friends and family about relationships and communication. In response to her, I asked her if she had ever tried setting up the conversation or request using a questioning strategy or like it was a problem that needed to be addressed.
For example, dishes need to be done, right? Let’s try this- “I bet you know of a great movie we can watch together. How about we do the dishes real quick so we can snuggle?” Here we offered not only a way out for our partner, but we are also establishing a team partnership. We wash the dishes together, we watch a movie together, we snuggle together. In reference to the situation where she had asked her husband to pick up the baby, I wonder if the situation would have been different if she would have explained the situation more clearly versus making a direct request. Let’s try this- “Tomorrow I am going to have to work late. Do you have any suggestions for picking up the baby from your parents?” Again, we left an open door for our partner to respond.
Communication in a relationship is key to how a relationship unfolds. When we are careful with how we address our partner, use language that promotes teamwork, and reframe our own needs so that the needs of others are also considered, there is an overall sense of happiness. Instead of the ball bouncing in each other’s courts, how about we keep it on neutral ground.
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Parenting is one of the most challenging subjects that I have to discuss with my husband. It seems like everything I think is best, right, and true is actually quite the opposite in his book. I don’t like the word ‘punishment.’ He feels our children need to be punished for bad behavior. I don’t believe in calling them out on every mistake they make as though they are the end-all, but you can guess his approach. I don’t believe in spanking. He feels the occasional swat teaches a good lesson. I disagree with pointing fingers and talking at them. He claims that a finger in the face reminds them to show respect. Aside from all other things, I am just ‘too’ soft and, quite frankly, I feel he is often ‘too’ hard. What’s more, is because I am a teacher and my MA is in Educational Psychology, I find that even when he does step in, I am stepping on his toes. It was, for these reasons, that, for almost 3 years, he chose to completely step back and used avoidance tactics when it came to how we disciplined. There you have it. Seems to be very little chance to find a middle ground. But, we do. I had to, for my sanity.
How were we able to find a place where both of us were happy you may ask? I can say that much of it goes back to the family roles in our household. I am the modern woman, the supporter, the mother, and the wife, and he is the traditional man, the supporter, the protector, and the husband. It was because I wanted more help from him that I made the decision to step back (a little) and let him use his protective, traditional nature.
As I stepped back and encouraged him to not only be more active with how he interacted with the children but to take more charge in the discipline, I began to follow his lead. By showing him that I trusted him, I found that he was more careful to acknowledge my concerns. I can say he was more conscious of how I felt (especially because it was a battle for so long in our relationship). With that, I found that he took more responsibility in HOW he managed their behaviors, the root of our differences in all things parenting.
In the grand scheme of things, this really was a huge success!! So many people divorce because they cannot work through their differences peacefully, and I was able to find a place within myself to let go of control. Somewhere in the process, there was remarkable compromise. Of course, to get to that place, I had to refocus my intentions and to allow him to have more say in the situation. If all things were that easy...RIGHT?!
Today the kids seem more secure than they were before. They know and understand their expectations, they are aware that there will be consequences if they make negative choices, and, in the rare circumstances that harsh discipline does have to be enforced, they can articulate WHY. There is so much to say about finding a middle ground, even if you are the one that has to do most of the compromising.
Finding the Middle Ground…
Finances is one of the most talked about and difficult hurdles in any relationship, at least in my circle of married friends. In fact, I bet, if you talk to any counselor or therapist, they may agree that it is something that comes up in convo quite often with them as well. We can plan vacations, date nights, gifts, and food, but when it comes to the nit and gritty, it’s all about how much money we got in our pocket and how we spend that money.
Truly, it’s all about the money, honey.
Because it can turn into such a bitter argument, when I first met my then boyfriend, we actually agreed to maintain our own money folds. My bills, then, were mine, and his were his. This worked for the first couple years. When we started living together and he moved in with me, he would pay his portion, a whopping $400 every month. We were coming together in many ways, but we continued to keep our finances strictly separate. Until, you guessed it, marriage bells... and it was time to purchase a house together. At first, it worked okay. We split everything down the middle. Except, it turned out, down the middle did not work. I found myself contributing more than I wanted. That was frustrating. I had to do something, WE had to do something.
It was time to sit down and talk about finances.
I have not found anybody yet that would say money is not important. Even though we were in happily ever after, finances are a part of real life and very much a part of our life together. Initially, we decided to keep our expenses combined and we would pull out of a joint account for household expenses but keep our credit cards to purchase our own items. You can guess how well that worked out. Call me frivolous, or call him fancy...
It was time to sit down and talk about finances. Again. This time, find a middle ground.
What we established was so positive, so absolutely workable, that I cannot keep it to myself! By taking a little wisdom away from bits and pieces of other threads of conversation I had with friends and family, we developed a plan that has worked and continues to work to this day.
The first part of our plan was, of course, to keep our finances joint. Married. Why separate? By joint finances, I mean incoming and outgoing (this is crucial folks...own it TOGETHER).
The second part of our plan was to create a spreadsheet with our monthly bills, including saving, spending income, and predicted costs of toiletries. Yay, fun, right?
After we allotted different expenses for specific bills, accounts, and spending needs, we decided to give each other an equal amount of SPENDING MONEY. This, of course, is cash for accountability.
But, wait, this is where I suggest the fine print come into the picture. By spending money, that includes anything extra that is not on the spreadsheet that we may want...anything extra (it doesn’t matter that I make more than him…). For example, I like my creams. That comes out of my spending. He likes his magazines. That is his cost. I like to bowl. That is where that cost ended. No more bowling for me. At least for now.
You see, my friends, it was in compromising that we came to a point where we were both happy. And that is the biggest thing I want you to take away from me here about finding a middle ground with finances in your relationship. No matter what plan you try on (maybe you guys want to try on ours!), you both need to be part of the plan, you both need to decide the limits and expectations, and you both need to own it. Like a boss, ya’ll! Key word. Both!
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Okay ladies, before we get started here, I need you to take one for the team. Hear me out. Don’t run. What I have to say you may not like at first, but in the end, you may feel differently. Let’s do this! SO...When you got married, what promises were in your vows? To love? To honor? To cherish? To submit?...Wait, WHAT!!! Did you say submit?
I did say submit.
- Don’t leave yet.
I have got something to say and spirit is here to make a way (pay no attention to the rhyme!)...When I said submit, or the act of submission, I can only imagine the heads spinning. I am assuming, of course, that you are thinking of submission as a gesture of willfully giving up your freedom, actions, and independence, for the man that you love. You could even be thinking of the words from our divine Biblical text that you brush off as ‘old-fashioned’ right? “Wives, submit to your husbands” (Ephesians 4:22). It is as if you have become a strawman and he pulls the strings. Truth, if someone told me to do such a thing, my head would spin as well.
But, ladies, and gentlemen here as well, let’s look at it a bit differently. Let us begin with the word submission itself. In Latin, the word submit, submission, refers to the yielding, or humbling, of oneself. It is this notion of accepting or acknowledging something or someone greater than us, and offering our peace to them. Now let’s take it deeper. Let’s look at your union. Is there a connection between you, where you comfort and hold each other, pray together, grow together, face problems together? Or do you find that there are troubles that exist among you? Perhaps there are disagreements that are pulling you apart? What if I said to just stop...stop fighting. In fact, stop arguing all together. What if you look past the arguments? Look past the troubles?
Find a place in yourself where you are reminded of those vows that you gave on your wedding day. I trust that you did not marry him to lose yourself to him, but to gain something better for you. Ladies, you know as well as I do, men are a different breed. But they will find fish from the bottom of the lake, deep in a trench, in cold, icy water, with THEIR TEETH for you as long as they know YOU have their back. You are a blessing in his life. He needs your support. He is also a blessing in yours. And that is why I write this for you today. Make note here, you married him to “gain something,” you gained “someone.” With that, you will face challenges. It is not the challenges that matter, but how you face them together.
So, when I suggest submission here, I am not proposing that you give up who you are and what you have fought to become. He loves you because of those traits and your opinion matters to him. I am wondering, though, if you are in a hard spot in your relationship, how would it change if you were to submit, as I use it here? Maybe put the ‘honor of each other’ at the forefront of every conversation? Show your pride by cherishing the respect and unity of your lives. Humble yourself before him as you would want him to be humbled for you. Submit to the marriage by recognizing that there are two in your partnership; you can put your partner first without feeling at a loss. Value each other. Remind yourself of why you got married in the first place. Two is always better than one my friends.
Feeling like you're roommates?
It seems that at some point in a relationship, it can go stagnant. Have you ever thought to yourself that you feel like your partner is none other than a roommate? The effort from both of you has decreased and you now have this relationship where you only coexist. You ask yourself, “where has the spark gone? Can we even get it back?” This is normal and there is hope!
As it is quoted, “anything in life worth having is worth working for,” so we know that with effort, there is gain. Gain of an evolved relationship, where the focus is not on reliving the past, but on building upon who you have grown to be as partners and seeing a future together. Where you consciously prioritize one another.
I like to relate a relationship to one much like a career. Bear with me here before you go thinking I have lost my mind. They have their similarities in the effort it takes to do both. Check out this read afterward so you can get a better idea of what I am talking about. The reason I bring this up is because this topic has to do with the first step I mention in the article, Checking in/Clocking in. As women, and I know I am guilty of it, we expect our partners to read our mind. This is impossible. They can’t possibly know what we are thinking. Shit! Half the time I don’t know what I am thinking. So, when we are checking in, this is the time to share how we are doing and feeling? This is not a passer-by scenario, with a “hey, how are you? I am good, how about you? That’s good” as we walk past them in a store. This is something that requires us to be active in the conversation, be present, and without distractions to really listen to one another and on a regular basis.
Now, if you are you still with me, you might be wondering what this has to do with how to fix the fact that you feel your relationship is boring. Well routine is boring, so by checking in, this is the first step towards talking about how you feel. Opening up to what is going on inside that head. Giving your partner a fair chance to plan things with you.
Now it is normal to feel boredom in a relationship, but when we start complaining all the time, or find that we have become complacent, it is time to shake things up. So do your relationship a favor and try one or even all of what’s on the list of the 10 Things You Can Do with Your Partner. Have fun, be open minded, and just do it.
1.) Back to the Basics
Think about what brought you together and the activities you enjoyed in the beginning.
2.) Be Goofy
Be silly. Make each other laugh. I personally love the laughing game where you tell each other jokes until someone breaks out in laughter.
3.) Cook Together
Try something new and go to a cooking class together. This can really help create a bond and further appreciation for one another.
4.) Step out of your comfort zone together
Think of something you would never normally do and try it together. I think of something that involves heights like bungee jumping.
5.) Workout together
Sweating together and supporting one another helps to increase your emotional bond.
6.) Try a new activity together ie. Rock climbing, ballroom dance, wine tasting
Keep things new by finding activities that are new for both of you. You might find you really like something and learn something new about yourself in the process.
7.) Mandatory Date Night
Don’t let your date nights go to the wayside. One way to help this is a Date Night Subscription kit. But by keeping your dates and doing something new, it gives you something to look forward to. The key is do not let date night become stale or routine. Same restaurant you always eat at. You know what I am talking about.
8.) Find something exciting to do
Play a sport together. Go horse back riding. Go skating. Whatever tickles your fancy.
9.) Experience a Concert together
This is my favorite. I love music so this is a must!! Plus buying matching concert tees is always cute.
10.) Plan a Staycation
When you can’t take a vacation whether it is financial reasons or job related, a staycation can be an easy alternative. Pack a bag for one night, figure out where to eat dinner close to the hotel, and spoil yourselves for the evening.
I hope you have found some things you can try with your partner on this list. As a reminder, boredom is normal in a relationship, but by applying effort in any of these forms, it can go a long way. Working together, trying new things, and living life to the fullest can help bring passion back into the relationship. When we do something exciting with one another we are releasing a hormone that results in bonding. That’s right, Oxytocin. Know that boredom might appear from time to time, but you have this list to come back to when you feel stuck. In consideration of our daily grind, use the list, and have fun trying new ideas. Here’s to consistent effort.
Enjoy your adventure!
Two, I was totally unprepared for who I was about to meet. You have heard and seen the “traditional Italian family” right? Think of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” but place Italian there for Greek. Okay? Right!? Everybody eats together, prays together, fights together, and, well, you know where I am going. Anyhow, super invasive, super talkative, lots of food, and WAY too much back history. I mean come on, we had only been together for a month, literally, 4 WEEKS, and there you go...by the end of the night I was starving (too scared to eat even though there was plenty), flustered, overwhelmed, nervous, anxious, and tired. Yes, tired. I ended up staying 5 hours! Not because I had to, but because I couldn’t just up and leave. I had too many family photo albums to look through!
Honestly, though, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Despite all of the laughter, talking, pictures, and food, I found that it was a lot easier than I imagined. Part of it was because I had read all of the worst case scenarios online (now, those are scary. Trust me. Don’t read them too deeply.). The other part was that I just didn’t know how to prepare myself for it. I went in thinking one thing, and walked out feeling very much differently. In hindsight, there are some kernels of thought that would have been useful.
For one, DON’T OVERTHINK IT
When we overthink things, we set ourselves up for failure because we know that in our heart, we can only present ourselves as who we are. Also, overthinking brings on anxiety and worry because it places your mind into the possibilities of the future, but you are living here in the now.
Second, BE YOUR BEST SELF
SO, really, he chose you. Chances are he loves you, or he is super close to saying that ‘L’ word, don’t you think he wants his family to fall in love with the ‘YOU’ that ‘YOU’ are too? It’s okay. Not a single person is perfect, but to him, you are perfect enough for him to bring you into his home. This was a hard concept for me!
Third, INITIATE CONVERSATION and INVITE QUESTIONS
It is impossible to settle your nerves completely. Come on, these are new waters and this is SCARY! But something that I have always said to myself, like holding a rubbing stone in your pocket, a little conversation is a great way to break the ice. It also shows that you are genuinely interested in their special family member. Just as they are going to want to get to know you, you can also get to know them. Again, it’s okay.
Fourth, DON’T PAY TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO BACK STORIES.
So, this is for those dramatic entrances right? The ones where you are prepared for the worst...like, “my dad is crazy. He is going to ask you weird questions.” That kind of stems up some anxiety, right? Well, whether he is or whether he isn’t allow yourself to be the judge of that. Prejudgement can actually cause you to have early assumptions that aren’t always accurate.
Finally, ENJOY YOURSELF.
Please. At the end of the day, this experience is one of your many firsts that you may have with this significant person. Take time to live in the moment by taking small breaths, smiling through your nerves, and squeeze your lover’s arm when you get a little tense. This is fun; it is memorable, even if it hasn’t happened yet, it, like other things wonderful, will come to pass as one of your greatest times, or, in my case, most unique!! We want to hear about your stories! Share below!