Writing the Next Chapter in your Relationship Story

When my co-author, Sally, and I first decided to write books together, we imagined a trilogy. The first would be a book on friendship, the second would be a book about kids (both published by FaithWalk in 2005/6) and the final book (that never got written) was supposed to be about marriage.

Pondering the last project in the series, we bantered back and forth via phone:

“I’m not sure I have much to say about marriage. Sally, this book needs to wait until we’re old and grey and we have more wisdom on the subject.”

I’m pretty sure she was lounging in front of her fireplace during this conversation, crunching on homemade kettle corn, because she kept apologizing for munching loudly in my ear.

“Cher, collectively, we’ve been married for thirty years. That’s valuable life experience. I know we have something to say about relationships: the unexpected gifts, the wrenching disappointments, the mystery of it all!”

How ironic that in lieu of writing that book, and now 22 years into my own marriage, I’m pursuing a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. Now, I listen to other people’s relationship stories. And I love it. Most couples are focused on what’s not working when they first come in, but it’s rewarding to discover what is working, and to help people find creative ways to partner.

Thanks for the privilege of working with you for the past year, and for teaching me that:

  • Conflict is inevitable, and everyone has a different way of dealing with it. Whether your style is more animated and feisty, or reserved and methodical, the question is: do you have the skills needed to effectively problem solve?
  • Relationships are as unique and varied as the rows and rows of paint swatches at Home Depot. I mean, how many yellows can there be? You simply need a shared vision of how you’re going to work and play together to create the changes that you need.
  • Relationships can be challenging, so why not have some fun along the way? I like to dig in and help you work on the tough stuff, but I also like to laugh. I’ve learned to balance “heavy” sessions with “lighter” sessions to encourage perspective.

Remember, it’s never too early to reach out for support! Think of it as an opportunity to write another chapter in that relationship book that is yours and yours alone. What will the title of that new chapter be?

Cheri Mueller, Marriage and Family Therapy Intern

Are you Connected?

FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, and good old fashion texting keeps us very connected with those around us, or does it?  Social media plays a big role in our lives, as does checking emails, texting friends, and surfing the internet.  Because we are surrounded by technology we feel we have connection at our fingertips.  I feel that there is a time and place for our handheld devices; however there needs to be more balance.   Real connection is being pushed to the backburner to FaceBook updates and Snap Chat.

We fill our planners with so much ‘do to’ activities that we don’t have time for real connection, so we substitute with technology.  Is there really any substitution for face to face conversation, quality time spent with loved ones, or sit down dinners with out handhelds vibrating or buzzing.  I get it, tech free connecting takes effort, it takes precious time, and sometimes we just don’t feel up to the task.  Nevertheless, the rewards we reap for reaching out to our partner and family are worth the inconvenience.

We are relational creatures, designed to thrive when we are connecting with others.   It is very easy to get into a rut when it comes to feeling like you are not connected to the ones you love and care for the most.  It is during this time that you have a choice to dig the rut deeper or make a change. 

The first step to committing to connection is to implement an E-Break.  An E-break is a designated time period where all electronic devices are turned to the off position and stowed away.  Some of you might be hyperventilating at the thought of giving your iPhone a break, but trust me, it’s priceless when you do.  You regain the state of mind that does not need to be going a million miles an hour.  You refocus on what is important and often times what is right in front of you, your partner, your children, and your life. 

This week try to implement an E-break in your life.  If you are single turn off all electronic devices and go do something very enjoyable with a friend, with no interruptions.  If you are in a relationship turn to your partner and have a real conversation.  Have you been married a while and feel like you have nothing to talk about, pick up the book, The 5 Love Languages (Chapman) and take turns reading out loud to each other.  Another idea that my husband and I do, each week, is play checkers.  Whoever wins choses, either a chore for the other to do or my favorite, a back massage.  If you are fortunate enough to have children do a family game night, Hasbro always has $5.00 off coupons online. 

When you are going through your E-break take notice of how your body is feeling during the interaction and be grateful that you took this opportunity to reconnect.