Boundaries in Marriage – Part 3


August 25th, 2020

Hi there,

As a couples counsellor specializing in premarital counselling, I love talking about relationship resources and tools.  

Boundaries in Marriage Thumbnail

In previous weeks in this relationship series of videos, I spoke about communication, conflict resolution, keeping the intimacy alive, the 5 love languages, what boundaries are, and personal boundaries in relationships, and boundaries with in-laws.  Please feel free to check those videos out if you haven’t already.  In upcoming weeks, I will be covering adult attachment, how to manage inevitable struggles in your relationship, and personality differences.  

Click here to see my vlog video:

https://youtu.be/pSLsuV0PAJo

So let’s dive into boundaries in marriage.  This vlog is based on Cloud and Townsend’s book, “Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices that Make or Break Loving Relationships.”  Last week was based on the original book, “Boundaries.”  I enjoyed it so much, that I ended up buying their book that is specifically on marriage.  Here is what I got from it based on the first two parts of the book, “Understanding Boundaries”, and “Building Boundaries in Marriage.”

Cloud and Townsend write that major boundary conflicts in a marriage are when “one person crosses the lines of responsibility and respect with another” (p.8).  Cloud and Townsend describe three aspects of marriage the “Triangle of Boundaries” (p.24).  These include Freedom, Responsibility, and Love.  Although unconditional love is at the heart of marriage, it is not enough.  Marriage also needs freedom and responsibility.  Freedom in marriage is having the ability to disagree, to say no, to respond, and to love.  Responsibility involves taking ownership for one’s own issues and to do what is best for the union.      

In marriage, you have to figure out where you end and where your partner begins.  When I work with my couples, I encourage them to be intentional about having “me” time and “we” time.  Don’t lose sight of your own personal interests and activities, but aim at a good balance of sharing time with shared interests too.

It is important to focus on your own issues before you criticize or pick on your partner’s issues.  Taking the plank out of your own eye and taking ownership for yourself helps the other person then take ownership for themselves.  Build that empathy for the other person by understanding your role in any issues that you face as a couple.  You can ask questions like, “Tell me what I did to hurt you” (p.67) or “What do you see me doing that hurts or bothers you?” (p.69).  Create an environment where both parties can have the freedom to choose, and thus to grow.  

Be open, honest, and vulnerable with each other.  Be emotionally present, and “say no to your tendency to avoid relationships” (p.73).  If you tend to hide away and withdraw, take a stand against that tendency if you want to achieve authentic closeness in your marriage.  If your partner tends to nag on you, take a stand and gently and lovingly let them know that does not help.  Tell them what you want instead.  Be clear.  Make your boundaries known.  Let go and forgive each other.  Accept differences without judgement.  Respect each other’s no’s.  Take responsibility for your own feelings.

My favourite part of this book so far (I still have to read Parts 3 and 4) is page 86, where Cloud and Townsend talk about “Twoness”.  A “complete” person is a mature person who is able to “give love and receive love, be independent and self-sufficient, live out values honestly, be responsible, have self-confidence, deal with problems and failures, live out their talent, and have a life” (p.86).  Marriage is complete when two people come together who are already complete on their own.  Marriage is strained when two people come together who are in some way incomplete on their own.  Jerry Maguire, then, had it wrong.  You should never search out or depend on another person to “complete” you.  Before entering a union, it is ideal to already be mature and complete on your own.  “Marriage is not meant to be the place where one gets completed as a person” (p.86).  Rather, it is a place for complete individuals to come together to enrich each others’ lives and build a “we” that is better than either person on their own.  They can complement each other by bringing in their different perspectives, personalities, talents, skills, experiences and gifts to the partnership.  

Marriage takes work and involves cultivating six core marriage values.  Take a stand against anything that would stand against these values.  Be sure to magnify these six values in your marriage:

1/ Love of God – this may not apply to you if you are not religious, but if you believe in a higher power, then putting Him first above all else brings all other priorities in line.  It helps to have God as the north star to guide and lead, and form the foundation for the relationship. Everything else flows out of that love for God as you trust in Him and have faith in Him.

2/ Love of Your Spouse – Cloud and Townsend talk about “agape” love, which is the kind of love that is concerned for the welfare of the partner (p.117).  We are to love each other like we love ourselves.  This means showing empathy for our partner, thinking of how to make their life better, being committed to them through thick and thin, continuing to work hard to express love even after decades have passed, and wanting the best for them even at times when they don’t see what that is.  Sometimes a partner who has an addiction issue, for example, may not see what is good for them at the time.  

3/ Honesty – It is important to always be honest with each other about everything, including how you feel, disappointments, desires, likes, dislikes, hurts, anger, sex, sins, failures, needs, and vulnerabilities (p.125-126).  It may not always be easy, but it’s necessary to experience trust and true intimacy in the relationship.  Use your discernment and grace to know when the best timing would be and what the best way to phrase things might be.  

4/ Faithfulness – Being faithful in marriage does not only mean being physically faithful, but it means being emotionally faithful too.  Be cautious of people or things that can draw your attention away from your partner, like a work crush, hobby, or addiction.  Being a faithful spouse means being “one who can be trusted, depended upon, and believed in, and one in whom you can rest” (p.130).  

5/ Compassion and Forgiveness – We all make mistakes.  When we do, take ownership of them and apologize for them.  When your partner messes up, show them grace and forgive them.  Be tender of heart with each other.

6/ Holiness – A holy marriage is not just one based on religion.  It is one based on:

-“confession and ownership of the problems in each individual

-a relentless drive toward growth and development

-a giving up of everything that gets in the way of love

-a surrendering of everything that gets in the way of truth

-a purity of heart where nothing toxic is allowed to grow” (p. 140)

Strive for this for yourself as a person, and your marital partnership will grow and become stronger.  Deep passion flows from this sense of purity, honesty, faithfulness and trustworthiness.    

So in summary, know where you draw the line, let your partner know what that line is, and give them the freedom to choose their behaviour knowing the consequences of their actions.  Take responsibility for your own stuff and let your partner take responsibility for their own stuff.  Work on being your own complete and whole you.  Your relationship will be stronger and more fulfilled as a result.  Exercise the six core marriage values – love God, love your spouse, be honest, be faithful, show compassion and forgiveness, and strive towards holiness.

Hope this was helpful.  In the next video I’ll be covering adult attachment – building that sense of security with your partner.

Let me know if there are any other relationship videos that might be useful to you.

Be Well,

Melissa


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Visualization and Racism


August 19th, 2020

Hi there,

So I had done a vlog on visualization and racism on June 22, 2020.  When I went back to find it recently, I realized it disappeared.  So here it is again.

Click here for the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEUofvVFYUY&t=53s

In this vlog, I talk about visualization as a self-care tool.  This is part of my self-care series.  I’m going to apply it to visualizing a world where there is not just equity, but there is freedom and liberation from systemic racism.

Are you familiar with The Secret?  If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, it is a matter of visualizing what you want in life, and your unconsciousness then works towards it.  It is important to articulate it and visualize it in a positive way, so not saying what you don’t want, but rather saying what you do want.  For example, if I were to say don’t think of a purple elephant, you are inevitably going to think of a purple elephant anyway.  So instead of doing that, telling yourself what you want to picture instead, like a blue rhinoceros.  The unconscious doesn’t understand negatives.  So tell it what you do want.

This visualization helps us to achieve our goals.  My belief as a Christian counsellor is that God is the ultimate judge about what is granted and the timing of it, but if we ask in prayer and visualize in faith, then we will receive it (Matthew 21:21-22).  If it is good for us, we will receive it in God’s perfect timing.

You can also use a vision board to further help the unconscious mind visualize what you want.  The unconsciousness responds well to pictures.  I like to do my vision board annually, based on my wellness wheel (financial, spiritual, physical, emotional, social, vocational, sexual, environmental).

As Interim President with OAMFT, I was asked to write a statement on racial discrimination, given the murder of George Floyd.  I was thinking about what to write, I found myself teary.  It made me think of my own son who is mixed-black. 

No one is lesser than.  No life is worth less than someone else’s.  No one should be pre-judged based on the colour of their skin.  Yet it happens.  Every day.  It is not only in Minneapolis with George Floyd.  It happens in our very own community.  As the mother of a mixed-black boy, I am concerned for his future and ever being mistreated or misjudged based solely on appearance.  I fear that it is only a matter of “when” not “if” this would happen to him.  This is concerning and saddening to me, and greatly disappointed in our society.  

For his sake and the sake of all people of colour, we need to take a stand.  I love that we live in this wonderfully diverse city of Toronto, but I am not ignorant to the fact that racism exists here in our own backyard.  We are on a verge of a revolution, and I am so proud and touched by the protesters that have taken to the street in the middle of a pandemic, no less, to make a statement.  A bold statement.  Yet again.  It’s sad it’s taking so long to make these basic societal changes to treat each other with respect and dignity.  The statement that is being made now says “We will not put up with this systemic racism anymore”.  And we shouldn’t.  We mustn’t.  There is inequality in every single system, whether it be education, judicial or vocational.  We can be polite, but racism is still there.  It can be subtle, but it is still there.

This hurts my heart.  It’s close to home.  Change needs to happen.  Change can come from one conversation.  It can come from unlearning what we have learned in the most subtle of ways.  It can come from speaking out against microaggressions.  It can come from policy changes.  It can come from being proactive and preventative with increased funding for mental health and addictions services.  That means reversing the cut-backs that we have seen over recent years.  I’m not typically outspoken about political things, but this really does come down to voting.  So be sure to vote, and have your voice heard.

As a premarital counsellor, I love doing that kind of premarital work because it is proactive and preventative.  In the same vein, having programs for mental health, addictions, youth programs, and poverty prevention is preventative and helps towards achieving greater equity.

To refer to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, I also have a dream that in our society everyone would be treated equivalently.  Not necessarily equally, but equivalently, and work towards societal change.  

Coming back to visualization, I would like to visualize a world in which my son is always treated fairly, that he is celebrated for who he is and judged as a person only based on his heart and who he is on the inside – as a precious gift from God.  I visualize a world where police are there to help, where basic needs are met and there is abundance.  I visualize a world where we love and support each other.  A world where we care for each other.  Where we value each other and appreciate each other.   

Thank-you and Be Well,

Melissa


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Boundaries in Marriage – in-laws and personal boundaries


August 17th, 2020

Hi there,

Boundaries in Marriage-2

As a couples counsellor specializing in premarital counselling, I love talking about relationship resources and tools.  

In previous weeks in this relationship series of videos, I spoke about communication, conflict resolution, keeping the intimacy alive, the 5 love languages, and what boundaries are.  Please feel free to check those videos out if you haven’t already.  In upcoming weeks, I will be covering adult attachment, how to manage inevitable struggles in your relationship, and personality differences.  

So let’s dive into boundaries in marriage.  This was such a big topic, that covered boundaries over to videos. Check out the one I did last week on what boundaries are.  For today, I’ll talk about boundaries in marriage.  A common issue I see is lack of boundaries with in-laws.

Click here to see the vlog:

https://youtu.be/MNH_fTJWmGg

Henry Cloud and John Townsend literally wrote the book on Boundaries.  It’s called, “Boundaries: When to say Yes; How to say No to take Control of your Life.”  This vlog draws from the two chapters on family and couples.  

When a couple gets married, they leave or loosen their allegiance to their family of origin, and cleave or forge a new allegiance to their spouse.  If this doesn’t happen, that is when conflicts and boundary problems can take place.  It doesn’t mean to ignore the extended family, it just means a change in the dynamic of the family.  

If the couple has a decision to make, for example, they need to discuss it together and decide for themselves what is the best course of action.  They can certainly seek guidance and advise from any of their parents or extended family, but the ultimate decision still lies in the couple themselves.  They are the unit and the team facing life together.

So that is boundaries in relation to in-laws.  What about when there is a boundary issue between the spouses themselves?  I often talk to my couples about having me time and we time.  Sometimes boundaries are blurred within a couple when one person loses sight of who they are as a person within the relationship.  It’s important as the marriage progresses that each person continues to have their own interests and own friends.  It’s helpful to spend some time separately so that they can miss each other and long for each other.  That maintains a sense of balance and harmony in the relationship.  You have to know where one person ends and the other person begins.

What if one partner is doing something that violates your values and boundaries?  It could be an affair, a gambling addiction, spending issues, a drinking problem, or abuse.  You do not have control over what the other person does.  You only have control over your feelings and your actions.  In order to exercise boundaries in these kinds of examples, it is important to respond with clear consequences of that person’s behaviour.  

On page 164, Cloud and Townsend give the example of a spouse who is yelling.  If the partner is NOT exercising boundaries, they could simply say, “Stop yelling at me. You must be nicer.”  This is an attempt to control or change the other person’s behaviour.  If using appropriate boundaries, the partner would leave the choice of change to the spouse who is yelling.  So if the partner IS exercising boundaries, they could say, “You can continue to yell if you choose to. But I will choose not to be in your presence when you act that way.” If it’s really bad, it might mean giving some time and space by going to a friend or family’s house for a period of time.     

Cloud and Townsend outline 9 steps towards personal change in a marriage:

1/ Inventory the symptom – own and recognize the problem.  What is really going on, and take action to solve it

2/ Identify the specific boundary problem – identify what the specific boundary issue is.  Are you comfortable saying no to your partner?

3/ Find the origins of the conflict – name the original issues.  Was there a similar boundary problem between you and one of your parents?

4/ Take in the good – utilize a strong support system who will encourage healthy boundaries in your marriage.  This could be solid couple friends, pastor, support group or therapist

5/ Practice – practice setting boundaries with close friends or family members so that you can build up your ability to say no in your marriage

6/ Say no to the bad – put limits in your marriage.  You never, ever, have to put up with any form of abuse, whether it is financial, emotional, spiritual, verbal, sexual, or physical abuse.

7/ Forgive – it is important to forgive to demonstrate healthy boundaries.  “Unforgiving people allow other people to control them. Setting people who have hurt you free from an old debt is to stop wanting something from them; it sets you free as well” (p.172).  Forgive each other’s mistakes in order to free yourself and let go.

8/ Become proactive – figure out what your limits are and your bottom lines, and communicate those clearly 

9/ Learn to love in freedom and responsibility – love comes out of the freedom of choice and taking responsibility for yourself.  

Having these healthy boundaries with your partner makes it clear where your fence is, what you are willing to put up with or not, and can ultimately lead to deeper intimacy with each other.

So in summary, know where you draw the line and make that clear to your partner, including what the consequences would be if the spouse’s negative behaviour continues.  With in-laws, make it clear that your allegiance is with your partner, and be sure to stay on the same team.  

Hope this was helpful.  In the next video I’ll be covering boundaries in marriage based on the book, ‘Boundaries in Marriage’ by Cloud and Townsend.

Let me know if there are any other relationship videos that might be useful to you.

Be Well,

Melissa


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What are Boundaries?


August 10th, 2020

Hi everyone,

Boundaries

As a couples counsellor specializing in premarital counselling, I love talking about relationship resources and tools.

In previous weeks in this relationship series of videos, I spoke about communication, conflict resolution, keeping the intimacy alive, and the 5 love languages.  Please feel free to check those videos out if you haven’t already.  In upcoming weeks, I will be covering adult attachment, how to manage inevitable struggles, and personality differences.  

So let’s dive into boundaries.  This is such a big topic, that I will do a second video on it next week.  For today, I’ll talk about defining what boundaries are.

For the vlog, click here:

https://youtu.be/CzUYNB0A5jA

Henry Cloud and John Townsend literally wrote the book on Boundaries.  It’s called, “Boundaries: When to say Yes; How to say No to take Control of your Life.”  This vlog is based on the chapter on what a boundary looks like.  

Let me start with what boundaries are not.  They are not big huge walls that you have put up to protect yourself.  It is not a matter of guarding your heart to such a degree that it has hardened in solitude.  Rather, it is guarding your heart from the negative influences of anxiety, jealousy, and anger.  Cloud and Townsend describe boundaries as fences.  They are fences with gates, and the gates can open or close to keep the bad out and let the good in.  

If there is a negative influence in your life, then putting that boundary in place of saying, “No, I’m not going to put up with that, and if you choose to do x, then y is the consequence of that.”  I’ll give a personal example.  I have a family member whose behaviours have caused her to live a life of loneliness and lack of well-being.  I have offered her suggestions and encouragement a countless number of times, and I have come to realize that her wellness is not my responsibility.  She has to be willing to actually take ownership for herself.  I am happy to help her along her journey if she has a burden that is great but she alone is responsible for her own load.  It is up to her to make her own choices for her life.  If she does not, then she herself suffers the consequences.      

Saying “no” can be hard.  Maybe we feel a sense of obligation, pressure, or guilt.  But the resentment that we feel in saying “yes” when we really wanted to say “no” is only hurting ourselves.  It’s ok to give yourself that permission to say “no”.  It’s ok to let others know where your boundaries are.  And it is definitely ok to respect yourself and experience a sense of self-control in using the word, “no.”    

It’s ok to even remove yourself from being around that negative person or thing geographically or emotionally for a time being.  With the example of my family member, it finally came to a point where I had to make my boundary crystal clear.  Her behaviour was disrespectful towards me, and I cannot tolerate that.  I told her that I cannot continue to talk with her until she gets professional help.  Honestly, she didn’t believe me at first, she was still trying to engage with me.  Fortunately I have a strong social network who were supportive of my decision.  I held firm with her, and she did eventually get the message that I was serious.  And guess what?  She got the help.  I pray that the guidance opens her up for the inner healing that she needs.   

So in summary, know where your fence is, where you draw the line.  Make that line clear to others.  Allow gates to open to allow the good in and keep the good in, and let the bad out and keep the bad out.  You alone are responsible for your own actions and behaviour.  Others are responsible for theirs.        

Hope this was helpful.  In the next video on boundaries, I’ll talk more about applying them to couples and in-laws.  

Let me know if there are any other relationship videos that might be useful to you.

Be Well,

Melissa


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5 Love Languages Vlog


August 5th, 2020

Hi there!

As a couples counsellor specializing in premarital counselling, I love talking about relationship resources and tools.  

In previous weeks in this relationship series of videos, I spoke about communication, conflict resolution, and keeping the intimacy alive.  Please feel free to check those videos out if you haven’t already.  In upcoming weeks, I will be covering boundaries, adult attachment, how to manage struggles, and personality differences.  In this vlog, I will be talking about Love Languages.  

In Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages,” he writes about:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

You can take the Love Languages test on Dr. Chapman’s website to find out what your primary and secondary love languages are:

https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Chapman last year.  He came to do a talk at Tyndale University, and I was volunteering for the event.  He has such a kind soul, and I was grateful to learn from him for an entire day.  He has written many books, but in this vlog, I will be referring to his book, “The 5 Love Languages.”

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It is helpful to know not only what your primary love language is, but also that of your partner, so that you can express love in a way that actually feels heard and meaningful.  In this way, you can fill each other’s love tanks.  In this vlog, I will go through each love language.  Click here to watch my vlog on 5 Love Languages:

https://youtu.be/GZR3lDRLLnI

1. Words of Affirmation – this means giving your partner compliments or words of appreciation.  They can be encouraging words, kind words, gentle words, words verbal or in writing, and even indirect words where you say positive things about your partner to other people.  For those whose primary language is Words of Affirmation, words are important.  This also means that negative words to them are extra hurtful, and so is being distracted or interrupting when they are trying to talk.  Try giving your partner one compliment every day!  Some examples of compliments from Dr. Chapman’s book are (p.37-38):

  • “You look sharp in that suit.”
  • “Do you ever look hot in that dress!  Wow!”
  • “I really like how you’re always on time to pick me up at work.”
  • “Thanks for getting the babysitter lined up tonight.  I want you to know I don’t take that for granted.”
  • “I love how you are so responsible.  I feel like I can count on you.”

2. Quality Time – This is my primary love language.  I appreciate time together with loved ones.  That has made COVID time extra hard, but the use of video technology has made it easier, and physically distanced visits.  For couples, Quality Time entails spending intentional focused time on your partner.  You can refer to my video on Communication to practice an exercise on Active Listening.  This is being tuned in and attentive without distractions or interruptions.  Some examples from Dr. Chapman’s book are (p58, 68, 69 and 71):

  • going away for a weekend together
  • meet up for lunch just the two of you
  • get a babysitter and go out for dinner
  • sit and talk together at the end of the day
  • go on a picnic as a family
  • take a vacation together at least once a year
  • go for walks together
  • taking up a hobby together 
  • gardening together 
  • shopping together
  • going to a concert together
  • inviting another couple over for dinner 
  • go for a bike ride together
  • workout together

3 – Receiving Gifts – Gifts are visual symbols of love and it shows that the person thought of you and remembered you when they picked it out and shared it with you.  Gifts can be anything at all – an expensive wedding band as a symbol of your love, or a flower your child picked for you from the garden.  Sometimes it is also the gift of being present.  As Dr. Gottman writes, “Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give if your spouse’s primary love language is receiving gifts.  Your body becomes the symbol of your love” (p81).

Some other examples of gifts are (p87-88):

  • box of candy 
  • flowers delivered
  • stone or feather you saw along a walk     
  • handcrafted painting you did
  • a book you know he/she has been meaning to read or has an interest in
  • give to his/her favourite charity on his/her birthday

4. Acts of Service – These are things that make you feel loved when your partner does for you, things that are helpful to you.  If this is your partner’s love language, then listen for requests for acts of service.  As Dr. Chapman puts it, “Why not decide to see the nag as a tag?” (p.105).  Pay attention to these nagging requests, as this is something that is important to your partner, and you would be showing him/her love by gladly following through on the request.    

Some examples of Acts of Service

  • doing the dishes
  • vacuuming
  • weeding the garden
  • organizing the office
  • preparing coffee just how she/he likes it
  • take the car for service
  • prepare dinner
  • do the laundry
  • helping with a project
  • helping with an item on the to-do list

5. Physical Touch – This is my secondary love language.  This is one that was harder to meet the need of during COVID time.  You can send virtual hugs all you want, but it’s just not the same.  Hugging a loved one to the point of feeling your muscles relax and breathing a sigh of relief is so powerful.  Your body is then releasing cuddle hormones, oxytocin, that makes you feel safe and secure.  In Dr. Chapman’s words, your emotional love tank is then full.

Physical Touch is not just sex.  It can also include:

  • holding hands
  • massage
  • kissing
  • foreplay without intention of intercourse
  • giant hugs
  • a touch on the shoulder
  • a playful pat on the bottom
  • playing footsies under the table
  • putting your arm around your partner while watching a show    

After going through the process of figuring out each other’s love language, it doesn’t mean to only focus on that and ignore the rest.  Even if the other languages are not your partners primary language, it doesn’t mean it won’t also be appreciated.  For example, if your partner’s love language is quality time, it doesn’t mean to only focus on that and ignore the rest.  It is nice to still add in a compliment, give a gift, hold hands and do something helpful for them.  You would have to use your discretion as to your partners needs at different points in time, so being in tune with them.   

Hope this was helpful.  Let me know if there are any other relationship videos that might be useful to you.

Be Well,

Melissa


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