Archive of ‘Couples’ category

Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, Try Intentions.

We made it! The year is wrapping up and we are looking onward to the clean slate and potential of a brand new year! No matter what the past year held, many are ready for a fresh start. We are in a season of optimism, hope, and commitment to change.

With the new year comes the New Year’s resolutions. I’m not a fan of the New Year’s resolution and I’ll tell you why in a moment. But first, a small disclaimer: I believe we mean well when we set resolutions. Looking at life with a fresh lens and committing to making changes we want to make is healthy. When we set resolutions, we mean to commit to ourselves that this is the year that things will be different. This is the year that we will do the thing, take the leap, start new, and close the gap between who we are and who we want to be. Believing in our highest potential is a gift to ourselves.

But here is the problem with resolutions: They set us up to fail. They are outcome-dependent, often designed to be pass or fail, black or white, all or nothing. We either did the thing, or we didn’t. Sure, it is good in the beginning. The first three weeks of January go smoothly. These new habits are hard, but we are adapting. But what happens when life gets messy or we get busy? We start to slip. Regression is a natural and expected part of the change cycle, but it sure doesn’t feel that way when the commitment we made to ourselves was do or do not. There was no try.

For some, resolutions work. I have heard a few stories about people who stuck with their resolution for the full year, reached their potential, and didn’t look back. But by and large, the experience with resolutions is this:

  • At their best, resolutions become something we feel that we “should” do, a pesky little reminder that we are not living up to the dreams we had for ourselves.
  • At their worst, resolutions can make us feel downright horrible. What messages do you send yourself when you are letting yourself down? I doubt any of us are hoping to highlight or strengthen our feelings of inferiority in the new year. Who wants that?

How do we preserve the part of resolution setting that is helpful while ditching the part that can create anxiety, feelings of failure, and inadequacy? I propose we set intentions instead. Intentions are a mental state that provide a framework for the future. An intention is not what we want to accomplish, but rather how we want to accomplish it. Setting an intention is like setting a reminder to yourself of how you want to live your life.

Intentions are different from resolutions because they are disconnected from any specific outcome. When we focus on how we want to live and the traits we want to embody, the decisions we make will align with our intentions. We will grow to choose what is best for us because we are rooted in honoring our ideal selves. Naturally, we will progress toward our goals.

In three steps, here is how you can get started on setting your New Year’s Intentions:

  1. Brainstorm. The answers to these questions will help you generate ideas and clarity for your New Year’s Intentions:
  • What type of a person do I want to be?
  • What words do I wish people would use when they describe me?
  • How do I want to move through life, work, and my relationships?
  • What do I want more of in my life?
  1. Refine. Now that you have a few ideas percolating, try plugging your intention into this sentence: “When given the choice, I will ____________.

Examples of intentions may sound something like this:

  • When given the choice, I will choose peace.
  • When given the choice, I will choose kindness.
  • When given the choice, I will love myself.
  • When given the choice, I will honor my body.
  • When given the choice, I will celebrate my progress.
  • When given the choice, I will be gentle with myself and others.
  • When given the choice, I will be patient.
  • When given the choice, I will listen to my intuition.
  • When given the choice, I will trust the process.
  • When given the choice, I will move with grace.
  • When given the choice, I will follow through on my commitments.
  • When given the choice, I will be present.
  • When given the choice, I will balance ease and effort.

Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Play around with the language. The language I suggest may seem foreign, and that is okay. Modify it it something that fits you.
  • Seek clarity and specificity. There is power is precision.
  • You can have more than one intention, but there is also value in hitting the nail on the head. It will be easier to remember and honor over time if you have one sentence to go back to.
  1. Remind. How will you remember your intention? I suggest writing it down in multiple places. A few ideas could be a note in your phone, in your planner, on your bathroom mirror, a post it note on the refrigerator, taped to your computer monitor at work or under your keyboard if you would like privacy. Writing it down where you will naturally see it will position you to gently guide yourself back throughout the year.

How does your New Year’s Intention compare to the resolutions you have set in past? I would love to hear! Connect with me at [email protected] or on instagram @counselingandyoga.

About the author: Katy practices at Austin Family Counseling where she provides relationship and couples counseling, and counseling to individual adults and teens navigating life’s many challenges.
Katy Manganella, M.A., LPC-Intern is supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S, LMFT-S.


What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Think about a someone in your life (past or present) that you have/had romantic feelings for.  What did that person do for you that made you feel particularly special?  For some people, their partner bought them “just because” flowers…for others, it’s a long embrace after not seeing one another all day.  Everyone will likely have a different answer to this–which is the beauty of relationships and the diversity of what people want…and need.  People, in all relationships, show love through their love language.  A love language depicts how you want to be shown that you’re valued and appreciated; in so many words, a love language is how you want to be loved.  


By: Julie Burke, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S, LMFT

There are 5 Different Love Languages

Words of Affirmation

This language uses words to affirm other people

  • How to speak this love language: Encourage, affirm, appreciate, listen activity, send an unexpected note or card
  • Things to avoid: Non-constructive criticism, not recognizing or appreciating effort
Quality Time

This requires giving someone undivided attention

  • How to speak this love language: Uninterrupted and focused conversations, meaningful one-on-one interactions, create special moments together, go on a weekend getaway together
  • Things to avoid: Distractions when spending time together (eg: cell phones, televisions, etc.), long stints without one-on-one time
Receiving Gifts

For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift.

  • How to speak this love language: Speak purposefully and thoughtfully, express gratitude when receiving a gift, give a meaningful gift, remember that small gestures matter
  • Things to avoid: Forget special occasions  
Acts of Service 

For people who’s love language is acts of service–think of the phrase “actions speak louder than words”.  

  • How to speak this love language: Show your partner that you’re with them and partnered with them–use phrases such as “I’ll help…” or “Let’s do this together…”, make them breakfast in bed and help with various chores
  • Things to avoid: Lack follow-through on tasks (both big & small), making requests of others a higher priority  
Physical Touch

To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch

  • How to speak this love language: use body language and tough to emphasize love, hug, hold hands, kiss, making intimacy a thoughtful priority
  • Things to avoid: Physical neglect, long stints without intimacy, receiving affection coldly  

It is important to know what you and your partner’s love languages are (they may be different, by the way) because it allows you to communicate to your partner that you care about them and are speaking to their needs.  Because the way we want to be loved seems most familiar and makes most sense to us, people most often try to give love using their love language–which is not always what is needed.  The following example will make all of this make more sense.  

I know of a couple–it is a husband and wife.  The wife’s love language is receiving gifts.  This does NOT mean that in order for her to feel loved or special, that her husband is required to purchase her gifts all the time, by the way.  Rather, if her husband happens to surprise her with a gift–whether it’s a book she’s been wanting or a massage–it’s going to be meaningful to her and she will feel special and loved that her husband thought of her and gave her something.  Her husband’s love language, on the other hand, is words of affirmation.  Recently, the wife purchased her husband a sports jersey for his favorite football team.  Because that is her love language, she was under the assumption that that gift would be a great gesture to say “I love you”.  While the husband appreciated the gift, it just felt like any other day…just with the addition of a new clothing item because she was trying to show love by loving her husband with her love language.  She ultimately realized that in order for him to feel special and loved, her husband needed to hear something affirming eg: “You are a really great partner and parent and I appreciate you”.  From her perspective, she assumed he should be aware of those things already–so it did not feel necessary to share those things with him.  That’s simply because that’s not how she needs to be loved, though.

I already mentioned this, but it seems necessary to do this again.  If you’re with someone and their love language is “receiving gifts” for example–it does NOT mean that you will have to purchase them gifts all the time to show them affection; it’s the same with quality time–if your love language is quality time–it doesn’t mean that absolutely every interaction you have with your significant other is mandated to be undivided attention towards one another.  After all, people who have quality time as their love language also really appreciate receiving gifts and physical touch, too (and vice versa).  

It’s really quite simple.  If you are aware of what your partner’s love language is, it will allow you to be more attuned to them and you’ll be able to show them in a way that’s meaningful to them that you love and care about them.  In the above example with the husband and wife, keep in mind that the wife just assumed her husband knew that he was a great partner and parent.  It may feel insignificant to you, but keep in mind, this is not about you.  This is entirely about your partner and what they need to feel significance and belonging from you.  

While my focus has been on romantic partners, it’s important to note that this speaks volumes for all genuine, interpersonal relationships people have.  Love languages can be applied to your friends, family, and colleagues, too.  Check out the love languages quiz here and see what your love language is.  Be mindful of the fact that your love language can (and does) change–so it’s a great idea to revisit the quiz from time to time!  

Love can be expressed and received in all five languages.  However, if you don’t speak a person’s primary love language that person will not feel loved, even though you may be speaking the other four.  Once you are speaking his or her primary love language fluently, then you can sprinkle in the other four and they will be like icing on the cake.  – Gary Chapman


Love Maps For Couples

Andrew Groeschel, LMFT

Andrew Groeschel, LMFT

John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, is widely known as a seminal guide for marriage therapists and the couples they counsel. One of his seven principles, and the focus of this brief musing, is the process Gottman refers to as “enhancing your love maps.”

So what are love maps for couples? Love maps encompass those details – some intimate, some mundane – that we know about our loved one. Simple things like your partner’s favorite color or more personal aspects, such as her deepest and most vulnerable longings. The things she shares with you and only you. These all form the constellation of special nuances we know and admire about the person we love. They are the maps that form our love.

Love maps, like all maps, get outdated. Can you imagine your love as a cityscape? As someone who moved back to Austin twenty years after first living here, I am very aware of how my map of this expansive city has drastically transformed. Les Amis Café on the drag and Liberty Lunch downtown are no more. I am called to evolve my map of the city. There are new cafes and music venues to love as they represent a new evolving essence of this place at a different time from when I first fell in love with her. She is different and so am I. I am called to renew my love maps with this beloved city.

So it goes with relationships. They evolve. People change and sometimes, just like watching the slow process of a city’s transformation, we can miss what is unfolding right in front of our eyes. We get into routines that blur our vision of the beautiful mystery of change that is so central to life. We forget about what drew us to our loved one in the first place. We get wrapped up in the comings and goings of work or the rearing of our children. Some drift and wake up one day thinking, “who is this person I am sleeping next to?” It doesn’t have to be this way.

Gottman encourages couples to consistently renew and revive their love maps. Ask about your partner’s new friend over a cup of coffee. Share how much you admire his resilience as he manages through yet another change at work. Ask her what she is most proud of. What is the best novel they read over the summer? What was that song that put a smile on his face before dinner? The questions are endless and with each asking we renew our love maps. We deepen our bonds and solidify our love.

Gottman’s research has consistently shown that couples that are in the habit of attuning to and renewing their love maps are better able to weather the storms of life’s inevitable disruptions and unsuspected changes. The arrival of a new baby, an unfortunate lay off, or the death of a parent are examples of events that can rattle a relationship. Love maps for couples provide a buttress against these storms.

Austin Family Counseling Love Maps

Just a few examples of Love Map questions drawn from Gottman’s book include:

What Stresses are you facing right now?

What is the date of our anniversary?

What is your favorite way to spend an evening?

Who was your best friend in childhood?

What is your favorite TV show?

What is one of your biggest concerns or worries?

Do you have a secret ambition? What is it?

Can you think of anymore? Can you imagine a follow up question to the ones above that may deepen even further your knowledge of your partner? Give it a try and enjoy the ride of (re)discovering who your partner really is and why you love them so.

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Andrew Groeschel is a licensed marriage family therapist at Austin Family Counseling. Along with being a father and an avid record collector, a core aspect of his love map is the inspiration he gains from helping couples cultivate their own love maps!

Reference:

Gottman, John M., Ph.D. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Three Rivers Press. New York. 1999.


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