five love languages
Do you remember how it feels when you first fall in love? That feeling is one of pure euphoria. It gives you more spring in your step, it always feels like the sun is shining, and you walk around with a ridiculous grin everywhere you go. The “newlywed” phase of any relationship is one of obsession. You are smitten with each other. You wake up and fall asleep thinking about that person, and you are positive nothing can ever tear the two of you apart…
 
Eventually that phase ends and reality takes its place. The blinders are off, and you do not like what you see. What was once endearing to you is now annoying beyond belief. The person who made you feel happy and loved is now the person who makes you feel unappreciated and angry.
 
Love used to be enough, until it isn’t.

how understanding your love language can help improve your relationship

love languages can improve relationships

The idea of love languages was invented by a therapist named Gary Chapman. His book, The 5 love Languages- The Secret to Love That Lasts, explains that all of us have a love language. Just as a relationship won’t work if you can’t communicate because of a language barrier, how can a relationship work if each of you speak a different love language?

Now I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes. We’ve already read enough about men being from Mars and women from Venus, so now we’re being told that we don’t know how to love properly? Don’t we do enough?! I know I’ve bent myself in so many directions that I feel like a human pretzel.
 
The truth is that your efforts are unrecognized because you aren’t speaking your partner’s love language. If you are going to put effort into a relationship, don’t you want to do it in a way that matters to the other person? If not, what is the point of trying?

my husband and i were speaking different love languages in our relationship

I know I was a skeptic when I first heard about love languages. I tried so hard, but my husband and I were still bickering all the time. No matter what I said or did, I felt like he wasn’t listening and didn’t care. I felt like I wasn’t appreciated at all.
 

Change came from ending our codependent behavior, but a huge part of the problem was that both of us felt like we weren’t respected or valued by our partner. There was a huge disconnect, and that was because we were speaking completely different love languages.

Just as you need to focus on your own well-being so you can take care of others, you need to make sure your “love tank” is full. What often happens is that your partner thinks that what is being done or said is filling your love tank. Unfortunately, your love tank is still empty because you speak a different love language. Likewise, you believe you are showing your love for your partner, but they don’t feel loved or appreciated at all.
 

Children also need to have a full love tank, and it is important that we speak their love language as well. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell wrote the book, The 5 Love Languages of Children. There is a quiz in the book to discover your child’s primary love language.

For purposes of this article, I am going to concentrate on the understanding and importance of the love languages in romantic relationships.

these are dr. chapman’s five love languages

(This is a brief overview of the five love languages. In the book, each love language has a chapter explaining it in depth, and Chapman also gives specific suggestions on how to implement and understand each love language.)

words of affirmation

  • You feel loved and valued when your partner tells you those words.
  • You like to hear kind words and compliments from your partner to feel that your love tank is full.
  • It is crucial for partners to recognize that people who need words of affirmation are extra sensitive when a partner verbalizes displeasure.
  • Partners should be mindful that you should try to recognize and compliment the other’s efforts and speak encouraging words as much as possible. This keeps your partner’s love tank full.
  • According to Chapman, “Verbal compliments are far greater motivators than nagging words.”

quality time

  • For some people, what matters most is getting their partner’s undivided attention. They feel prioritized and valued when they are spending quality time with their loved one.
  • Quality time is not watching TV together. It is time where you both put away distractions and focus on one another.
  • Time together can be conversing after the kids are asleep, eating a meal together, taking a hike, doing an activity together, or playing a game together.
  • Unlike words of affirmation, which focuses on what the person is saying, quality time is about what the person is hearing.
  • Asking questions, showing empathy, and being genuinely interested in what the other one is saying is how you speak the love language of quality time.

receiving gifts

  • “Visual symbols of love are more important to some people than others”- Gary Chapman
  • These gifts do not have to be costly. It is the thought that counts. Some examples include giving a card (or making one), bringing flowers, or giving a small memento.
  • Having something tangible makes the person feel loved. It can be found, made, or bought.
  • Don’t wait for special occasions to give to the person whose primary love language is receiving gifts. Anything you give will be considered tokens of love.

acts of service

  • If this is your primary love language, you feel actions speak louder than words.
  • Having your partner do things makes you feel loved.
  • The amount of time is not what matters, it involves actions that you know your partner wants you to do.
  • Showing thoughtfulness through actions and doing these actions without complaining is speaking the love language of acts of service.

physical touch

  • Being held, holding hands, or getting a massage are all examples of physical touch.
  • Every person has different areas that are felt as pleasurable, so the preferable areas of touch will vary.
  • A man might assume that physical touch is his primary love language for sexual reasons, but if he is having sex regularly and still feels unloved, then it is probably not his primary love language.
  • Biological needs should not be confused for love languages.

what is your love language and the love language of your partner?

At the end of his book there are two quizzes (one for each of you) to understand and find out your primary love language. The test consists of 30 paired statements. You select the statement that is the most truthful for you.  Then you tally your results and see your primary love language.
 
People often have more than one love language, but usually there is one that is the highest. That is your primary love language.
 
My primary language is acts of service, and my husband’s primary language is physical touch. Previously, instead of speaking the love language that the other one needed, we were giving each other the type of love we wanted. We felt unappreciated because we weren’t giving the other person the love language necessary to fill our love tank.
 
I now will take my husband’s hand or rub his shoulders to fill his love tank, and he does things around the house without bickering (most of the time 😉).
 
Just as it is important to respect someone’s feelings even if they are different from yours, there is no right or wrong love language. It is important to give your partner the type of love they need. When people feel appreciated and loved, it is much easier to work through obstacles and work together as a team.
 
Do I miss the days when I heard the birds singing and I felt like I was floating on a cloud? Sure. The honeymoon phase of a relationship is fleeting. Understanding and speaking each other’s love language is a love that lasts a lifetime. I choose that kind of love any day.

how to shift your mindset

Our mindset determines how we view the world. It is through this lens that our thoughts, behaviors, careers, ambitions, and relationships with others are shaped. Our mindset will ultimately determine our life choices. Our mindsets are either known as fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets and growth mindsets will be explained in this article, as well as strategies to shift to a growth mindset in both adults and children.

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset

The concept of fixed mindset and growth mindset was first researched by psychologist Carol Dweck in 2006. She determined that these mindsets are formed very early in life.

Those with fixed mindset believe that intelligence and abilities are static. They feel that effort will not improve their mental skills or any other types of skills. They therefore don’t exert extra effort. The focus of those with this mindset is result oriented as opposed to progress oriented. If there is a skill that is lacking, they will avoid that skill and often feel ashamed about it. They try to always appear intelligent because they see failure as a lack of intelligence. They are not receptive to constructive criticism because of a belief that no good can come from it. They are also threatened by others’ success.

When you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your traits cannot be modified. Therefore, it is pointless to take any risks or try new things. People with this mindset often find themselves “stuck” because they do not believe they are able to improve their life circumstances. As a result, they do not reach their full potential. They are unwilling to put in the work to improve their quality of life and their relationship with others because they don’t see the purpose in doing so.

Those with a growth mindset view the world in a completely different way.

They believe that intelligence is something that can grow with effort, learning, and perseverance. Those with this mindset believe that your traits and behaviors can change. They embrace learning a new skill, trying a new thing, or taking a chance because they believe in personal and professional growth. They focus more on effort as opposed to results because results aren’t permanent. They are also more receptive to constructive criticism because it is an opportunity to learn more about themselves and gain additional insight.

People with growth mindset believe their potential is endless because they continue to work on themselves. They will find inspiration and encouragement from the success of others. They will continue to work towards goals, while valuing hard work and progress. People with this mindset are more likely to challenge themselves in every aspect of their lives because they feel that growth is possible.

fixed mindset and growth mindset

It is important to note that children with fixed mindsets prefer to do the things they already know how to do. They don’t want to put in the effort to learn new things because they feel their challenges indicate a lack of intelligence.  They are also more likely to lie about their performance because they measure intelligence in the form of results.

Children with growth mindsets are open to challenges because they see them as opportunities to learn new things and increase their intelligence. They will continue to put in the effort and learn things that are difficult for them. Children with growth mindsets believe success is possible with continued effort. They may be disappointed if they get a bad grade, but they will bounce back and keep working at it.

STRATEGIES TO SHIFT YOUR MINDSET IN ADULTS AND CHILDREN

strategies for nurturing a growth mindset

The above information has demonstrated the advantages of a growth mindset. The good news is that someone with a fixed mindset can change their mindset to a growth mindset.  If you or your child have a fixed mindset, use the following strategies:

(1) Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses

It is important to recognize that none of us are great at everything. We are not perfect, and each of us have areas of weakness (developgoodhabits.com, 2020).

(A) Discuss or list your weaknesses and strengths. Then pick one weakness that you or your child would like to work on. Look at those weaknesses with curiosity as opposed to judgment. For example, if you are always late, figure out what is the cause. Are you not giving yourself enough time to get ready or are you getting distracted and doing something else that prevents you from staying on course?  Brainstorm on ways to grow in this area. 

(B) Remember that weaknesses are opportunities for improvement. Setting goals should be about embracing growth rather than results. There are times that as hard as we try, we are just not going to be great at something. It is okay and inevitable. Remember that the effort is what matters. Try to learn from your weaknesses as opposed to seeing it as a waste of time. For example, I am not a great drawer. With practice I have gone from awful to mediocre.  Despite my best efforts, I am never going to be Thomas Kinkaid. However, I will still draw with my daughter, and I enjoy it tremendously. I have learned that doing things from the heart is what makes my drawing beautiful. 

(C) Flaws should be seen as part of what makes us human – just as freckles or a mole are not indications of failure, neither are our flaws. Flaws are not to be seen as ugly or feared.

(2) Remember that our brains have the capacity to learn new things

(A)Tell yourself or your child repeatedly that our brains can get stronger, just like a muscle. Whenever you or your child feels discouraged about something that is difficult, remember that our brains have the capacity to learn, and we can form and strengthen neural connections which make us smarter (mindsethealth.com, 2020). Learning throughout life allows your brain to form new connections throughout life.

(B) For a child, give the analogy of how our brain is full of lightbulbs and every time we try something new, a new lightbulb gets turned on. The more we work at a particular skill, regardless of outcome, the brighter the lightbulb will shine. This makes your brain stronger. If you don’t try new things, the lightbulb for that skill will never turn on (mother.ly, 2020).

(3) Lean into challenges and risks instead of avoiding them

(A)When you or your child continue to work on a difficult task, acknowledge it. Give yourself a pat on the back for trying something challenging, and tell your child that you notice that they are working hard.

(B) When something challenging presents itself, view it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

(C) It is okay to feel fear about a new situation or challenge, but remember that trying new things and taking risks allows us to learn new things about ourselves.  

(D) Teach your child what “grit” means and remember the importance of grit when facing challenges. Growth requires perseverance, resilience, and determination (positive psychology.com, 2021).

(4) Be mindful of praise

(A) Praise should be given for a specific action, not given as a generalization. For example, praise your child for how clever it was to try different ways to solve a puzzle rather than saying your child is clever.

(B) Whatever the outcome might be, make sure to focus on the effort rather than the outcome. If your child studies really hard for a test, whatever the grade may be, make sure to give praise for the amount of hard work as opposed to the result. Perfection is not the goal. For example, if your child studies really hard, but never does well in chemistry, praise him for how hard he tried. Likewise, if you try a new skill and it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to, focus on how hard you worked at this new skill (psychologytoday.com, 2020)

(C) Praise yourself and your child for using this new mindset. Remember to cheer yourself and others on when they grow.

(5) When you or your child catch yourself thinking in a fixed mindset, reframe it into a growth mindset

(A) Remember that learning new things and facing challenges won’t result in immediate outcomes. It takes time to learn and improve ourselves.

(B) When you feel discouraged or find yourself falling back into your old way of thinking, take the time to acknowledge that this is your fixed mindset. Then challenge that way of thinking using a growth perspective (For example, This is hard, but I am going to give it a try, trying new things helps me grow, practicing helps me get better at something). (positive psychology.com, 2021).

(C) Replace judgment with compassion and acceptance– instead of seeing your lack of success as a failure, remember that you are learning.

(D) “Yet” is a powerful word, and helps us shift our mindset. If you or your child have not accomplished something, remember to include the word “yet”. This allows room for growth.  For example, “You haven’t figured out how to build the tower yet.”

reframe your thoughts into a growth mindset

(6) Learning should always be the priority

(A) Figure out what you/your child’s learning style is (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, combination) and use that style to learn new things. However, be open to learning in new and different ways, as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method to learning (developgoodhabits.com, 2020).

(B) View constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn, and be receptive to what others are saying.

(C) Remember that areas that need improvement simply means you are still learning them.

(D) Take time everyday to think over the things you have learned and the opportunities you took or can take in the future. 

(E) When others succeed, see their success as an indication of the ability to learn. When others make mistakes, see it as a reminder that we are all imperfect and forever learning. In both instances, reflect on what they did or could have done differently, and use it as motivation for your own learning journey.

(F) View learning as a continuous way of training your brain. When we have nothing to learn, our minds cannot grow.

(G) Each time you or your child accomplishes a goal, seek out a new one. This allows continuous learning.

(H) It takes time to learn, and you and your child must be mindful of that to prevent falling back into a fixed mindset. As a result, give kids space to figure things out for themselves. Part of the learning process is to make mistakes and be unsuccessful. Those with a growth mindset understand that trial and error allows us to learn.

(7) Speed is not important

Remember that it is the journey that matters as opposed to the destination. It is okay if it takes longer to develop a new skill, but the important thing is to try our best as opposed to accomplishing something as quickly as possible (positive psychology.com, 2021).

(8) Model your own growth mindset in order to help your child work on theirs

It is important that you develop a growth mindset if you don’t already have one. This is necessary to set the right example for your children. It is okay if you have setbacks. Use them as opportunities to catch yourself and point out to your child how you reframe your thinking. Using and modeling these strategies helps your child to do the same (mother.ly, 2020).

growth

 

 

A growth mindset isn’t born overnight, and it won’t happen overnight. However, with time and practice you can change your mindset into one of growth. Learning and growing as a person and in all aspects of your life allows endless opportunities. The sky is the limit for you and for your child when you view life through a growth mindset.

living life like a child

 

Being a parent has been an eye opener for me in so many ways. I have had the privilege of watching my daughter grow. It is amazing to see how my child views the world. Whether you are a parent or not, I believe we should all try to use a child’s lens more when living our lives.  This article illustrates the power and freedom of living life like a child.

WHAT IT MEANS TO LIVE LIFE LIKE A CHILD

 

(1) Kids don’t judge

They look at everything with an open mind and heart. They do not have any preconceived notions or opinions. As adults, life has jaded us in many ways. It is understandable that our prior experiences have shaped our views. However, if we try to not judge a book from its cover, perhaps we can embrace new experiences and people rather than judge them.

(2) Kids are curious

Kids want to learn and understand everything around them. They ask questions because of a genuine interest in everything. Although trying at times, it is wonderous to see how much they want to learn. As adults, we often assume we have all the answers or don’t have the time or energy to seek out information. What if we took the time to discover why the sky is blue? There is so much each of us don’t know and imagine how much there is to discover.

(3) Kids have endless enthusiasm

I laugh as I write this one, because this is something that every teacher has said about Brielle. My daughter is excited about the simplest of things. A balloon! A box! Having a playdate (since COVID I think anyone would be excited about socializing, but I am referring to once upon a time when we could socialize without fear of a deadly virus)! Living life like a child means being excited about all that life has to offer. The little and simple stuff in life is not so little and simple to a child. I think we all could learn a thing or two about that.

(4) They are innocent and without prejudice

Innocence is a difficult subject for me. Some children have no choice but to lose their innocence at a young age for reasons beyond their control. I grew up in a toxic environment, and therefore didn’t get to stay innocent for very long. I am referring to children that grow up in loving, stable, healthy environments. Living life like a child means hatred and prejudice simply don’t exist to them.

I remember the first time my daughter saw a man in a wheelchair. She asked me what it was and why he was using it. The man saw her looking at him and asking. My first thought was that her questions were making him uncomfortable. It took me a few seconds to realize that wasn’t true. I was the one who was uncomfortable.

I realized that if I shied away from her questions or told her not to ask them, it was sending her a message that others that are different than us are to be avoided. Worse, it could portray that differences are something to be disliked or feared.

I learned that people are happy to answer your questions if they are coming from a place of innocence. Brielle learned that some people aren’t able to use their legs the way that we do. She has since asked and learned about hearing aids, skin tags, Tourette’s Syndrome, muscular sclerosis, and autism.

I recall the first time my daughter met a person of color. She was very young and a man came to our house to do some construction. She said hello and immediately asked him why he was dark. He got down to her level, smiled at her, and told her that not everyone has the same skin color. He then told her that all those differences are what makes the world special. My daughter, wide eyed, nodded and took in every word. She then gave him a hug. I have never forgotten that moment.

My initial embarrassment that she asked that question turned into gratefulness. I was grateful that her innocence allowed her to learn something that I wish everyone knew and understood. I once again realized that my discomfort could have prevented her from such a profound experience.  The prevention of asking and understanding differences is what brews ignorance, and ignorance is what breeds hate. Living life like a child means embracing differences and not avoiding them.

(5) Kids find humor and joy everywhere

Living life like a child means laughing all the time. My daughter finds humor in pretty much everything. Her laugh is contagious, and I find myself laughing. There isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t burst into giggles or hysterical laughter. She finds joy and humor in the simplest of things.

My silly faces make her laugh, a chapter from a book makes her laugh, pumping her legs on the swings makes her laugh, and rolling down a hill makes her laugh. She sometimes laughs at her laughs. It isn’t a teasing laughter; rather, it is a laughter that comes from the heart. What a wonderful world this would be if adults laughed more at ourselves and found more humor and joy in life.

(6) Kids don’t care what others think

I am often self-conscious. On the contrary, Brielle laughs, shouts, giggles, dances, sings, and is herself without constraints. She lives her life like nobody is watching, and more importantly, she wouldn’t care if they were. Some kids are shyer than others. However, living life like a child means that when they are doing something, they aren’t worrying about what other people think. Imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if we all lived like that.

(7) Kids love to play

Adults are consumed with responsibilities. Kids, however, play. They focus on having fun and enjoying themselves. Living life like a child means connecting with others and learning through contentment.

Understandably, kids are able to enjoy themselves more because of their lack of obligations. However, kids don’t feel guilty for doing things that make them happy. They don’t feel selfish because they take the time to do things that bring them joy. Adults (myself included) should take a page from the kid handbook and incorporate hobbies and other forms of self-care into our lives without guilt.

(8) Kids feel their feelings without reservations

When a kid is happy, it is obvious. Likewise, when a child is feeling frustrated, mad, or sad, their emotions come pouring out of them. Meltdowns and temper tantrums are common among young children because of their frustrations at being unable to properly communicate or express their emotions. Children want to share how they are feeling.

Adults, however, feel the need to often hold back our feelings. Many of us were taught at a young age that it is important to “be strong” or “not cry like a baby.” Those words shaped our perceptions and in turn, many of us grew up burying our feelings. Living life like a kid means that it is okay to not be okay. Kids will freely express their emotions without reservation. It is only when adults try to constrict those emotions that kids do otherwise.

I am certainly not saying that parents shouldn’t try to calm a child down when they are having a temper tantrum. However, if we take the time to understand why a kid is behaving a certain way or struggling, it will help them to be better equipped to deal with those emotions. Most importantly, teaching them healthy coping mechanisms to handle their feelings rather than sweep them under a rug encourages kids to continue to embrace their feelings.

Kids are authentic with their feelings and emotions. We should try to live life like a child and allow ourselves to feel more and restrict ourselves less. Life would be more authentic, genuine, and real if we all freely expressed ourselves.

 

 

Kids are an example of all the things we once embodied. Their innocence, curiosity, excitement, and pleasure in the simplest of things are a reminder of how much beauty there is in this world. If each of us made a vow to try to live life like a child, we would be opening ourselves up to a world of possibilities.

There is a lot of pain and cruelty in this world, and I am not suggesting that all bells can be unrung. However, there are things right in front of us that can bring us joy, if we allow ourselves to see it. We are no longer children, but we can try to view life through a different perspective.

Lay in the grass or jump in a puddle (it really is fun!). Sing your favorite song on top of your lungs. Learn something new. Take a moment to appreciate something simple, but that brings you joy. Try to be open to something without judging it first. Living life like a child will make us better adults and better people.

fighting in a healthy relationship

Fights. Conflict. Arguing. Words that make most of us incredibly uncomfortable. However, fighting is inevitable in all relationships. The key is to figure out how to have a healthy fight instead of an unhealthy fight. For purposes of this article, healthy fighting is synonymous with constructive fighting and healthy conflict.  If conflict is part of any relationship, it is crucial to learn how to have a healthy fight.

Ways To Have Constructive Conflicts In A Healthy Relationship

 

(1) Mindfulness and taking a pause

Healthy fighting is about addressing a problem together. Even when two people have strong opinions, the key is learning to respond instead of react. This is a crucial way to fight productively.

I will admit that my husband and I are both hotheads. As a result, what may initially be a simple discussion turns into a trigger-fest, with each one of us reacting to what the other one is saying. Instead of addressing the problem, it turns into a bigger argument.

I know we are not the only ones who often react first and then think later. Luckily, there is a solution that enables healthy fighting between couples. It involves mindfulness. This means paying attention to the physiological reactions going on in your body (blood pressure rising, heart racing, surge of adrenaline) that take place when you start to feel emotionally charged. If you learn to notice those reactions once they start, you can prevent them from going any further.

Practicing pausing before reacting is how couples have a healthy fight.  Once you recognize that you are starting to react, STOP. Take a breath. Don’t say a word. Instead, put a hand up to indicate you need a break or determine in advance a signal you will use when you need to stop. Walk away if needed. If you stop as soon as you feel a reaction, it will prevent you from verbally reacting. It will also take less time to calm down. Once you react and fall down the rabbit hole, it is much harder to get out of it.

Mindfulness and pausing is not something that you can learn to do overnight. If you typically react rather than respond, work on listening to your body’s signals and get better equipped at noticing them. Over time, you will be able to take that much needed pause.

(2) Showing empathy and give validation

constructive fighting

When you are fighting, are you trying to understand the feelings of your partner? You do not have to have the same opinion as your partner to show empathy. Validating someone’s feelings is a huge part of healthy fighting. Ultimately, each person in a relationship wants to feel heard.

You don’t need to agree with what someone is saying, as long as you can recognize that their way of experiencing things doesn’t have to be the same as yours to make it valid. Ways of validation can be non-verbal, such as leaning forward when the person is speaking, making eye contact, and nodding.

We can each have our own unique feelings. No matter how we feel, those feelings deserve acknowledgment, respect, and validation. When there is a desire to understand your partner’s way of thinking and feeling, this is healthy fighting in a relationship.

(3) Focus on the issue at hand

It is easy to turn one argument into a rehashing of all of your issues in the relationship or with that person. That will only make the argument turn into a blame game. Instead, have healthy conflict by sticking to the particular topic.

(4) Know when to hold them and when to fold them

Sometimes there is not an easy resolution to a problem. If you feel like you are going in circles with no end in sight, put a pin in it. That will give both of you time to think over what the other one was saying, and to try to gain some clarity and additional perspective. Decide in advance when you will revisit this topic so it doesn’t get swept under the rug. Constructive fighting means knowing when to stop before it turns into destructive fighting.

(5) A mutual desire to reach a resolution

Healthy fighting between couples means that both people approach the conflict wanting to repair a problem. Figuring out a solution isn’t as important as each person having a genuine desire to resolve the issue. You may not be able to reach a resolution, but it is a constructive fight if both are approaching it from a healthy mindset.

(6) How you express your feelings

If you talk about your feelings in terms of how YOU are affected by a situation or the other person, that is a much healthier way of fighting. Try to use “I feel” rather than “You did” when fighting. Make it about yourself instead of speaking for the other person or criticizing them.

(7) Wanting to communicate

Healthy relationships understand that fighting is par for the course. It is better to get your feelings out in the open and address your concerns rather than bury your feelings or pretend that everything is okay. Communication is key in every relationship, and it is necessary to communicate even if it will cause a fight. Your partner isn’t a mind-reader, so you need to be upfront and honest about what is on your mind.

Be as specific as you can about your concerns and when brainstorming solutions. Sometimes, there is a pattern to your conflicts. By being as specific as you can about your feelings, you may discover what is the true root of the problem. Open and honest communication in every aspect of the conflict enables constructive and healthy fighting. 

(8) Be a team

Conflict between couples is healthy when both people understand that the ultimate goal is to work together. Remember that if one loses, the both of you lose. It is necessary to be a team rather than keep a running tally of who is right and who is wrong.

healthy fighting

(9) Give each person time to talk

There are two people in a relationship, and each one is entitled to have a voice when there is a fight. Give each person a chance to speak, and try your best not to interrupt. When one person is finished, then the other person should get the same opportunity to talk. If one person tends to monopolize the conversation, you can determine in advance how much time you each will get and take equal turns speaking. Just as it is important to be a good listener, it is important that you each speak your mind and voice your feelings.

(10) Make Requests

Fighting in a healthy relationship means asking your partner to contribute to a solution or a situation. If you make a request rather than demand or complain, you are approaching the conversation in a productive way.

(11) Ask questions from a curious perspective

When in doubt, ask your partner what they need. If you have any confusion, ask! Ask what will make your partner happy. Ask what they need to feel safe and loved. Lack of proper communication and misunderstanding will cause a conflict to turn into an unhealthy one.

(12) Respect your partner’s boundaries and stick to your own boundaries

When fighting, it is important to stay respectful and honor each other’s boundaries. This could mean setting an alarm because your partner doesn’t want to discuss heated topics after a certain time, or it could means taking a time out for a designated amount of time. Whatever the boundaries may be, discuss these boundaries in advance to ensure that they are implemented on both ends.

Things to Avoid That Can Lead To Destructive  Fighting

destructive fighting

  • Ignoring your partner- checking your phone, looking around or any avoidant behavior are all signs of unhealthy conflict.
  • Criticizing, shaming and demeaning behavior- eye rolling, sighing, or verbally belittling your partner.
  • Jumping to conclusions- give your partner an opportunity to explain their behavior or circumstances by asking questions rather than throwing accusations.
  • Beginning a conversation already triggered. Take time to calm down before you discuss anything.
  • Asking questions to prove the other person is wrong.  Only ask questions when wanting to genuinely understand the other one and to work together.
  • Keeping track of all the things you disagree with while the the other person is speaking.
  • Walking away in the middle of a conflict with the intention of not addressing the topic again.
  • Dismissing your partner’s feelings or refusing to acknowledge the validity of your partner’s feelings because you don’t agree with them.
  • Bringing up topics that cannot be resolved (e.g., took place in the past) or that detracts from the topic at hand.
  • Abusive behavior, whether physically violent or verbal. 
  • Playing the blame game. Nobody wins.
  • Bringing up your partner’s deepest secrets and vulnerabilities in the middle of a fight.
  • Getting increasingly triggered and continuing the conversation.
  • Avoiding a topic altogether because a resolution wasn’t reached.

We are all unique, with our own set of desires, emotions, and opinions. Two different people and perspectives will eventually result in conflict. If people are open to understanding those differences, arguing can be a source of deeper understanding of one another. Learning to fight in a healthy way will allow for a relationship filled with love, no matter the argument.

implement healthy boundaries

Boundaries. A word that holds so much importance, but is so often misunderstood. The reality is that implementing healthy boundaries is crucial for your mental health. Additionally, they allow you to have healthy relationships and protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

The Importance of Implementing Healthy Boundaries for Your Mental Health

Boundaries have a bad rap. People feel uncomfortable with the idea of setting boundaries. Additionally, they feel boundaries are giving ultimatums or telling people what to do. The truth is, without boundaries there is likely to be burnout, anger, and resentment. You cannot have a healthy relationship without implementing healthy boundaries. Period.

Boundaries allow for healthy relationships because you are deciding what is best for yourself. In other words, you are focusing on your identity and not holding yourself accountable for others. Equally, others are not responsible for you. This prevents codependency and other unhealthy or toxic behaviors.

Setting healthy boundaries allows you to prioritize your non-negotiables. This in turn promotes putting your mental health and wellness first. Boundaries are a necessary form of self-care. In order to love yourself, healthy boundaries are needed.

Recognizing Healthy Versus Unhealthy Boundaries

As explained above, implementing healthy boundaries allows for improved mental wellness and promotes healthy relationships. That said, not all boundaries are healthy. A boundary is unhealthy if you keep a distance from others to protect yourself from getting hurt, are afraid to say no, and/or accept disrespectful behavior or comments that don’t honor your core-values and needs. Unhealthy boundaries also take place when too much personal/private information is shared, you rely on others’ approval before making decisions or stating an opinion, and/or your sense of self is based on how others treat you. “In other words, healthy boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship” (positivepsychology.com, 2020).

HOW TO SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

setting healthy boundaries

Now that you have a better understanding of why healthy boundaries are crucial, the next question is how to set boundaries.

Here are things to keep in mind to implement healthy boundaries (psychcentral.com, 2016):

(1) Tune into your feelings and ask yourself what you want and need from your various relationships.

This includes romantic relationships, friendships, children, family members, and co-workers. What goes on in these relationships that makes you feel resentful or uncomfortable? Those are likely the things that require boundaries.

(2) Figure out what your core values are.

In other words, what matters to you most? What are your non-negotiables/limits?

(3) Examine your current boundaries (if any), if they need to be applied to other relationships, or if they don’t accurately reflect what you need.
(4) Start small.

Pick something that isn’t as stressful for you to set, and then work your way up to more difficult boundaries.

(5) Make sure to clearly communicate your expectations.

You want to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.

(6) Do not apologize for your boundaries and try to be as concise as possible.

It is not necessary to go into great detail and justify yourself. You can state why the boundary is important to you. However, boundaries are not asking for permission. People don’t have to agree with your boundaries, but they do need to respect them.

(7) Remember to say “no” if you feel uncomfortable or to prevent a violation of your limits.

Alternately, be respectful of other people’s needs and if they say “no” to you, as long as they are not violating your boundary in the process.

(8) Try to keep the focus on yourself and your needs rather than focusing on what someone else’s actions.

For example, “I will not pick up the phone after 10pm” rather than saying, “Stop calling me so late.”

(9) Consistency is everything.

Don’t set a boundary unless you are going to follow through with it.

(10) Remember that setting healthy boundaries may be uncomfortable to you at first.

You might feel guilty about setting boundaries. You may feel that you are hurting someone’s feelings or are being disrespectful. Change is hard, and your hesitancy is understandable, especially in environments that don’t embrace boundaries. For some, lack of boundaries is all that is known.  It might be an adjustment, but with time, it will get easier.

(11) Prioritize yourself.

Remember to put yourself first. Additionally, be mindful of your well-being to set and maintain boundaries. Remember that implementing healthy boundaries is for your mental health and will improve the quality of your relationships.

Types of Healthy Boundaries

healthy boundaries for your mental health

Setting boundaries will vary based on various relationships (coworker versus spouse), but all relationships need each of these boundary types (mindbodygreen.com, 2019).

Physical Boundaries

This incorporates your need for personal space, whether or not you want to be touched, and your privacy.

Examples of physical boundaries are:

“I need 30 minutes to myself after I get home from work.”

“I don’t like kissing in public.”

“This room is off-limits for other people.”

“I don’t tell my daughter to hug people. That is her choice.”

Intellectual Boundaries

This refers to your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It is making sure that you are heard and that your ideas are respected, even if they vary from others. It also means stating when you feel comfortable or uncomfortable discussing something.

Examples of intellectual boundaries are:

“I don’t like discussing politics.”

“I think it is better to discuss this when the kids are asleep.”

“We have different opinions, and I’d like to be able to state mine as well.”

“I won’t continue this conversation if I am talked over.”

Emotional Boundaries

This is respecting your feelings, what you are willing to share, and when you are willing to share personal information.

Examples of this are:

“Are you able to talk? I am struggling right now.”

“You seem upset, but I am upset too. I need a few minutes to calm down before we sit down and talk about this.”

“I don’t need you to agree with my feelings, but I do need them to be listened to with empathy.”

Sexual Boundaries 

This encompasses all aspects of sexuality, including consent, respecting different preferences, and limitations.

Examples of this include:

“I will only have sex with a condom.”

“No. I don’t feel comfortable doing that with you.”

“Please keep your hands to yourself.”

“I am not in the mood for that tonight.”

 “I really like __________. Is this something you’d feel comfortable doing with me?”

Material/Financial Boundaries

This refers to money and materialistic objects. Setting expectations for what is yours financially, what you feel comfortable sharing, and how your items should be treated all encompass this boundary type.

Examples include:

“I am not able to loan you money.”

“If you borrow my car, I want it returned in the same condition in which I loaned it to you.”

“I lent you my dress, and it was returned with a stain. I will not loan it to you again until it is taken to the dry cleaners.”

Time Boundaries

This includes how you use your time and how much time you spend with others or doing things. You need to prioritize your time and who you spend it with.  This is necessary in order to set and maintain healthy boundaries for mental wellness. Failure to do so will result in overcommitting and feeling overwhelmed.

Examples of this type of boundary are:

“I can only stay for 20 minutes.”

“I have other obligations, so I can’t volunteer for this event.”

“In order to spend uninterrupted time with my wife, I do not talk on the phone after 8pm.”

 

 

Implementing healthy boundaries for your mental health is not optional. It is crucial for your mental, physical, and emotional wellness, and for any type of relationship. This should be considered a part of your self-love and self-care practice. Just as you cannot pour from an empty cup, you cannot prioritize your needs and limits without setting boundaries. 

Only you can determine what boundaries to set, and what happens if those boundaries are not respected. Depending on severity, it may vary from reinstating your boundaries more assertively to ending a relationship. Show compassion for yourself as you learn to implement boundaries, and remember that it is necessary to respect the boundaries of others as much as others should respect yours.

 

ways to celebrate valentines day

Valentine’s Day is typically an opportunity to spend time together outside of the home. Although COVID-19 has put a damper on that, you can still have a romantic Valentine’s Day. Wait until the kids are asleep and spend time together. Unsure of how to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year? I’ve got you covered! Use these 10 simple, yet memorable ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your beloved:

Have an indoor movie night

Pick a romantic movie, pop some popcorn, and snuggle on the couch. Having a private watching party is a great way to relax, unwind, and enjoy time together on Valentine’s Day.

Plan an indoor picnic

Spread out a blanket on the floor, gather your food, and open up a bottle of wine. Toast to one another and pretend you are eating outside without having to worry about any bugs.

Make a simple dessert together

smores

Whether it’s making cheesecake with a store-bought crust or making smores by the indoor fire, use some simple ingredients to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home.

Cook dinner together

You have to make dinner anyway, so why not do it together? Pick a recipe that is special to the two of you, help tie one another’s aprons, and sneak in a few (or many) kisses while cooking. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but the important thing is that you are making something together.

Play a game

Friendship is a crucial part of maintaining your relationship, so why not celebrate Valentine’s Day at home while kicking your spouse’s butt at a game of Scrabble? Our personal favorites are Othello and Mastermind. You can also do a puzzle together or play a game of cards. Enjoying one another’s company is the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home. 

Do a subscription box for couples

There are tons of boxes for couples that get delivered to your home:

  • Escape the Crate: A bi-monthly “Escape Room” subscription box full of puzzles and mysteries to solve. We actually did this one for awhile, but we found that some of the puzzles were too vague to figure out due to ambiguous clues.
  • Crated with Love: Crated with Love is a date night box designed by therapists and family counselors. Each month they send a new, uniquely-themed collection of 4 or 5 challenges and activities created specifically for couples.
  • The Adults and Crafts Crate: Create something with your spouse or significant other on date night with this monthly, DIY craft box.
  • DateBox Club: With a unique theme every month, each box provides an activity, a snack, a playlist, and best of all, DateBox Club’s signature Connector pieces.
  • Love Language Card Game: Cards are divided into 5 categories to make sure every topic of life is covered: Family, Intimacy, Couple, Individual, and Past & Future. You can either focus on one category you want to deepen with your partner, or mix them all.

There are many different subscription options based on how frequently you want to get a box. Based on your personal preferences, you can find a box that you and your sweetheart will enjoy doing together. If you aren’t already a subscriber you won’t be able to get this on time for Valentine’s Day. However, you can always use it another time for an extra special indoor date night!

Have a private dance party

dance party

Nothing says romantic like playing some romantic music and slow dancing. Turn out the lights, sway slowly to the music, and see where the night takes you! If either one of you isn’t a fan of slow dancing, you can stream your musical preference and snuggle on the couch.

Talk

You can tell each other about something funny that happened to you, or you can use THIS printable for intimacy where you ask and answer questions. 

Make homemade Valentine’s Day cards for each other or write poems for one another

I prefer a written letter or poem from my husband over a store-bought card any day. You can even write a poem together. It’s Valentine’s Day; sappy is good.

Get touchy feely

Buy some massage oils and give each other a nice back rub. Light some scented candles, play romantic music, and enjoy!

 

 

Even if you’re stuck at home, there are still many ways to make Valentine’s Day memorable. Use one or many of these suggestions, and have a wonderful time celebrating Valentine’s Day together at home!

secrets to a long and happy marriage

I shared with you the story of how I met my husband. When we exchanged vows, we expected to have a long and happy marriage. Like all true stories, happily ever after does not exist.  My husband and I have endured many bumps along the road, and there were times I honestly wasn’t sure if we were going to make it. 

It’s Okay to Admit That Marriage Is Really Hard

I think the best piece of advice I ever got was from my husband’s grandma (who passed away in March due to COVID).  When I asked her what the secret is to a long and happy marriage, she told me to remember that the first ten years of marriage are the hardest. I remember laughing in my head at the time.  I had heard that the first couple of years were rough, but ten? Really?! The joke was on me because she was right.

Learning to blend two very different people together is no easy task. In fact, the things I love most about Matt are also the things that drive me absolutely crazy (and vice versa). At the beginning, everything is new and exciting, and it is easy to overlook things. Once the honeymoon phase ends and life sifts in, it is a whole new ballgame. Juggling life’s responsibilities, raising a child, and encountering hardships can often tear people apart.

There are many things I wish I knew at the beginning of our marriage that could have saved us both a lot of anger, tears, and heartache. Here are some words of advice for a long and happy marriage:

8 Secrets To A Long and Happy Marriage

what does it mean to be happily married

(1) Pick your battles, pick your battles, pick your battles

Have I mentioned you should pick your battles? I am a stubborn, strong woman, and my husband is even more stubborn than me. We see many things differently. If we bicker every time we disagree about something, well, we’d bicker constantly (which we did). I have learned (as has he) that it’s simply not worth sweating the small stuff. If he leaves his clothes next to the hamper instead of inside the hamper, reminding him each time is just going to annoy him. This will make him act snippy, which will cause me to get snippy.  I’d rather put his clothes in the hamper and play the “please do this” card when it is more important.

(2) Know your spouse’s love language and know yours as well

What you feel are signs of love and affection may not even register on your spouse’s radar. This leaves you feeling unappreciated, and he feels that he’s not getting the type of affection he needs. Nobody wins. My love languages are acts of service (primary) and words of affirmation(secondary), and his love languages are physical touch (primary) and words of affirmation (secondary).

Most of our marriage I did the things for him that were my primary love language, but he couldn’t care less about those things. In turn, he would go over and hold my hand and hug me (which is his primary love language), and I didn’t feel appreciated at all. Now I know that giving him a massage or rubbing his arm makes him feel loved, and I try hard to voice my appreciation for all he does for our family. He in turn tries to show me now that he loves me by doing things such as mowing the backyard or doing the dishes.

(3) Establish boundaries

Matt struggles with bringing things up when they happen. As a result, he’d bury his feelings until he’d finally explode and start yelling about all the things that upset him.  Our solution was to discuss our requests and requirements that we want from one another. It is up to each of us to hold ourselves accountable for honoring our own boundaries as well as the other person’s.

(4) Don’t expect the other person to save/fix you or to change

This is a huge one for both of us. I grew up having a codependent relationship with my mother, which turned into a codependent relationship with Matt. I was unhappy and experienced a lot of trauma in my life, and I wanted my marriage to give me the feeling of wholeness and happiness that I was missing. That is A LOT of pressure to put on someone else.

Matt thought it was my job to take care of him. As a result, our dynamic became one more resembling of a mother and son than a husband and wife. I had to nag him to do things, and he resented me for it. He didn’t want to take responsibility for his choices, and I felt it was my job to convince him to do so.

I have come to learn that it is my job to save myself, and he has learned that he is responsible for his actions. I love and support him, but his choices are his alone. This gives him the space to be the man he is capable of being, and I spend my energy on working on myself instead of trying to convince him to work on himself.

(5) There is no weakness in forgiveness  

We are imperfect and will make mistakes and hurt each other along the way. It is inevitable that we will say and do things that we will regret. Showing compassion to ourselves and to one another is necessary to have a happy marriage. There are some things that are unforgiveable, and that is where boundaries come in, but try not to hold grudges.

(6) Try to have fun together

These are exceedingly difficult times. It is easy to get consumed with all the stress and hardships.  Take the time to enjoy one another’s company, and not just talk about kids or responsibilities.

(7) Take a break

This is an important tip in parenting and marriage. If you’re really upset, you are likely to react instead of responding or listening to what your partner is saying. Take time to cool off before you speak to your partner.  If things get incredibly tense during the conversation, put a pause in it. Give yourself and one another the space to calm down. It’s hard to walk away in the moment, but with effort and practice it is possible.

(8) Respect one another’s feelings

You don’t have to agree with your partner, but there is no right or wrong way to feel. If your partner is hurt or upset, it is never okay to dismiss or minimize his/her feelings because you don’t share the same sentiment.  It is important to acknowledge another person’s feelings while having your own.  Debating over who is right and how to feel usually leaves everyone a loser and unhappy.

Marriage is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

long and lasting marriage

The picture many of us had in our heads about what life and marriage would look like is usually not the case.  Instead of putting expectations on yourself and your partner, try to remember that marriage isn’t a sprint. Learning to navigate the murky water of marriage takes time, effort, and lots of trial and error.

Love isn’t always enough, but we have learned a lot about ourselves and each other along the way. I honor that journey because it is a great reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we are willing to travel together.

lessons i learned

I think if I had to sum up 2020 in one word, it would be “suffering”. It has been a year of various types of suffering, whether it be emotional, psychological, financial, or physical. It has also been a year where I learned several important lessons.

The world we live in is a world that I never imagined in my wildest dreams. I used to watch apocalyptic shows with my husband and roll my eyes at the outlandish plot…. a deadly virus wipes out everyone- ha! Who knew that would somewhat resemble our reality? 

There is nothing I could write about that would make this pandemic any easier, so I won’t even try to do so. What I will discuss, however, is that this year has made me truly reflect on life in a way that I had never done before. It is in that spirit that I will discuss the lessons that I’ve taken away from this year: 

The Biggest Lesson I Learned This Year 

don't take the ones you love for granted

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to appreciate the people I have in my life. We are all overwhelmed with responsibilities and struggling to make it through the day. As a result, it is perfectly understandable that we sometimes take the ones we love for granted. That is, until we don’t have them anymore…

My husband’s grandmother unexpectedly passed away due to COVID, and both of my in-laws still struggle with their health daily since contracting the virus 9 months ago. These terrible circumstances forced me to realize a hard truth- the people we have today may not be there tomorrow.  

It is easy to forget that what matters most are the people we carry in our hearts. So often we say, “If only I would have known _____, I would have done________ differently.” There are times when we mean to call but get distracted, where we could have said “I love you” one more time, but didn’t, where we could have reached out to check on a friend or loved one to see how they were feeling, but forgot. Life gets in the way; it happens to all of us.  

This year is different though. We now have a constant reminder that time is fleeting. We cannot turn on a computer or watch the news without seeing the latest death count. The clock is ticking, and now, more than ever, we need to seize the moment so we don’t look back and wish we had done things differently. 

Moving into 2021, I am going to try to remember to focus my attention on prioritizing the people in my life over my to-do list. I will leave the dishes in the sink a little longer, go a few days extra without doing the laundry, and even let my husband get away with not putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. 

At the end of the day, my clean house is not what matters. I still have responsibilities that I need to fulfill as a grown-up, but I want to spend as much of my time as I can on having no regrets. What matters most is my daughter’s infectious laugh, my husband’s embrace, and the people that I love.   

Putting Yourself First: Finding Worth and Validation Inside

validating myself

Although somewhat pandemic related, the lesson I learned this year is more related to my unique circumstances.  

I started this blog only five months ago. I had no idea what to expect when I first started putting my stories out there. The initial outburst of support was unexpected and meant the world to me. Knowing that my words were helping others warmed my heart and gave me a new purpose besides being a Stay-at-Home-Mom, homeschool teacher, and a wife (all roles which I treasure).  

Things moved more rapidly than I expected, and then came to a halt. Facebook deactivated my profile, which was a huge source of my traffic. My other sources of traffic weren’t consistent and the comments and feedback I was getting weren’t nearly as frequent as they were at the beginning.  

I started a new website hoping that creating better optimization would increase my traffic. It didn’t. Instead, I received a notification that someone unsubscribed. It was like a slap in the face. 

I felt defeated. People no longer cared. I was old news. My content must stink. I guess I’m not a good writer after all. I’m not helping anyone. I put my heart and soul into this, and it was for nothing. My blog is a failure. I’m a failure 

Despite the number of well-known publications that have featured my writing, all I could see were my failures. With each subsequent low traffic post, my self-esteem lowered with it. I had a few more people unsubscribe. This only confirmed the stories I was now telling myself, not only about my blog, but about what it reflected about me as a person. 

It is not easy to write personal, gut wrenching posts and not get the feedback you hope you’d receive. However, this situation taught me a very valuable lesson. 

I spent most of my life relying on others to feel good about myself.  On the flip side, if someone said or did something that I found hurtful, didn’t want to be my friend, or didn’t validate my feelings, I felt worthless. My feelings and my opinion of myself only had merit if others validated them. 

I thought I had improved my codependent ways, and I have made huge strides. However, this blog caused a huge relapse, and I realized that I was relying on this blog to feel valued. My blog was no longer just about helping people; it was about proving to myself that I was good enough as a person and a writer. 

I had two choices: The first was to stop writing the blog and throw in the towel. The other option was to keep writing from my heart and be proud of my hard work, content, and writing no matter what others said or did. I decided to go with option number 2. 

I learned that readers are fleeting, subscribers are fleeting, people’s opinions of me are fleeting. What should never be fleeting is what matters most- my belief in myself. I need to give myself the validation that I was seeking from others. 

No matter the viewers or feedback, my biggest fan always needs to be me. If others like what I’m writing, that is icing on the cake. I can’t convince others to read my words. What I can do is have faith in myself and stand by my words. Everything else is out of my hands. 

I think this is a lesson that we can all apply to our lives. We may not get the validation we seek from others, whether it be from our boss, our family, or our friends. That can cause us to feel that we aren’t good enough in those roles. Parenting is often a thankless job.  Our spouse may not verbalize appreciation for our hard work and effort; the list goes on and on. We can spiral down the rabbit hole of despair and insecurity, or we can remind ourselves that we will never feel good about ourselves if we outsource our feelings of self-worth.  

A painful lesson I learned this year is that we cannot rely on other people to validate our roles and feelings.  It is our job to give that to ourselves.

The Importance Of Self-love and Self-care 

self care bingo

I do not know how to do something halfway. Anything I do, I do to the best of my ability, and I give it my all. Sometimes this can take on a life of its own, and it comes at a cost to myself. 

Blogging is a great example of my extremist mentality. Writing a blog while homeschooling and caring for a child full-time is challenging, to put it mildly. There are only so many hours in a day. Putting out constant content and taking care of a child that needs constant monitoring took a toll on me. My husband also has been working overtime, so I’ve needed take care of my daughter by myself into the night. I was exhausted physically, but also emotionally and psychologically from the topics I write about. Half the night I would stay up rewriting my posts so I could devote the other hours to homeschooling and spending time with Brielle. I also didn’t want the blog to take away time from spending time with my husband after Brielle goes to sleep.

It wasn’t a shock when I became run down. I’ve had cold symptoms on and off for the last month that I kept ignoring. I finally had a telemedicine appointment and was told I have a bad sinus infection and had to take antibiotics. I was running around with a fever and feeling crappy, but still didn’t slow down.  

The first lesson I learned this year that I discussed in this post was recognizing what is most important in your life. To me, that is the people I love, and that includes myself. I write posts about self-care and self-love, but I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I’ve allowed my mental and physical well-being to fall by the wayside. 

Doing my best means recognizing when to stop. There is only so much I can give and I can do. No matter the circumstances, I must prioritize myself.  

I will continue to blog but will limit the amount of time I do so. Posts are now put out twice a week instead of three times a week. I will incorporate blogging into my daily routine so I’m not up at all hours of the night writing. My self-care rituals will resume, and I will remember that loving and caring for myself cannot be taken for granted. 

 

 

Life is a series of compromises. 2020 is a great indicator of learning when to hold them and when to fold them. Others’ opinions of me and the dirt on the floor- not so much of a priority. Cherishing the ones I love and valuing myself? That is a non-negotiable. I hold the lessons I learned this year close to my heart and will take them with me into the new year.

social media conundrum

I vaguely remember the days when there was no social media. It seems like it was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Truthfully, there was once a time when we weren’t all glued to our cell phones, tablets, iPhones, or computers. With the rise of social media usage, the questions remains: Is social media a friend or a foe?

the power of connection with social media

In some ways, social media is great. It is a means of reconnecting with people with whom you’ve lost touch. It is also a way of connecting with someone you wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise.

I have been able to speak with relatives I didn’t even know existed through Facebook. I’ve been able to see family pictures of people I knew 30+ years ago. No matter where you live, or how many times you’ve moved, social media allows you to remain in the lives of people. This is more crucial than ever due to the inability to connect in person because of the pandemic. 

Social media also offers opportunities to network and market yourself. LinkedIn and Twitter are great forums for connecting with people and expanding career horizons. Social media is instrumental for every blogger.  However, with every click on the internet, there is a downside. 

the downside of social media obsession

social media obsession

What was meant as a forum to reach out to the ones we love, now has become a means of comparison. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others have their lives together because of what we see on people’s accounts. What do we do when social media is both a friend and a foe?

Every click of a button shows smiling families, exotic trips, and expensive merchandise. It is impossible to turn away from the happiness and joy that explodes from the profiles of each person. Social media has become a forum for perfection that makes the rest of us feel empty and lacking.

People spend countless hours scrolling through social media to the point where it has become an obsession. Men, women, teenagers, even children have accounts. They spend their time looking at other people’s lives instead of living their own. As much as we try to love and guide our children, one look at social media makes us feel like we are lacking as parents.

We live in a world filled with fear, anxiety, and isolation due to the pandemic. Now, more than ever, it is easy to look at our lives and feel loneliness and despair. There has never been a more imperative time to find means of connection. Unfortunately, the internet often makes the walls between us even higher.

People who are already struggling with depression and financial concerns fall into the trap of social media. Many rely on it as an escape from reality, but once on it we forget that it is an illusion. Social media often becomes a painful reminder of what we are trying to escape from in the first place. We fall down the rabbit hole of further pain and self-loathing instead of recognizing that Instagram and Facebook are mere glimpses of reality.

the dangers that lurk on the internet

internet dangers

Another danger is catfishing. It has become such a phenomenon that there is a movie and TV series about it. People start relationships on social media, only to realize that they are not talking to the person whose picture is on the profile. Sadly, a person can simply create an account, put up a fake picture, and claim to be anyone in the world.

Stalking has taken on a new shape due to social media. The personal details we reveal make us easy targets, allowing others to fixate on us and invade every aspect of our life. Social media has also become a vehicle for harassment and postings meant to destroy people’s characters and reputations.

Even worse, social media has become another platform to engage in acts of bullying. There is nowhere to escape when people can attack you within the four walls of your room. Kids now feel a sense of power and protection from behind a computer screen. It has become far too easy to belittle, attack, tease, degrade, and destroy through the internet.

the blurred walls of safety for children

As parents, we do our best to protect our children from the outside world, but what do we do when the walls between the outside and inside start to blur? What happens when social media becomes the gateway to danger? 

Just as internet bullying has become a harsh reality, a whole new world exists where predators are able to access our children while in the comfort of their homes. What appears to be a sweet 13-year-old girl talking to your daughter may be a 45-year-old man.  There is literally nowhere that is safe anymore.

I do not allow others to post pictures of my daughter on their social media accounts. There also aren’t any pictures of Brielle on my blog.  I try to keep my child safe, but social media makes it harder than ever to do so.

As much as I appreciate the benefits of social media, there are tremendous risks that it poses to our mental health and safety.  I think we must be mindful of the great dangers that comes from simply putting a profile on social media.  Therefore, I believe that social media is both a friend and a foe.

sustain a healthy marriage

At the beginning of the pandemic, I heard jokes about how the birth rate would be at an all-time high. For many couples, this was an opportunity to spend time together that normally wasn’t afforded to us. What was fun and roses at first soon turned into annoyance and a deep desire to jump out the window to get some space. The walls seemed to get narrower with each passing day. I still think that there will be an increased birth rate- for people without children. For those of us with children, the coronavirus has truly tested the bonds of matrimony. Having a healthy marriage takes effort from both husband and wife. The pandemic has made that more difficult.

a healthy marriage needs love and work

Relationships need love and work to continue to flourish. The pandemic has put an increased strain on all of us. This strain cannot help but seep into your marriage. Having your children around you 24/7 with nowhere to go will make even the sanest of people go a little crazy. Having to take care of children and put work into your marriage while quarantined together? That’s a whole new ballgame.

I am happy to say that my husband and I have managed to not kill each other thus far. There are several reasons why we have stayed sane during this time and continue to have a healthy marriage:

tips and strategies to survive marriage

(1) You may not be able to go far, but you can still get some space

My husband started working from home at the beginning of the pandemic, as I’m sure many of you have done as well. Even though he is home, he doesn’t have to be around me all the time. He has an office where he stays during the day, so we aren’t together all the time. It’s nice to know that he is there if I need him, but Brielle and I typically keep to ourselves. Being around each other 24/7 isn’t healthy, and there is such a thing as too much time together!

(2) Divide responsibilities and take time for yourself

Whether you are a Stay-at-Home-Mom or a Working-at-Home Mom, the dynamics have changed because the kids are at home during the day. Take turns watching your kids with your spouse so that each of you can get your work done (whether that means job responsibilities or household responsibilities). At night, split up evening duties so you can each take a break. With all of us being in such close quarters, it is essential that we have time to ourselves. You can exercise, journal, meditate, or read a few pages of a book. Do something that is just for you. It will do wonders for your well-being to discuss with your spouse how you can each take a breather.

date night

(3) Have date nights

Remember those? With kids around, we often forget that before we had our children, it was just the two of us. Just because you can’t go to a movie or go bowling doesn’t mean that your marriage goes by the wayside. Plan a date night at home! Every Saturday evening, my husband and I rotate planning a date. One date was listening to music and relaxing, one time we did a logic puzzle together (yes, that is our idea of a good time-don’t judge). One night where we watched a movie together and snuggled on the couch. On another date night we used Alexa and did an Escape the Room Challenge . Think outside the box, and come up with ways to keep the romance alive.

(4) Talk

Now you might think this one is ridiculous because you’re around each other a lot more than usual, so of course you are talking. You might be talking about bills, work, and adult responsibilities, but are you talking about your feelings? Lean on each other during this stressful time. Keep the lines of communication open, and don’t be afraid to tell your partner if you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, or stressed. Keeping those feelings to yourself will cause resentment and tension in your marriage. Be honest with each other about how you are feeling, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (aka strategy #2).

Just as you need to talk about negative emotions, it is equally important that you talk about positive emotions. Acknowledge your partner’s efforts and vocalize your love and appreciation. Talk about lighter subjects too. Tell your spouse about the funny thing your kid did (or annoying thing, which is more probable under these circumstances). If you aren’t around each other all the time (aka strategy #1), there will always be things to share.

(5) A healthy marriage requires friendship

Even with kids around, you can spend time together cooking dinner. Share common interests (such as a board game you both enjoy) as well as supporting each other’s hobbies (listen to your spouse’s favorite band).

keep the spark alive (6) Keep the spark alive

I understand that during a pandemic most of us are living in sweatpants and haven’t put on makeup in months (or is that just me?). Just as you need to continue to have date nights, you need to put in the effort to bring sexy back. Wear a cute outfit, put on some music and slow dance, or take a few seconds to give your spouse a quick kiss in between wrangling your children. Just as friendship is essential for marriage, so is intimacy.

(7) Remember you are both on the same team

Children are great at manipulating their parents. Remember that you need to work together like a well-oiled machine to make life together work. Raising children is HARD. Life is HARD. Marriage is HARD. You need to work together to parent your kids. Being on the same page is important during a pandemic, as well as throughout your marriage. With tensions so high, it is easy for you to turn on one another. At the end of the day, remember that a win for either you or your spouse is a win for both of you. Talk through difficult issues (aka strategy #4), and try to understand and support each other through this stressful time. Conflict is inevitable, but how you resolve conflict can make all the difference.

(8) Forgiveness

This is something that is necessary in all relationships, but especially in your marriage. Stressful times can bring out the worst in all of us. We may say and do things that we regret. We need to have compassion for ourselves and each other during this pandemic. Remember you are a team (aka strategy #7), and that marriage is being there for one another during the best and worst of times.

 

 

Keeping your marriage healthy is a challenge under normal circumstances. Now, more than ever, we need to appreciate and support the ones we love. This is essential in any relationship. Implement these suggestions, and there is hope that couples can come out of this pandemic with newfound love and respect for one another.