Sunday, March 18, 2018

Rarely Alone, But Often Lonely

There was a time a few years into our marriage when Nan & I weren’t on the same page spiritually. Lots of stuff was going well for us, but this was a really sticky place. I was pretty happy with the way things were, but Nan wasn’t. At one point she told me she was lonely and didn’t know if our marriage could last if it stayed the way it was.

Although I entered counseling reluctantly, I somehow knew it was necessary and I allowed myself to be talked into going (by her counselor).

It was the best decisions I ever made.

Why was Nan lonely? There were parts of her heart that she couldn’t share, because I just couldn’t relate to the depth of her feelings. The spiritual intimacy she wanted with me wasn’t possible – and that left her feeling lonely.

For you it might be different where your loneliness rests. It might be that you feel like you are parenting alone. Or there may be an absence or disconnection in your sexual intimacy. Maybe the conversations you share with your partner are not understood or valued. Maybe you don’t feel heard at all. Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel good.

What may be particularly difficult is that you are around the other person a lot of the time, but it’s not satisfying, maybe even annoying. You know it could be great and that makes you sad. That is why you got married or into a relationship, but this loneliness is not what you expected.

The Solution

If you are already in a permanent committed relationship, you need to talk about it, as uncomfortable as it may be. Be sure to stress the positive before you bring up the stuck place. For us it took a third party because of the nature of the disconnect. It wasn’t that I failed to listen, it was that I needed a paradigm shift that I just couldn’t make on my own.

If you are not yet fully committed, which usually means married, I would strongly advise you to make sure you are in agreement in most areas of life – spiritually, financially, sexually, life direction, health, family etc. If not, this relationship could leave you feeling alone and scared and resentful.

Nan and I both have a pretty high need for alone time, but we are not lonely. We just understand each other and respect the boundaries. We have figured it out because we have talked about it and are willing to discuss it when necessary.

Our pastor says there is nothing worse than being single and wishing you were married – unless it is married and wishing you were single. I get what he means. The truth is that relationships can be wonderful when both of you are on the same path.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Insider’s Solution to a Successful Marriage

So, you two are different.

That wasn’t a question. That was a statement, and it’s probably the root of most of the problems in a relationship. You may have heard the official terminology: power struggle.
And it’s true. Your differences are going to cause stress. 

Nan and I are organized differently. All you would have to do is check out our dishwasher after each one of us has loaded it. The way we handle clothes can be different, the process of cooking and cleaning up after a meal is different and our level of comfort with clutter is different. Nan and I have different needs for sociability, different bedtimes and we have temperature wars in our environments. I could go on. And we have been pretty happily married for almost 47 years. So what gives?

We have learned a level of acceptance for each other that allows us to live together peacefully.

How we have done this is by trying our best to negotiate the differences and treat each other with “kind friendliness”. We really try to focus on where we agree, rather than disagree. It’s not always easy and I can’t say I have always been able to do this with grace, but I obviously haven’t failed entirely. After all, we are still together and still friends.

One conversation I have heard Nan have with women on more than one occasion is this:

“So you wanted to marry an easy-going stable guy, right?”

“Yes, but he’s not very ambitious, and quite frankly kind of boring.”

Then Nan will point out that stability is kind of boring, and easy-going isn’t “Type A”. You can’t have both. And to flip it around, a guy may choose a flashy, stylish kind of woman and then complain that she shops too often and spends too much. Yeah, that’s how she caught your attention and hopes to keep it in the future. You can’t have it both ways, either.

As I am writing this post we are sitting in our cabin that is not as remote as I would have liked, on a piece of land smaller than I would have chosen. Nan is relaxing on a deck that overlooks a river rather than an ocean, wearing more cold weather clothes than she would prefer. When we bought a sailboat many years ago it was bigger than I would have liked, but smaller than the condo Nan would have picked. 
So I’m sure you get the point. You didn’t (or won’t) marry yourself and so you don’t get to have everything exactly the way you want it. You will both have to accept that you are not the center around which the world revolves. But you can still have it good. Really good.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Do You Need Counseling or Coaching

Although there are a lot of similarities between counseling and coaching, there are also some distinctions that are important to understand as you seek a counselor or coach.

  • Counseling helps you move through the pain, struggles, or challenges of the past. 
  • Coaching is about results – moving forward with growth – realizing your dreams. 

Sometimes we are needing both – it requires healing the past to be able to move forward with our goals. Pastor and author Peter Scazerro in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality says that it is impossible to become spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. His advice is that we must go backwards and deal with our past before we can effectively move forward with maturity. For some that might be a priority.

But for others who have already taken an introspective journey, strategizing for the future might be their greatest need. In this case, some different tools are required to achieve goals. What’s desired may be defining a clear direction, breaking it down into manageable action steps, and having accountability to follow through with the steps. This is the realm of coaching.

Just like there are general counselors and specialty counselors, there are a diversity of coaches. Do you need a life coach, a business coach, a spiritual coach, a parent coach or some other more specific help? Most coaches can help in a variety of ways without having detailed specifics of a particular field. They can ask great questions and get you thinking on a particular track. But sometimes the assistance you need is very specific. In those cases finding just the right person is invaluable. Have they walked the road you want to walk? Have they been successful? 

Coach or Counselor? 

Can a counselor also be a coach and a coach be a counselor? Well, yes and no. A counselor can certainly function as a coach, especially if they know that is your primary goal. But a coach is generally restricted to dealing with the present and future. It would not be helpful to assume that they are interchangeable roles. The training for each is different and counselors are often licensed whereas coaches may have various levels of preparation and certification – or not.

Whereas most counseling takes place in person or by video, coaching may not require that kind of connection. Much of some kinds of coaching can be done over the telephone or email. That’s because reading body language and making emotional connections is usually less critical. Coaching requires doing assigned homework and reporting back results. Sessions may not to be as long, but perhaps more frequent.

What may be the most important factor in choosing someone is the person themselves. Do you trust their character as well as their knowledge? Can you be honest with them? Whether being coached or counseled, can you walk with them confidently for a season?