WELCOME TO THE MY LIFE COUNSEL RESOURCE PAGE!
My Life Counsel provides biblically based counseling services
for individuals, marriages, families, nearly-weds and newlyweds.
Welcome to our resource page!
My Life Counsel's resource page was created to assist in maintaining common interventions and applicable strategies during and after counseling sessions.
Topics include: intimacy, relational strategies, family planning, communication, conflict resolution, boundaries, emotions, love, affection, and cognitive strategies for anxiety and depression.
The goal in marriage counseling is to increase marital intimacy. Intimacy is a shared closeness in a loving personal relationship. “Affirmation” is the expressed affection that increases intimacy. Neglecting your spouse’s desired affirmation will create feelings of contempt. Intimacy areas are prioritized according to one’s own temperament. Therefore, couples may prioritize intimacy differently.
You will typically show affection in the same way that you desire it. In other words, if you feel loved through emotional intimacy then you will attempt to affirm your spouse emotionally. For you, emotional intimacy is a priority. What then, if your spouse needs intellectual affirmation and you only show emotional affirmation? Over time, you will feel defeated and disconnected. Understanding and expressing your spouse’s intimacy needs will create a stronger relationship and increase intimacy.
Five Areas of Intimacy
Spiritual Intimacy is any faith-focused relational activity. Sharing a biblical worldview, praying over one another, worshiping, serving your church, sharing scripture, etc.
Intellectual Intimacy is a mutual consideration, loyalty, appreciation, respect, and responsibility between couples. Marital priority and spousal consideration, mutual respect, appreciation, household chores, finances and budgeting, tone, demeanor, parenting, orderliness and etc.
Emotional Intimacy is the couple’s reciprocated nurture, care, and selflessness. Patience, kindness, consideration, empathy, love, joy, conversation, communication, dating, agreeable, tone, demeanor, attitude, romantic gestures, adventures, etc.
Physical Intimacy is the sharing of non-sexual physical touch. Affectionately embracing and touching, kissing, hugging, handholding, cuddling, petting, etc.
Sexual Intimacy is the mutual sexual gratification in marriage. Your shared sex life communication, activity, frequency. Sexual purity, honor, and respect.
1Corinthians 13:4-8 holds our definition for love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Any words, thoughts, or feelings that act contradictory to this passage cannot be love. Love is a commitment of honoring someone. Love isn’t just a “feeling.”
We’ve all heard of terms like the honeymoon phase, infatuation, and puppy love. These are chemically induced states of feelings and are often termed as being “in love.” We should not confuse love feelings with true love. “In love” feelings are a mixture of hormones and chemicals (oxytocin, testosterone, estrogen, serotonin, and endorphins). God designed these feelings to help you become attracted to and then attached to someone but doesn’t last forever. Our commitment to marriage is designed to be lasting.
“I love you, I am for you and I am never against you.” This is an intimate relationship’s agreed-upon fundamental core belief statement. This core belief is your relationship’s underlying security and drives thoughts and feelings. When you think or feel that your spouse’s words, deeds, or actions contradict your core belief, you will take responsibility and proactively communicate this concern.
Healthy relationships sacrifice their individual selfish desires to serve one another. Couples who enjoy reciprocated selflessness experience deeper intimacy. Selfishness is at the root of all evil and destroys relationships and devastates people.
Expressing genuine and sincere empathy can drastically improve intimacy. When we feel stressed or neglected, we tend to lash out or shut down. Not only are you frustrated and hurt but so is your partner. Inevitably, these emotions will lead to conflict. In this instance, try offering empathy. Example: “My dearest, I am sorry that I did not respond to your frustration in a loving way. I know that today has been strenuous. I am so sorry that you had to deal with this. Please know that I am for you and never against you. I love you.”
Empathy will provide a positive and healthy response to relational rejection. Remember acceptance is the best gift and rejection is the worst. Example: “I love you. You know that I desire the same as you. This just isn’t a good time. Can we try to do this tomorrow?”
Attitude, Tone, and Demeanor
Your relationship will thrive or die based on the shared attitude, tone and demeanor. Research shows that fifty percent of all communication is nonverbal. Your verbal or nonverbal communication will control the atmosphere and temperature of your home. Fill the atmosphere of your home with warmness. Express love, joy, peace, grace, kindness, and patience. If you can only manage one of these attributes at first then may I suggest that you start with kindness. No one can be offended by kindness.
Acceptance and Appreciation
Unconditional acceptance, with all of his/her physical, emotional, and intellectual flaws, is the most precious gift you can ever give your spouse. Acceptance strengthens intimacy, builds self-esteem, and confidence. Daily affirmation is expressed acceptance.
Appreciation increases intimacy. Your spouse feels significant and esteemed when he is confident in his ability to nurture and care for you. Expressed application builds that confidence. Likewise, your spouse can feel disconnected, unappreciated, and lack self and relational esteem when criticized. Appreciation is like sunshine and rain to a budding relationship. Daily express your appreciation.
Example: “It means so much to me when you… Thank you for doing. You are so good at.. or I could never do this without you.” Criticism sends this opposing message, “you are not good enough, not worthy of love and you don’t belong here.”
Intimate relationships make marriage their first priority. Marital priority puts your relationship above everything and everyone else. Your priorities determine your decisions and your decisions drive your actions. Prioritize your marriage by considering your spouse’s thoughts, feelings, and needs before your own. Your daily choices and activities will reveal your priorities to your spouse.
Intimacy increases with daily reciprocal pursuit. Every person wants to feel like they are being pursued by their spouse. You should intentionally pursue your spouse daily. Initiate daily “mini” getaways by giving your undivided attention at the table, on the couch, or outside on the porch.
Pursue your spouse, in a bigger way by planning fun times away. Be creative and plan a fun day trip or a mini-vacation together. Not everyone is spontaneous, but it can be fun to pursue your spouse by just dropping everything and going out on an adventure.
Anyone who feels controlled will withdraw from (relational closeness) intimacy. Couples who experience the freedom to say “no” to one another will have a greater desire to say “yes.” In this context “freedom” means to be absent of fear from punishment as a result of disagreeing. Examples of punishment are stonewalling, having a negative attitude, bad moods, aggressive tones, or sarcastic remarks. Freedom never goes out of bounds or marriage. Of course, respect, honor, loyalty should take priority over freedom.
Couples who intentionally make connecting a daily priority experience a deeper level of intimacy. In the busyness of life, it is imperative that couples create routines to stay connected. The feeling of being disconnected opens the door for strife and discord.
Be intentional with God.
Offer the first of your day to God. As Christ renews his mercies every morning, renew your commitment to serving him. Commit yourself and your day to God. Allow God's words to bless you and in turn, use your words to bless others. Ask God to help you forgive so that you can be forgiven. Receive God's grace so that you can give grace. Reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice so that you too can self-sacrifice. Fill yourself with God’s love so that you can actively love. Petition God for his miraculous peace so that you can easily rest. Cognitively process God's hope for you, daily! Allow your spirit to be filled with his grace, joy and feel his loving arms embrace you!
Be intentional with family.
Use every natural break in your day as a point of connectivity. Daily, say a blessing over your spouse as you leave. Affectionately greet one another as you return home. Be intentional about spending family time together. Use meals as a natural communication and bonding time. Dine at a table, with no external distractions, especially no electronic devices. Attentively listen and actively respond while dining. To connect, create fun household routines like Taco Tuesday, Friday Night Game Night, or Sunday lunch after church. Create alone time. Dates and one-on-one time are greatly encouraged! Always, be intentional and encouraging with your words! Daily connect with your spouse spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically.
Plan A Date
Thinking about a getaway can replace feelings of rejection with hope and excitement. Protect marriage intimacy by sharing and planning an exciting and fun date. A weekend getaway, a day trip, a big night out, or any time away. Routinely planned lunch dates or date nights will also refresh relational intimacy.
Pick a designated time of the day for sharing. Sharing time is best when both parties have positive intellectual energy when you’re not tired or stressed. Face one another and take turns sharing. It doesn’t matter who starts to share. This should be a fun time to share. Be interested in your spouse. Talk about your day, weekend plans, goals, family, hopes, dreams, and aspirations.
Family meetings are for taking care of business. Family meetings are most productive when planned, not in the middle of the busy time of your day. Setup meetings by asking “I am feeling really unorganized and behind. Can we have a family meeting tonight at 7 pm?” This is a time to organize, structure, problem solve and communicate family issues and needs. Take the emotion out of this meeting. Talk about your present need. This is not a time to vent or bring up past issues or hurts. You are life partners with shared duties and responsibilities. Remember that God calls you to sacrificially serve and love one another.
Venting allows for you to get negative thoughts out and to talk them through. A partner should express empathy, encouragement, and loyalty to you for your difficult situation. You should receive validation (not instruction or suggestions to fix problems) from your mate after venting. Example: “I am really sorry that happened to you. I would feel angry, sad, or hurt if that happened to me too. Is there anything I can do for you?”
Before you can have venting time you should ask “Is this a good time for me to vent?” You can vent about work, your mother, a friend, etc. You absolutely should never vent about one another or issues that are sensitive to your relationship. I would caution against venting too often. Daily complaining is not an occasional vent session.
COMMUNICATION AND CONFLICT
Clear, proactive, positive, and safe communication is foundational for an intimate relationship. In a moment, your words will either build up and encourage or tear down and destroy. Grace covers the occasional slip-up while utilizing strategies for healthy communication. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,” Proverbs 18:21
Conflict Resolution Plan
The first step in conflict resolution is self-awareness. Acknowledge your part in the conflict. Set firm in your mind that your spouse loves you and is for you and never against you. Create and follow a boundary plan for discussing conflict. Keep your emotions in the green so that your attitude, tone, and demeanor can be gracious and kind. Proactively discuss one issue at a time. Ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” Be in agreement and articulate your concerns carefully. Through grace, patience, kindness, and love, negotiate and compromise in order to resolve conflict. Use empathy to understand your spouse’s perspective. Always protect, serve and sacrifice for one another. Preserve an atmosphere of grace and peace.
Create A Communication Boundary Plan
Create a boundary plan when you are calm, cool, and collected. Boundaries keep you safe and secure during the conflict. All families are unique and will need to specifically write out a list of boundaries that applies directly to their default infractions. It is imperative that everyone involved adheres to the boundary plan.
There is no yelling, cursing, threatening, or name-calling. Insert your go-to negative impulse here.
No leaving the house, instead, take a “Time Out Time Limit.” When things get emotionally heated or out of hand, say “Time Out.” On that cue, you will both stop talking and walk away from one another. Take at least a 20 - 30 minute break to cool down, pray and think. You must adhere to the time out and to the time limit. When you are ready to talk, ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” Remember that the goal of conflict resolution is to agree with one another.
No mental, emotional, physical, or financial abuse. No threatening divorce.
Together, create your own specific boundaries.
Proactive Communication Vs. Reactive or Passive
Proactive communicators will never avoid conflict and will take the initiative to responsibly address conflict at the time of the offense, hurt, or disrespect. Being proactive is taking responsibility for your part of the discussion. A proactive communicator will use empathy to understand their spouse’s perspective. This communicator articulates his concerns through love, grace, patience, and kindness.
Reactive communicators use the velocity of their hyper-emotions to respond to conflict. Some will use the same attitude, tone, and demeanor as their conflict partner. Be aware of emotions to avoid reactive communication. Take a “Time Out, Time Limit” to calm down.
Passive communicators avoid conflict and internalize the hurt. Often the passive communicator saves up hurts and offenses for weeks and then blows up in one big outburst. It will be the communicator's responsibility to move to exercise active communication.
Never address conflict when you are emotionally flooded (highly emotional state or fight or flight response). Humans are unable to think logically or discuss rationally while being extremely emotional. Only negative communication will occur when one is emotionally flooded.
Take a time out when you are your partner is emotionally flooded. A time-out is called by saying, "I am too emotionally flooded (angry, frustrated, sad, or stressed), and I cannot continue this conversation at this time. I need a Time-Out until I am calm." When you are calm, in about 30 - 90 minutes, reapproach the topic by asking, "Is this a good time to talk." Also, see "Is this a good time to talk" on this page.
When flooded with emotions, your view is skewed, and you cannot remember events as they happen. Therefore, your recall of events, actions, and words will not be absolute. This is why couples disagree about what occurs during an argument.
You can check emotions by asking, “Am I red (angry), green (not emotional), or blue (depressed)?” You should only discuss during a green mood.
“Red” represents loud outbursts of emotions (anger, frustration, stress, etc.).
“Blue” represents downward low emotions (depression, disappointment, guilt and etc.).
“Green” represents a calm, cool, and stable state where you can talk emotionally.
What do you mean by that?
In marriage, you should automatically know that your spouse loves you and that they are for you and never against you. This must be a fundamental belief for intimacy. When your partner says or does something that makes you feel like they do not love you and that they are against you, ask, “What do you mean by that?” This is expressing grace. This phrase means that you heard something that hurt or offended you. This allows your mate to stop, think and respond differently. It's a “do-over” for you.
To ensure success, proactively discuss this intervention with your spouse before using it. Make an agreement for when either of you says “what do you mean by that?” that the other will stop, think about what he said, and then rephrase in a kind and gracious way.
Discuss One Issue At A Time
When discussing conflict, only address the issue at hand. You should never bring up past issues. Think of this strategy as a way to start over. Resolving this current conflict the right way will extinguish repeating this same negative behavior in the future.
Is this a good time to talk?
Ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” when addressing an issue of perceived conflict. If “No, this isn’t a good time to talk.” Then ask, “When?” Asking permission moves you from a place of conflict to a place of agreement. In agreement, you are now working as a team to resolve an issue. Through this agreement, boundaries are in place, emotions are in check, and you are ready to resolve conflict. In agreement, you move from defensive behaviors and proving right and wrong to graciously negotiating and compromising.
Questioning For Understanding
Questions can feel like an interrogation, criticism, or means for control. Healthy relationships use questioning to gain understanding. Before you question your spouse, examine your mindset, tone, and demeanor.
Positive Example: “Dear, is this a good time to talk? We agreed on a $100 budget for groceries this week, and I noticed that it was $120. Do we need to adjust the budget or was this just an unexpected expense?”
Negative Example: “Why were the groceries $120? Didn’t we agree on a $100 budget? Then, why did you go over? You know I spent a lot of time on budgeting and I can’t understand why you always go over.”
Consistency over time rebuilds trust. When trust is broken, it takes time to rebuild. Consistent positive behaviors over a long period of time allow for trust to be established once more. Grace can facilitate moving from distrust to trust.
Forgiveness sets you free from past hurts. We must use the same measure of forgiveness that Jesus extends to us. Forgiveness is for past hurts. However, you cannot forgive the never-ending continual current unhealthy behaviors of others. Allowing consistent harmful behaviors without consequences is “enabling.” Enabling negative behaviors perpetuates relational dysfunction.
"When You, I Feel" A Strategy For Discussing A Hurtful Behavior
“When you… I feel… I would like…” is a strategy for discussing a specific undesired hurtful behavior. This formula allows discussion without assigning motivation or ill intent. No one feels like they’re being accused, and this allows for proactive communication.
“Is this a good time to talk?” The goal for discussing this behavior is to bring about change and to be in agreement.
If “yes” offended says:
“When you slam the door” (name behavior)
“I feel scared, worried, sad, hurt” (name feelings only)
“I would like for you to gently close the door.” (name the desired replacement behavior)
“What I hear you saying is; when I slammed the door you felt scared, worried and you would like for you to gently close the door."
"Yes that is what I said"
"I love you. I am for you and never against you. I am so sorry that the slamming door scared you. I would never purposely hurt you. I will be more mindful next time” Use an empathy statement to express genuine concern. Hopefully, the “offender” is sincere and tries to extinguish this negative behavior.
Think. Feel. Respond.
The goal in communication is to thoughtfully and empathetically respond to the situation. Think about the issue and how it is affecting others. Ponder the appropriate feeling for the given situation. Empathize for your partner. Own your part in the conflict. Slow emotions down to think about the issue. Examine the appropriate emotions to express. Use grace, patience, and kindness to thoughtfully respond.
Analytical people have the tendency to react without empathizing with the emotions of others. Emotional people tend to react out of an impulse emotion not considering others. Both of these tendencies will hurt your mate.
“Win/Win” A Decision-Making Strategy
A Win/Win happens with everyone gets what they want. A Win/Lose is when one person gets what they want, and the other does not get what they want. In a Lose/Lose, no one gets what they want.
In all relationships, especially marriage, the goal is to always land on a Win/Win.
1. Lovingly, softly, and graciously discuss the details of the decision.
2. Reciprocally, listen to your spouse’s perspective. In a win/win, there is no right or wrong there is only perspective.
a) Each person will take a turn to state their perspective clearly.
b) Each spouse will listen intently and then repeat what they perceive their spouse to be saying.
c) Understanding your spouse’s perspective does not mean that you agree with their perspective but simply an understanding of their perspective. Understanding settles the feelings of “you don’t get me.”
3. Now that perspectives are clearly understood, take time to think.
4. Pray for clarity, wisdom, and empathy for your spouse’s needs.
5. Peacefully and graciously discuss and negotiate.
6. Reciprocally discuss ways that you can compromise.
7. Don’t do anything about the decision until you hear from God, have peace, and are both in 100% agreement.
8. Bitterness and resentment follow when one is forced, coerced, or manipulated into making a decision.
Repeat, loving discussions, listening earnestly, understanding perspective, thinking and praying, peacefully negotiating, being open to compromise, and trusting in God’s peace and direction.
Your moods will follow your thinking. Control your thoughts and you control your moods. If you intentionally think optimistically about a situation then you will feel hopeful. Likewise, negative thinking will bring your mood down and you will feel hopeless. Our minds need resolution and order, especially analytical people. We feel better when our thoughts are organized and rational.
Have you ever stumbled throughout your day completely unaware of your thoughts? Here is an example. Remember that time you were driving home, completely absent-minded of the traffic, stoplights, and yield signs? Although your thoughts were elsewhere, you somehow made it safely home? Everyone has done this. I call this unintentional and unguarded thinking “auto-piloted thoughts.”
Choose your thoughts wisely. What happens when you google a subject? A million suggestions pop up, right? In order to receive the correct information, you have to intentionally choose the result that best suits your need. The same goes with thoughts. There are lots of suggestions that just pop up in your brain. You have to intentionally choose the suggestion that best meets your need.
Auto-piloted worrisome or negative thoughts will always land you in the ditch. You must take control of your thoughts, especially in difficult times. Remember, your moods follow your thinking. You can change negative moods to positive ones. Think better, feel better.
Thinking filters are to be used for persistent negative thoughts, constant worry, or anxiety. In order to filter negative or worrisome thoughts, you must first be completely aware of them. Use these questions as a filtering process for your thoughts:
Examples: “They’re mad at me, they don’t like me, and/or I am not good enough, I am worried about… This is terrible!”
Is it true? Am I certain that my thoughts are factual?
Is it helpful? Is dwelling on this fear helpful?
Is it hopeful? Are these thoughts making me feel hopeful, up, or positive?
Does it please God? How does God want me to think about this issue?
The goal is to turn your negative thoughts and worries into prayers and positive affirmations.
Fear, Worry, Anxiety, and Panic
Worry is the fear of an unforeseen and/or uncontrollable future event. Worry and anxiety are symptoms of fear. To understand interventions for worry and anxiety you must understand God’s purpose for fear. Fear is an instinctual response to a dangerous situation. This God-given natural response is commonly known as the “fight, flight, or freeze response.” Fear is for protection and safety. For instance, when you come upon a snake fear creates a great amount of motivation and energy to move you out of danger.
Your brain slams your body with this same amount of energy over a worrisome thought. All of this emotional energy causes physical anxiety and even panic. Why? Your brain sends you into “fight or flight mode.” However, this type of emotional fear requires a rational plan. Here is a helpful narrative, “This is a difficult situation but God has a plan for me and I know that it will all work out.”
This intervention manages worry concerning one specific issue or concern. Create a responsibility or to-do list for this specific concern. Your list should contain all of the responsibilities that are “inside of your control.” Step by step, complete your list. While completing your list, prayerfully ask for God’s guidance and peace. Once you have completed the list make a conscious effort to give your worry over to God. When worry comes back around, review your to-do list and give it back to God.
Peace is lost through scattered and unorganized thoughts. Journaling and To-Do-Lists allow for thought organization. Write thoughts out in a journal. Look for worry patterns in your journal. Use that information to create a prayer journal. Continually give your worries to God. When workloads are overwhelming, to-do lists allow for responsibility and feelings of being organized. These tools allow for future thought review, sorting, and work prioritization. Use this process to create and execute an orderly and rational plan.
Pushing Away Thoughts
Push away intrusive worrisome or negative thoughts. Assign a specific time of the day to think and plan for the specific worry. Push thoughts away by saying, “I will think about this issue tonight at 8pm.” Every time the thought arises repeat the phrase. T
Analytical people (problem solvers) are naturally pessimistic resulting in downward moods. Optimism creates hopeful/up moods. Fill your mind and heart with hopeful, positive, and biblical affirmations. “Everything always works out for me. This is bad right now, but I know that God has a plan for me and things will turn around.”
Accepting difficult circumstances, that are outside of your control, can move you toward hope and healing. Submit your will and need for control to God. Proclaim, “There is nothing that I can do about this. I give this worry to you.” Some may say, ”It is what it is.”
Use this for thoughts that provoke fear, worry, anxiety, or panic. Look up and write these verses on a 3X5 card:
Isaiah 41:10 - 2 Cr. 12:9 - 10 - 1 peter 5:6 -7 - Joshua 1:9 - Psalm 23:1 - Phill 4:6 - 7 - Romans 8:31 - 32 - Romans 8:1
Pull out the index cards and read the first one. As you read the card think about your personal conflict. What is causing you to feel discouraged, worthless or anxious? Now think about your almighty God. Think about his attributes as your strength, healer, defender, and comforter. He provides because you are weak and will struggle. Trust God’s words. “I will strengthen you, help you and uphold you.” Meditate on the Holy Scriptures. Hold God's promises over you. Repeat this process for each card.