One Thing That Will Make You a Better Spouse, Parent, & Entrepreneur, All At The Same Time

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Are you curious?   What simple thing can make you better in so many areas of your life all that the same time…   Well I won’t make you wait any longer.

It’s a better you!

The reality is your personal health and well-being in all areas (physical, emotional, financial) affect who you are in all of your other roles.  Don't believe me quite yet?  Bear with me.  

Recently I found myself in a place I didn't love.   I was lacking patience with my kids, I was short with my wife,  and was just feeling sluggish and unmotivated overall.   Maybe you have found yourself there?    At your wit's end as a parent,  constantly fighting in your relationships or friendships, struggling to focus at work?  These might be symptoms that you need to take some time to invest in some self care for yourself.   

I say invest, because yes it may cost you but in the end the pay off can be huge.

So if you find yourself in this place what should you do?  Well, it looks a little different for everyone, but the short answer is "invest in you",

For me in meant hiring a babysitter for the day and taking the day for myself at my own pace. I had coffee on a patio, I went to the driving range, and finished with a trip to the gym.  I left feeling refreshed and ready to tackle what ever was ahead of me.   

This day did cost me something financially, I get that.  But it would cost my family a whole lot more in the long run if I didn't.  

For some of you, this is what you need: a day for you, to rest physically, to heal emotionally,  or maybe you are surrounded by people all day and you just need to be alone.  Maybe you need time with a good friend over coffee

For some this investment might be counselling.  You have tried on your own, and it just does not seem to get better, no matter what you do. Like many things in life it is just too much to heal, learn or change on your own.  A counsellor can help with that.  You can call for a free 15 minute phone consultation with us to see if it might be helpful for you.  

So what do you need to do this week to be a better you?   Read a book? Get some exercise? Rest? Have coffee with a friend, talk to a counsellor?   Make the invest we promise you would regret it.  

What are you learning now? We would love to hear.  

 

 

How to Survive Back to School

How to Survive Back to School

I was in Walmart last week, and already the aisles are plastered with ‘Back to School’ signs. Have you seen them yet? Does it have your stress levels up a little? It's the first week of August, and maybe it is just me, but I am already panicking about that Labour-Day-Weekend dash to get everything we need to get ready for school. Our oldest starts kindergarten this year, and we’re struggling with the lists, the prep, the anticipation of what’s coming. Anyone with me?

Transitions and new beginnings cause tension, stress and conflict within a family, and we want to do our best to help eliminate some of that for you. September shouldn’t be looming over your head like a dark cloud; it can be a natural end to a fun-filled summer. Can you imagine if instead of stress, anxiety, and rushing around, the days before school returns are filled with calm anticipation and the final family memories of a great summer? No, you’re thinking...no, I can’t. How, with so much to do, can we possibly avoid that end of summer panic?

Start now.

Bite off little pieces along the way in order to enjoy every bit of summer, while preventing a mad dash in September. Some of these tips might even help you stay on budget when you’re back to school shopping! Here’s our plan of attack:

Week 1 - Inventory & List Making 

Figure out which clothing and school supplies you already have in the house; this will help you create your list, and avoid over-purchasing things (4 rulers is probably more than enough)

Use your inventory to make a list of what you need to buy/find. Writing it down helps to stay within your budget, and helps you focus on looking for sales ahead of the Labour Day rush. It also prevents the impulse-buy of 12 fluffy pink pens for the pre-teen who ‘has to have them’.

Week Two - Routine Planning & Fall Activities

Figure out what your typical day is going to look like. Does everyone start school at the same time? What time do you need to be up in the morning for everyone to get out the door on time? What will the kids be responsible for (packing lunches? Tidying their room? Unpacking their bags?). When does homework need to be done? Look at your extracurricular activities too; are there any nights of the week that are shaping up to be crazy? 

Without a plan in place, suddenly each one of your kids is signed up for 7 activities at conflicting times, and you spend your entire fall running from place to place. Don’t lose sight of ‘family time’ and the importance of relaxation when you’re scheduling out your week. Also, take note of that sneaky first PA day, so you’re not scrambling for day care at 10 pm on a Thursday night.

Week Three - Shopping:

Depending on your kids' moods, age, and opinions this may need a whole week. We’re far enough into the summer now that stores are starting to really mark down their school supplies. Pull out that list you made in week 1, and check the sales whenever you’re in Walmart/Staples/etc.  Flipp App is an easy way to check many stores at one time.  If your kids get ‘back to school’ clothes, it might be a good time to set out some guidelines for shopping (how much to spend? What clothes are needed? If your child is middle school aged (or up) this is a great chance to teach them about budgeting,  helping them plan what they need and how much money they have. 

Week 4 - Lunch Plans & Backpack Prep

Find some lunch ideas for the first few weeks of school, so you’re not throwing crackers and apples at your kids as they walk out the door (not that there is anything wrong with that). Here is a list of some amazing easy AND healthy lunch ideas we’ve come across. Have your kids help with this one; after all, they’re the ones that will be eating! To make lunch-packing easier, a standard grocery list might also be a benefit. My mom used one when we were kids - just check off what you need instead of making a list of what you remember.  

Help your kids pack their backpacks with supplies and everything they need.  Have you ever lost the school supplies that you just bought and had to go re-buy them before school even starts?  Most of the things won't be needed until school starts, so why not pack them all up in their backpack in advance?

Weekend Before: Pick Clothes, Make Memories, Reduce Stress

Help your kids decide what they are going to wear for the first day (this may change 6 times before the first day, but at least you’ll have a head start).

Plan for a dinner out or take-out the night before school starts. This will limit the crazy, decrease the mess, and avoid dishes altogether. That way, when you’re wrangling over-excited (or nervous) kids into bed, you feel like you’re starting ahead. This will give you the opportunity to make some of those final summer memories.

These tips can help alleviate stress, and give you room to celebrate the new milestones in your family this fall. If you’re stumbling upon this during the last week of August, don’t panic! We’ve got 8 steps above; just divide them up amongst the time you have left, and now you’ve got a plan of attack for your remaining summer. Jump in, and try to make going back to school memorable for all the right reasons.

Have you mastered the back to school insanity? Help your fellow parents (and me!), and comment below!

 

One Thing Most Marriages Are Missing

Do you ever feel like your marriage is missing something? Like you struggle to communicate or connect, or feel like you are just getting by?

You may be missing this one thing in your relationship.

Fun!

Fun has the power to break down walls, create memories, generate laughter, and release endorphins.

Fun has the power to build a deep and lasting relationship, to help you connect in a new way, and learn to communicate on a different level.

When you take time away from your job, your kids, your housework- just the pressure of daily life- to connect with your spouse, so much can change!

Fun can come in a variety of ways; in the tone of your home, or how you interact,  but the best way to set aside dedicated time for fun is to have a date night.

This week, I've invited some friends to share the difference that fun makes in their relationship. They are amazing at setting aside dedicated time to have fun with each other, and go out on dates. I even got them to share their favourite date night ideas (if you want to just scroll down to the end!)  

(highlights are my emphasis as a counsellor) 

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Q: How long have you been married?

A: It was 10 years this past September. We got married pretty young, Crystal was 22 and AJ was 25.

 

Q: How old are your kids?

A: We have two energetic boys who will be 6 and 2 this year.

 

Q: Do you both work outside the home?

A: Yes, we both have full-time jobs. AJ works from home but also travels fairly often, sometimes one or two nights and a couple times a year for a week at a time.

 

Q: Why do you make time for date night?

A: First, we genuinely like spending time with each other. That time to have fun and laugh and talk and eat is something I always look forward to. Now that we have kids, it’s definitely something we have to plan for and schedule to make it happen. I not only crave that time alone with AJ, but also need the break from being mommy and daddy all the time.

 

Q: What have dates done for your marriage?

A: I think dating your spouse helps to keep the fun and romance of pre-marriage alive. There’s something special about getting out together alone with no other purpose than to enjoy each other’s company. And we’re busy - with work, kids, chores, volunteering - but we have decided that dates are just a non-negotiable for us. Being great parents and dating your spouse are not mutually exclusive, in fact, I would suggest dating your spouse can make you a better parent.

 

Q: What happens when you start to go a long time without connecting on a date?

A:The longer you wait, the easier it is to wait longer. You get busy, you need to push something off and sometimes date night is the first to go. But you can start to feel disconnected and maybe even a bit insecure in your relationship. Those small investments of time make a big difference. We still don’t get out as often as we’d like, usually it’s about once a month, two or three times is a really great month. And we make sure that we get an overnight getaway at least once a year. Sometimes that looks like one night after a concert or sporting event. I really believe those overnights are important and we make it a priority, even if it is just one night.

 

Q: What role do you think fun plays in marriage?

A: I think having fun with your spouse sets the tone of your relationship. It’s not all going to be fun, but when you have that foundation of enjoying each other, it can help you get through the frustrations of life and parenthood and even have some laughs through it all.

 

Q: What challenges do you face getting out on dates? Where do your kids go?

A: I think most of us would agree that the challenge about date night is almost never about not wanting to go out, but actually making it happen. Scheduling can be tough between work, kids activities, sports and AJ’s commitments as a volunteer firefighter. It means we have to plan ahead, sometimes a month or two out. We are incredibly lucky because both of our parents are within about an hour drive and babysit for us often. I realize many people don’t have that luxury. We have also hired a babysitter that we know and trust or do a babysitting swap with friends where we watch their kids so they can go out and they do the same.  The point is, you need to decide that date night is something that’s important to you both and then make sure it happens, whatever it might look like in your situation.

 

Q: Why should people make date night a priority?

A:  Life is short, but marriage can feel awfully long if you’re not enjoying being married. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in life that you become almost like really efficient roommates. Date night is not going to single-handedly give you an amazing marriage, but it can help with communication, intimacy, friendship and just helping you enjoy life and this person that you’ve chosen as your partner.

 

Q: What are some of your favourite activities?

A: While we go to the occasional movie, both AJ and I prefer dates that feel a bit more meaningful. We do spend some of our evenings binge-watching a show or catching up on Survivor. Those are nice in-betweens, but I don’t consider them dates (although we have had some really interesting conversations after shows).

And of course, date night isn’t cheap. We save up restaurant gift cards and Scene points. There are also a lot of cheap or at-home date nights that are no less fun, but a lot less expensive.

CHECK OUT CRYSTAL & AJ's DATE NIGHT SUGGESTIONS HERE 

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Whether it is date nights, vacations, or just fun around your house, your marriage is meant to be enjoyed.  So let loose and have some fun; you may be surprised how much it changes the tone of your entire relationship.  

So how about it? Think you can get out on a date this month? 

We would love to hear from you! Have a date that's your favourite, or a way to inject some fun into your marriage?  Would love it if you'd leave a comment below! 

 

 

 

How to Life-proof Your Marriage

How To Life-Proof Your Marriage

“We should go to counselling.”

In our society, these words paint a picture of a marriage that is broken, failing, or falling apart. Counselling is seen as a last resort - the last ditch effort to save a flawed relationship. Sometimes this is exactly what marriage counselling is, and in these situations, counselling can help tremendously. However, sometimes you just feel stuck in your relationships, or feel like you can’t get on the same page. Maybe you’re looking at your past relationships and are unsure whether any future relationship will work out.

Here’s the thing; marriage counselling can be effective for all of the above. But one of the ways it can be most effective is to choose counselling to improve your marriage before you feel like its needed. Marriage counselling can help you get out in front of issues, and build a solid foundation for a relationship that will stand the test of time. To quote our friends (and guest posters), “We don’t go to marriage counselling because we have a weak marriage. We go because we want to have a strong one.”

Because so many people assume marriage counselling is a sign of failure,  we asked our friends Sarah and Justin if they would join us on the blog to share their experience, and why they chose marriage counselling. You can find them here at United and Untied. They agreed to share to help take away the stigma of marriage counselling, and to encourage others to look to counselling for help, support and growth. We’re thrilled with what they have to say.

Note: The bolded text below is my emphasis; thoughts and ideas that I found especially important from a counsellor's perspective.

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Q: Give us a little snapshot of your history as a couple: who are you?

A: We knew each other for almost 15 years before going on a date. That made some things easier and some things harder. We both have different upbringings and different relationship histories we’ve brought into our marriage. Justin had been married once before and Sarah had been in a couple serious relationships. Since getting married, our relationship has gotten richer and we do our best to serve one another in ways that are meaningful to the other person.

Q: When did you first start marriage counselling?

A: That’s a tough question. Both of us have actively sought out individual counselling on and off before we were in a relationship. Shortly after our relationship became serious, we just went to counselling because we thought it was wise given our backgrounds. Eventually, this just evolved into “marriage counselling”.

Q: Why did you feel the need to begin before you were even married?

A: We both think that seeking wise counsel is simply a good idea. Counsellors are in a unique position where they have studied and talked to many people in different walks of life. They see patterns and things that the average person doesn’t. They’re wise. Why would we not want to talk to those people? :)

Q: What fears did you have heading into marriage counselling?

A: This is an interesting question. Since we both had personal positive experiences with counselling in our past, counselling has always been a safe place for us to be real and explore what’s behind some of our day to day struggles.  Facing your struggles can sometimes be hard, but it’s worth it.

Q: What things have you learned through counselling that have surprised you?

A: It’s sometimes surprising to learn what may be underneath some of your own seemingly mundane behaviours and reactions to daily occurrences. It forces you to evaluate the things you do and think in a way that helps you move forward. Your emotional intelligence also grows - we have learned to recognize and name something we are experiencing and communicate it well without added tension and misunderstanding.

Q: Is there any way you could give an example of this (the mundane behaviours with background reasons)?

A: A simple example, one of us will be having a bad day. Sarah will stew over a discouraging conversation, she didn’t get enough sleep and forgot to eat lunch.  Then out come a few snappy comments when she realizes the garbage is full (Justin takes care of emptying the garbage in our house).  Then, a few snappy comments get fired back.  In that moment, we try to recognize when our emotional response is not in proportion with the inconvenience of the garbage being full.  Why are we so annoyed about that?  Why is it making us treat each other badly?  By recognizing and trying to name what’s really going on in the moment, it released the tension from the interactions and stops us from the blame game.  Often, one or both of us do need to change something… but we are not one another’s enemy so why treat each other that way?

Q: What have been the most fruitful things about counselling?

A: Put briefly, communication and navigation of conflict. The emotional intelligence thing.

Q: What was the most difficult part of marriage counselling?

A: Humbling yourself.  It’s never easy to find out you need to work on something, no matter what it is.  Sometimes counselling makes you look at hurt from your past in order to make progress into the future, that can be difficult too. But the end result is worth it.

Q: How did marriage counselling help you work through the challenges in your first year of marriage?

A: A great counsellor helped us foresee some of the challenges ahead and lessen their impact on our relationship before we were facing those challenges head on. It turns out an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure:)

Q: Do you feel like you (and others) need support other than your counsellor, while going through the counselling process?

A: I think a counsellor can help you process and see things you may otherwise miss, as well as give you tools to overcome those things.  However, the people closest to you are there when rubber hits the road.  They can cheer you on and keep you accountable to the changes you say you want to make.  And yes, we do have people supporting us through that!

Q: If you were trying to convince others to start counselling, what would you say?

A: Do you know how your past may be impacting your present? Do you want to be better than you are? Be more supportive of your spouse? Communicate better? Have a happier marriage? There’s a chance at getting there on your own - but the chances are a lot better with a wise counsellor.

Q: Were there ever moments where you just wanted to quit counselling?

A: No - but we have seen different counsellors at different times for different situations we have been in. Many voices are good.  It’s important to recognize that one counsellor will not “fit” every person or situation. If it’s not gelling, it doesn’t mean counselling is bad. But it may mean you need to try a different counsellor.

Q: Do you think marriage counselling will always be a part of your marriage?

A: I can’t imagine us ever getting to the point where we say “You know, I don’t think we need any more wise counsel.” So we think it likely always will be!

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I hope hearing a little bit of someone else's experience encourages you to take a step toward building a stronger marriage, no matter what its current condition is.  Whether you are just beginning a new marriage, in one that seems like smooth sailing right now, or in one that is falling apart, marriage counselling can help. 

We would love to help. Contact us here for a free 15 minute consultation.  We want to partner with you to help take a step toward building a stronger marriage.