WIN Family Services | "Changing lives…Strengthening families."
WIN (What I Need) Family Services, Inc. and it’s affiliate programs, are a faith-based child and family mental health network serving youth and families with emotional, behavioral and mental challenges. Our mission is to promote holistic, strength-based, and faith-based principles within the human service community.
When’s the last time you and your spouse went away together? Now I’m not talking about a quick date night to the local pizza parlor, but actually hopped in the car and drove off to a distant land?
Some people see vacation as a luxury, but I see vacation as a NECESSITY. Especially if it’s the chance to go somewhere with your significant other. The reason is simple, in order to thrive you must be continuously stimulated and you can’t be stimulated if you’re looking at the same things day in and day out. So in order to thrive in your relationship, you have to occasionally change your environment!
Magic tends to happen when you decide to go on vacation. Here are the Top 3 moments you can take away from the experience:
You get a chance to say what’s in your heart in a new environment… people tend to be more open and honest in unfamiliar surroundings
You get the chance to get away from things that cause your relationship to not be your focal point… your relationship should be the priority and not seen as an interruption
You’re given the opportunity to refresh and restart with contentment… food and drinks are abundant, the weather is perfect… you and your significant other can’t possibly find something to argue about
So if you feel like you’re stuck in a place of discontent, if you’re at each other’s throats, if you’re finding it hard to be an active member in the relationship… pack yours and your spouse’s things and vacate! Leave it all behind to focus on the future.
For more tips like this, listen to #Advice4Life’s podcast here.
We’ve all been there, we’ve all been so caught up in our emotions that our actions aren’t slow to follow. Sometimes we’ve gotten so upset that we throw things, yell at the top of our lungs, or worse… hurt someone we love. And sometimes when the dust has settled, we believe that we were in the right to act in such a way, using our feelings to justify our actions. But if you’re tired of that ceaseless cycle, there IS something YOU can do. Get yourself “out” of your feelings.
It may be easier said than done, but everything comes easier with a little bit of practice! First, we need to learn the difference between feelings and thoughts. Feelings and thoughts are closely related, but they are not one in the same. If you are confused about the difference, think about it this way: a thought is the rambling sentence that runs through your head while you try to sort out what you’re feeling. The actual feeling is only ONE word. I feel hurt. I feel sad. I feel disappointed. Those are your feelings, but people seem to confuse the two a lot. So when you think you’re “in your feelings”, you’re actually “in your thoughts”. Once you’re able to know the difference, figure out what you’re feeling and say it. Say it in your head, say it out loud. But when you say it, own it. This is where you will get your power.
When you say what you’re feeling, it’s not only a revelation to the other person, but it’s also a revelation to you. Amidst anger, you may have not realized you were hurt. Amidst annoyance, you may not have realized you were disappointed. Once you have this revelation, there’s so much more that you can do. So while you’re in the hole that we now know are our thoughts and not our feelings, we can start the climb out. Start this climb by engaging the other person in dialogue. Share how you feel, but also take the time to learn how they feel. But make sure you both slow down. Slowing the conversation down helps you really think about what’s going on with you and how you got to the position you’re in right now.
While we’re climbing out, it’s important to remember just how distorted feelings can be. Our thoughts will combine with what we’re feeling and we’re given a jolt to act immediately. When you slow down the conversation, you’re not only giving yourself time to govern yourself, but the other person is also given the opportunity to make decisions in a timely manner. Also remember that your feelings do not reflect the reality of the situation, but that they are personal only to you. In other words, your reality of what happened may be very different than the reality of the other person. Be able to sift through your thoughts and feelings and extract what is valuable in this situation. Maybe it’s a lesson learned, maybe you’ve learned something new about your self or your partner.
Any time you’re caught “in your feelings”, it’s important to remember that emotions are always fleeting… happiness, sadness, anger, fear… they all come and go. What will always remain is love.
A few years ago, I visited my grandmother one afternoon after she had taken a weekend trip to New York. After asking her how her trip had been, hearing about how my family was doing in that neck of the woods, and just an overall report on New York itself, she proceeded to reach over to her night stand and handed me a small container, about the size of my palm and in the shape of a guitar. Elvis’s face was painted on and Hard Rock Café’s logo was scrawled across the front. “Do you like this?” she asked me. I nodded and held my hand out to receive her gift. A pack of mints. That pack of mints still sits on my bedside table, plastic sealing still in tact to this day. Boy, did I hold on to those mints like they were diamonds.
Isn’t it special when someone gives you a gift? There’s even a specific love language for it: receiving gifts. But people whose love language it is to receive gifts are getting a bad rep. Sometimes others think that they’re being superficial and materialistic. But the gifts that this group receives aren’t really about the item itself. It’s not that I’m holding on to those mints for a special occasion or I think there’s a hidden prize inside, but that simple item had so much meaning behind it. My grandmother has over 20 grandchildren, but only 1 pack of mints, and she gave it to me. To ME!
When you come across someone whose love language is receiving gifts there’s one important thing to remember: be thoughtful. Have joy when you are giving this person a gift and they will have joy upon receiving it. After all, they have just as much joy giving as well. A tangible sign of “I love you” goes a long way, even if it’s something like a flower picked off the ground. They see it and they know, “this is mine because you loved me enough to give it to me.”
See, people who enjoy receiving gifts aren’t looking for expensive jewelry or an outrageous car; they are looking to see the heartfelt action. They need to see things to know you care. Having that tangible item in their possession, that tangible sign of your affection, will give them a feeling that will last for years to come.
So if you see something across your path today that reminds you of your loved one, if it brings you as much joy as your loved one does, give it to them. You never know what kind of impact it can make.
Imagine you’re flying a plan. Now imagine you’re trying to land the plane. Regardless of whether or not you’ve ever flown a plane, there are some very basic things you need: direction and a place to land. That’s kind of how Family Strengthening and Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages work together for relationships… they’re directions and a place to land.
The Family Strengthening principles, also known as the lessons put forth by Al Laws Jr. and Advice4Life help couples navigate through the trials and tribulations of any relationship. Gary Chapman introduced The 5 Love Languages in order to create an environment for couples that both people in the relationship feel safe and supported. When couples use both together, the flight may not be easy, but at least you’ll always know where you’re going.
There are 5 love languages – Touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and receiving gifts. The idea behind these love languages is to understand what yours and your significant other’s love language is and use them to express love to one another. While these constructs are easy to remember, getting to these places take a little more work. That’s where the lessons from Family Strengthening and Advice4Life come into play.
Let’s say your partner’s love language is quality time. However, you’ve been pulled into a million different directions at your job and you can’t help but spend more time at the office. You’re caught in the in between because your spouse feeling neglected and their love tank being on empty and keeping afloat in your professional life, creating a comfortable life for you and your family. The pressure is on, that plane is flying, what do you do?
You know where you want to go, but how do you get there? Family Strengthening will first teach you to identify what you’re feeling and be open and honest about it. The skills give a step by step process on how to communicate and share feelings in a healthy and non-combative way. This map is what will get you to your end goal… the love language. By communicating your thoughts, your position and having an exchange on ways to help alleviate the situation, your partner is now able to understand where you are, where you are coming from and you can work together to get to the solution for spending more time together – the love language.
This is just one example of the various ways you can use Family Strengthening in conjunction with the 5 Love Languages. While using one is a helpful tool in building and maintaining a relationship, the two together are a powerful entity in the preservation of friendships, marriages, and family bonds. So go ahead, learn to fly.
Everyone says they want quality. Everyone wants to get quality. But does everyone know how and what to do to achieve quality? When you go to a show, you take time to scour a seating map to get the best view. When you buy a product online, you take time to read the reviews to make sure the product will meet all of your expectations. When you buy a house, you take time to tour and ask questions to ensure you’re making the best possible investment.
So what do you do when you want a quality relationship? You spend quality time.
There’s a certain amount of investment that you have to do when you want something of quality and our relationships are no different. While that investment may not be monetary, we make this exchange in the form of time and our effort. In other words, the best way to measure if your time is quality is if you can come out of it being able to answer a few questions: How is that person’s heart? How is their mind? What do they need? What is this person made of? When you are investing time in a person, you are ensuring that you get the best of them… it only makes sense since you’re giving the best of you – your time, your attention, and your effort.
When you pay only half of your attention, you can’t expect to glean the most of a quality time situation. You can’t expect to get to know someone’s true self or become any closer if you aren’t willing to make the best investment. So today, think about getting what you pay for… and think about what you’re willing to pay for the best.
Watch past Advice4Life sessions on your new YouTube page here.
As a public relations professional, I’ve been trained to deal a lot with images. So let’s think about the images we have of certain people. What’s the ideal image for a mother? What’s the ideal image for a husband? What’s the ideal image for ourselves?
While we conjure these thoughts in our heads, something’s occurred that we may not have even noticed. We’ve created expectations. Now it’s up to us to decipher if they’re realistic or not. Realistic expectations start with you taking those images of those individuals… and throwing them away. While there is nothing wrong with having expectations, we mustn’t live our lives being “expect-ors”. That is, if we go through our lives expecting things from people… friends, family, coworkers… we’re in for a lot of disappointment. But not because people are awful… it’s because people are HUMAN. We fall short! Instead, cut right down to the very core of the person, so that we may see someone as who they really are – not what we want, hope, or expect them to be.
Now what do you want for that person and for your relationship with them? How can you help facilitate what you are expecting? When you find yourself in a situation where you’re expecting something from another person, turn that into INspection. What is going on within YOU? What are your needs? What are your own capabilities? Can you do what you’re expecting another person to do, yourself? This time of inspection leads to a more realistic point of view… a more realistic expectation.
Realistic expectations are born from healthy communication and clear vision. Once we put aside false ideals and start living in reality, our expectations of others will follow suit. So before you start thinking your partner should be able to read your mind, or before you start thinking that your partner should automatically do this or that, or before you start thinking that your mother and father should be this way or that… take some time to review and figure out if what your expecting is coming from reality or pure imagination.
How many of us heard that relationships are 50/50? That’s what makes a relationship successful, right? But what if I told you that that’s not the case. When we are in a relationship with another person, we are called to love as God loves… not just 50/50, but wholly. Not just on some days, but every day. Not just when you are in love, but on the days when it feels like you can’t even look at one another. That is how God loves us, and that’s how we must love others.
If you want your relationship to be 50/50… that means someone’s counting. And if someone’s counting, you’re not giving yourself freely. Will you only be kind when you’re met with kindness? Will you only be generous when you’re met with generosity? If that’s what your aiming to do, what credit is that to you?
What thankfulness or humility do you gain from being nice to the people who are nice to you, to love those who love you. What strength does it take for you to respond to that person in that way? It takes a certain amount of character and power to emit love in times when it’s the hardest. It takes character and power to hold your tongue and be humble in arguments. It takes character and power to sow patience in times of struggle.
But remember this: every time we are faced with a difficult situation, especially with our partner, it is God grooming us to be in His image. Because if we can’t love who’s right in front of us, how can we love someone we can’t even see? If we give ourselves fully to another person, despite the selfishness or fear that is naturally in our hearts, we are taking the necessary steps to get closer to God.
So let’s practice giving our whole selves into our relationship. Our whole time. Our whole attention. Our whole trust. And our whole heart.
I recently happened upon an article in the Baltimore Sun that hit so close to home, my hand was pretty much on the front door knob. The article told the story of two photographers – a Baltimore couple, Liz and Ryan Bower – who spent years photographing brides’ and grooms’ special days, but then realized… there wasn’t much emphasis or excitement surrounding their lives after the wedding. So they set out across country to gather married couples’ stories and compiling them in a book entitled, “Amazing Life Together”. While reading this article, I couldn’t help but call to mind last Tuesday’s #Advice4Life session focusing on the difference between what we want and what we actually need.
A couple’s wedding day is a prime example of wants vs. needs. Over the years, the Bowers were in the full mix of couples’ wedding planning. Details planned to a tee – the flavor cake, the color of the flowers, what time the hair stylist would arrive… those were the important things, those are what was needed. …Or at least you thought. A wedding day is the first day of the rest of your life and you can’t be blamed for wanting it to be perfect… and if you’re anything like me, you’ve thought about this day ever since you were tall enough to place your mother’s white lace curtains over your head and hum the wedding march.
But so often amidst the planning of the details and the focus on making the day what you always dreamed it would be, we lose sight of what we really wanted in the first place. Now if what you really wanted was your suit and tie to be an exact match of the color swatch… then you might want to reconsider why you’re getting married. But for most of us, our true desire to be married comes from the desire of wanting to be in companionship with another person for the rest of our lives. For the next 50 or so years, we want to spend our precious moments by our loved one’s side, experiencing life right their next to them. Not to mention, we choose to get married because we want to spend the rest of our lives living in love.
So why do we place things like the type of linens being used above that? Because we are unable to distinguish our wants from our needs. Our true needs get lost in a sea of wants. Yes, we want the perfect dress. Yes, we want the perfect pictures. Yes, we want the perfect music. Yes, we want the perfect venue. But do we really need those to have a happy marriage? Absolutely not! Couples find themselves in trouble a lot due to the fact that they have mistaken their wants for their needs. We spend so much time trying to fulfill a need that we don’t really even have. All of our focus and attention is put into what we think we need and when a basic need is being unmet, we get upset and defensive. Ultimately you find yourself in a frustrating position when you finally get what you thought you wanted.. and it wasn’t what you wanted at all.
When you find yourself in this predicament, it’ll be helpful to be in tune with yourself and what you need. If it’s companionship… move from there. If it’s friendship… move from there. If it’s friendship… move from there. Your true wants become your intentions and once you know what your intentions are, the clearer your path will be for your thoughts and actions. Think of your life 10 years from now… what do you see? Take some time today to figure out what’s really important to you.
You’ve probably heard this from your parents: “You are the company you keep.”
We have probably found that these words ring true to this day. Our friends are a direct reflection of ourselves – our interests, our cares, our concerns, our joys, our sorrows, our thoughts, our feelings… a little of us is a little of them. But what we may not have realized is that our friends are also a reflection of how we treat them.
When someone becomes our friend, they did not enter into a binding contract that states, “I will never hurt you.” Because if someone is your friend, sooner or later… they will. And while it may not have been their intent, it will hurt. Even more so because that person is someone you consider your friend. But we’ve also heard the saying, “To have a friend you must be a friend.” So when you enter into a situation in which you’ve been hurt, ask yourself: “Was I being a friend too?”
It’s inevitable that someone we are close to will hurt us. And they will hurt us because we have let them into that vulnerable part in us that is able to be injured. But as hard as it is to be in that difficult moment, try to consider why that person may have done it. When a friend has betrayed you, there was something happening within them that they felt they could not share. This “secret space” is where true intentions lie. Your friend may have had selfish intentions and did something to hurt you, but were you being a person that they could confide in? Were you open with compassion and understanding? Did you remain non-judgmental? Although we did not enter into a covenant that stated no person will ever hurt each other, we did enter into an agreement that you both will always care for each other and want the best for one another.
As a friend, we have to remove judgement from our eyes – we aren’t perfect beings and we can’t expect our friends to be either (remember, they’re REFLECTIONS of us… not caricatures). If we want to be good friends we must remain faithful and trustworthy, no matter what the other person brings to us. We must remain “real”, in which we can openly state what will bring about the betterment for the other person TO the other person. The catch? We must be able to accept the same kind of advice for ourselves right back.
A friendship isn’t fool proof and two strangers never enter into this relationship as perfect people. There must be a commitment there to learn from one another and our mistakes without fear and judgement. So today, let’s practice being THAT friend… that someone can be open and honest with no matter what.
There are no requirements in friendship… only rules, limits, and consequences. This is how we get confused and mistake certain relationships for friendships when they truly are not.
When you enter into a friendship, these are things to remember: investment, humility, unresisting, considerate, and meekness.
A friendship is a relationship you should want to invest in. It’s not something you let fall to the wayside, but something you give your time and attention. You must want to get to know the other person – their thoughts, their interests, their fears…and that takes effort. It is something that you work toward and put your time in, solely because you enjoy another person.
When you want to be a good friend, you have to be ready to humble yourself. All of a sudden it becomes about another person. When we’re investing in another person we learn things about them that we wouldn’t have known otherwise – those pieces of information now become vital to the development of your relationship. When you humble yourself to another person you take into account those pieces of information and join them… in their likes, dislikes, hopes, and fear.. It is your task to accept those as they are, thinking no less of them if they don’t quite match your own interests or beliefs. If you hold your opinion higher than the other person, so much so that if there were disagreeing stances on any subject that neither of you would be willing to concede… there is no friendship there.
You must be able to be honest and open with your friend. The moment they have established themselves as a friend of yours (when they have proven to be trustworthy, faithful, and loyal) you have given them permission to speak into your life. You have given them permission to sow in to your life. Now, there will be people in this world that will want to be your friend for reasons other than enjoying you as a person. Maybe you have something they want, maybe they need you to do something for them… whichever the case, you can ask God for his help in discerning who is a true friend and who is not. When you become weary of someone’s intentions, there’s no need to stress or worry… because if you have given that person the best of you, God recognizes that and his or her agenda will be revealed in only a matter of time.
So be more mindful of who you say is your friend. And be more mindful of the way you are being a friend. Friendship is so special that is serves as the base of more intimate relationships. After all being married to your best friend and having friends that become family are probably the best experiences of them all.