Connecting in everyday moments
As I work with individuals and couples in relationship coaching, one of the most common statements I hear is that they don't spend enough time together and need to schedule more time. However, life gets in the way and work, children, and outside responsibilities soon fill our calendar and I then see the couple a week later without having spent any "quality time" together. While I do think it is important to make time for date nights, it is not the only way to start connecting more with your partner. There are opportunities every day to show one another your love.
Why Connecting Everyday Matters
Love and relationships are like any living thing, they need daily nurturing and care to live. If we don't take time in daily moments to show our love to our partner, the love can start to starve. When we don't see love regularly, we begin to question if it is still there.
This comes across in several ways. Sometimes we start to nag or criticize our partner to get any response possible. Sometimes the only interactions we seem to have are negative, so we start to withdraw to try and avoid fights. We can also dive into work or projects that we gain satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment from because we feel like our relationship is failing. And finally, sometimes partners find connection in another person, either emotionally or physically, thought affairs. Frequently, couples come in saying that the love just "went away." What I find, however, is that the love wasn't gone, it just hadn't been seen in quite some time. That date night kept being put off, and in the meantime there were no small connections along the way to show that the love was still there.
Finding Opportunities to Connect
I want to start by saying this is understandably not easy. Couples who are struggling to connect on a daily basis typically have extremely busy schedules. Kids, as much as we love them, can also make it more difficult to find time and energy to connect to our partners. Lastly, if there have been many hurts in the relationship to this point, it might be difficult to even want to connect in a loving manner. If this is the case, additional work should be done to strengthen the relationship, possibly through marriage and couple counseling, before you try to push yourselves into something you're not ready for.
In a previous article, I discussed the importance of hello and goodbyes. These two moments are opportunities every day to show your partner you love them and will either miss them when leaving or are excited to see them when you return. This is not a time to simply run out the door saying you love each other, or to return by gliding past your partner on the way to the couch or bedroom. Keeping in mind that this could be the last time you ever see each other, you should make it a priority to really engage each other when saying goodbye. And, thinking of how a child or pet are excited to see you when you come home, attempt to show a similar level of excitement to see your partner after a long day. Sometimes this takes practice in order to leave our day behind us and start fresh when we get home.
Additionally, look at times you are doing activities apart, and see if there is opportunity to do them together. Are you both watching different shows in separate rooms? Could you find a show you agree on and watch together? When one person is doing laundry or dishes, could the other step in and help? This can be an opportunity to show your partner you not only love them, but support them in household chores, and it is a time that typically stimulates conversation. If one person needs to run and errand, can the other tag along? The point here is not that we need to spend every waking hour together, but that there are times everyday that we can spend ten minutes together, and that time goes a long way to showing our partner they are loved.
You probably have seen the reaction of a dog when its owner comes home, if not experienced it yourself. It is as if you are the most important person in the world at that moment, and they haven't seen you in ages. Or maybe you know the feeling when you come home to your young child (this is possibly not the case with a teen child) who melts your heart with a "DAAAAADDDDYYY" and big hug.
Now, think about your reaction when you see your loved one after a long day. Do you greet them with the same reaction?
Often times, the day can wear us down, and the first thing we think about is getting dinner and plopping down on the couch. During relationship coaching, I have heard husbands and wives express that they feel their partner cares more about TV, books, hobbies, etc. than them simply because that is the first thing they give their attention to when they come home. Taking time to celebrate seeing your loved one first thing when you come home can help strengthen your relationship. This simple gesture shows your partner that they are the most important person at that moment, that you missed them, and that you are excited to see them again no matter how tired you are.
Additionally, when you leave your loved ones when going to work or out the door other times, do you take time to say farewell? During my time in grief coaching, one of the most difficult things for clients to resolve is the sadness they feel if they didn't get to say a good goodbye, or if their final goodbye was a bad one. It's difficult to think about, let alone say, but when you leave your loved one for the day, it might be the last time you see them. If that thought makes you sad, then you can see the importance to express your love each and every time you part ways. Again, this simple gesture speaks volumes about your love and priorities. These two actions combined set your relationship as a top priority and gives you two times each day, no matter what else happens or how drained you are by the day, to express your love.
Accepting a lack of control
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."
I'm sure you have heard and possibly recited the Serenity Prayer before. It is often used in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and has been widely used in religious and non-religious settings alike. It is a simple sentence with a very difficult message to adhere to. I have found both in my life and in the lives of those I coach that accepting things we cannot control, and thus cannot change, is one of the most difficult challenges we face on a regular basis.
Addicted to Control
Many people are addicted to control. We like to think that we have a greater control over situations and people than we really do. One of the greatest illustrations of this I see is parents' belief that they control their children. Sure, we can teach, set limits, establish and follow through with consequences, and give or take away items, but at the end of the day, children are still free thinking and acting humans. We can do everything in our power to keep our children from making mistakes or poor decisions and they still do. When parents don't accept that they can't ultimately control their children, they might react with anger, yelling, and possibly hurting their children in an attempt to control them.
This addiction to control can be seen in other situations. Some think that everyone should like them, but no matter how hard they try there will still be those who choose to have negative opinions and possibly treat them poorly. We also like to think we can control a loved one into being different or treating us different. We can't make someone treat us in a certain way, but we can control how we react to them, what limits we set, and who we choose to keep as a part of our lives.
The Anxiety of Over-Control
Believing we have more control over people and situations than we actually do can cause a great deal of anxiety. There becomes a tension between the way things are and the way we want them to be. Rather than accepting what is outside of our control and focusing on what we can control (i.e. ourselves), we spend all of our energy and focus on trying to change others. This can be like trying to push an immovable object, the only thing it does is wear us out and lead us to feel defeated.
The Weight Lifted From Our Shoulders
When we start to accept things that are outside of our control it can feel like a weight has been lifted from our shoulders. It gives us energy that we had been using elsewhere to actually focus on ourselves. An example of this is a parent who always yells and screams at his/her children for doing something wrong, but by the time punishment is dolled out they are too mentally and emotionally exhausted to enforce it. Rather than trying to change the child, they could focus on what is within their control, like boundaries and natural consequences, and really enforce those.
We can also see this in relationships. Rather than trying to change the other person in a relationship, look at what boundaries you can set in your life and look at ways in which you react to others. We have enough on our plate to deal with the things we can actually control, taking on people and things outside of our control is just too much. By accepting things outside of your control you will find more energy to focus on what you can.
Finding meaning in your life
In his book, Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl takes readers through his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp and how he survived the experience, both physically and emotionally. Throughout his experience, he saw people who survived in these unimaginable circumstances, and people who were mentally and emotionally broken down. One common trait he found in people who had emotional resilience was having, or searching for, a sense of meaning and purpose, even during unavoidable suffering. The following are the three ways he says we can discover meaning in our lives regardless of the situation we are living in.
When I see clients experiencing severe depression and/or anxiety, they sometimes reach a point of helplessness and hopelessness. This is sometimes where they have lost their purpose in life or feel that a previous purpose is now out of reach. In these times, we may have to rely on the third option listed, by adjusting the attitude we take toward suffering. There are times in our lives where suffering is unavoidable. Things like the loss of a loved one or being laid off can produce great suffering and sadness, but are also our of our control. By choosing the attitude we take towards these situations and looking for the meaning we can draw from them, we can move forward with purpose and hope. This isn't about putting on a happy face or looking at everything through rose colored glasses, but rather it is about finding the meaning and recognizing that even in the face of ultimate suffering there is still a part of ourselves that cannot be taken or controlled. It is best put in the words of Frankl:
"We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, where facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation — just think of an incurable disease as inoperable cancer — we are challenged to change ourselves." --Viktor Frankl
Why Online Coaching
COVID-19 changed so many things in our daily lives. Many workplaces moved out of office settings and into a virtual setting. Coaching had already been moving in this direction, which made it easier for many life coaches to transition quickly. However, not all clients chose to do online coaching before COVID. It was intimidating, some people thought it wouldn't be as effective, and it was just different and unknown. But, once everyone started doing online coaching, what we found was that it was not only a comprable alternative to in-person meetings, it actually allowed us to enhance our coaching work. Because of what we learned during COVID, we have moved our whole practice online and added features we couldn't do before. Here are some of the reasons we have found online coaching to be the best option for our clients:
1) It's Convenient - No longer to you have to account for 30-60 minutes of round trip drive time. You don't have to worry about going into an office waiting room with others around. You choose when and how to meet that fits your life and schedule the best!
2) It Keeps Accountability Up - We use our Quenza app to keep in touch with clients between sessions. They message us, do online activities, and relay updates through this online app. So often, clients leave a session feeling energized to make positive changes in their lives, but after a few days that motivation can wane. Utilizing online messaging helps keep accountability and motivation high throughout the weeks and months.
3) You Meet In Your Environment - Rather than coming out of your environment into an office, you can meet where you live and/or work. This allows for a couple of things. First, it allows your coach to know you and your situation more clearly to be able to support you better. I have had clients show we art they did in their home that they were proud of, and others who showed me a stack of unopened bills they are struggling to get through. Whatever it is, this is helpful in the coaching relationship. Also, if you are having trouble with stress at work, we can actually guide you through techniques to reduce stress while you are at work. I have had people meet over a break to calm themselves in order to finish the day. Doing this once or more with your coach makes it easier to then do on your own.
As you can see, we have found that online coaching can not only work in place of in-person, it can actually enhance our work together.
Start something new
It can be a scary thing to start something new in our lives. Even when we aren't happy with how things are going, the fear of failure or of the unknown can keep us stuck in place. I recently saw a quote that stood out to me by Henry Cloud. He wrote "a full life is one made up of many different experiences, thoughts, goals, distractions, triumphs and failures. If you have to fail, fail at something new, and learn from it." This is what it comes down to many times, to just try something new.
Anxiety will stand in our way with this. It will cause us to think of all the possible scenarios and ways something could go wrong. It will elicit the fear of the unknown or will tell you that you will fail. It will make you want to avoid any sort of change.
During my work as a coach, I have seen this fear of change surface in many clients. They come in wanting to feel different, but when the prospect of change appears, they become anxious and resistant. Ultimately, when you want change in your life, you must decide if your desire to grow and improve is greater than your fear of failing at something new or fear of the unknown. Is the desire to be in a healthy relationship greater than the fear of being alone or starting a new relationship? Is the desire to be in a fulfilling career greater than the fear of leaving the safe but soul-sucking job? These are questions that only you can answer. But if you don't like where you are and feel stuck, the only way to get unstuck is to move by trying something new. If you are ready to take that step, here is a way to get started: