You’ve probably heard the same type of sermons I have about how jealousy is evil and should be avoided at all cost. Sure, let’s not wallow in jealousy, letting it bring a dark cloud over our lives, but I think jealousy can be a very helpful emotion actually. That ping of envy that we all feel from time to time can be extremely useful in helping motivate us. Sometimes we just don’t know what we want in life and taking note of those moments when we feel envious can be a great starting point to getting some momentum going towards a new goal.

Clients have shared with me a wide range of circumstances when they felt the pain of jealousy. Several talked about feeling jealous of people who are:

– reaching an exercise goal
– making advancements in their careers and/or financial stability
– getting married
– starting a family
– being bold in their lives and doing something adventurous

The list could go on and on but you get the point. For me, the most recent ping of jealousy I felt was when a friend talked about how her and her husband were going on a weekend getaway and were traveling with close friends. I was super happy for my friend and I also immediately noticed my feelings. Instead of  feeling sorry for myself and allowing bitterness to take root, I decided to be proactive and I am looking for an opportunity to have a similar experience. My friend showed me something I didn’t even realize I wanted and I am thankful for the insight.

The next time someone says something to you and you feel that twinge of jealousy, stop and take note. What is it that you are envious of and can you bring even a small part of what you are jealous of into your life? Try it and see what happens.

Not The Weakest Link

The last blog post was titled “Weakest Link”.  We were to reflect on whether or not we are the person in our relationship that is causing the majority of the trouble. It’s my belief that one individual is usually more responsible for dragging a relationship down. That doesn’t mean that the problems are all one person’s fault entirely, but in most cases, there is one partner who is allowing his/her unresolved “issues” to rob the relationship of what God intended it to be.

What if you have taken an honest assessment and truth be told, you are not the weakest link? Then what? Well, you have options. The first step is to take a serious look at the relationship and assess the damage that the other person is doing. Secondly, get educated on the subject. Depending on what issues your partner is facing, there are a number of great books to help encourage you in self-care and if necessary, decision making.  Listed are a few of the resources that I continue to recommend to my clients:

1)      “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick
(great book for all types of relationships, not just romantic)

2)      “Enough About You, Let’s Talk about Me” by Dr. Les Carter

3)      “Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay ” by Mira Kirshenbaum

4)      “Grace for Divorce” by Dr. Les Carter

Ok, so I know the last book recommendation may cause a little stir among some in the religious crowd. Am I an advocate for divorce? Not at all. Am I willing to look at divorce as an option for a spouse who is in an abusive relationship with no hope for improvement? Yes I am.  Before that option is considered, I strongly feel that every effort should and must be made to improve the marriage. Also, the stronger partner must try to chart out a high quality life even while remaining married to the weaker link.  However, if emotional and/or physical safety is an issue, a spouse has the right and duty to care for himself/herself , and any children that are involved.

Something can only be fixed when both parties are willing. However, if you find yourself in the position of not being the weakest link, don’t despair. There is hope. Not only do many people change, but God came to give you an abundant life and He knows who you are married to. God’s ability to bless you isn’t disqualified by your spouse and his/her weaknesses.

Weakest Link

I am not sure who said it, but I remember hearing a speaker share that a relationship between two people is only as healthy as the weakest person. Ouch. Nobody wants to be the weaker link in a relationship. But sometimes we are and we need to be honest about that fact.

While working with married couples, I rarely state that the conflicts are caused equally by both spouses. I believe that the idea of 50/50 responsibility for the problems within the relationship is a myth. No, my experience tells me that there is usually one partner who is dragging the relationship down more than the other partner. It’s not blame, just the reality of what I have seen.

Within our relationships, if we are ones who are struggling with chronic depression, then we may be bringing a grey cloud over the relationship and our lives together. If we are prone to angry outbursts, we are welcoming unnecessary strife and wounds into our relationship. If selfishness has taken residence within us and we operate out of a hardened heart, we are definitely not able to be a loving participant within any relationship in our lives.

It’s always a good idea to take an inventory of the baggage we may be bringing with us. Being aware really is the first step to change.

A Balanced Life

When talking with clients, we often end up discussing whether they feel that their lives are in-balance or out of control. Like many Americans nowadays, some of my clients feel frazzled. They feel controlled by their schedules and the never ending demands of life. We all want the highest quality of life possible, however sometimes we have difficulty seeing our own lives with the correct perspective. Counseling can be helpful to get a different viewpoint. Getting an unbiased opinion can shed light into areas that otherwise might stay stuck in the same old rut year after year.

One helpful tool that I use with clients is to look at their lives from a pie-chart perspective. By this I mean that there are several core items that should be within every balanced life. If these core components are out of proportion or non-existent, then a life will be less than desirable.

The core areas are:

1)      Work or volunteering

2)      Spiritual growth

3)      Physical health (healthy eating habits and exercise)

4)      Same-sex friendships

5)      Romantic relationship if married or dating

6)      Parenting if applicable

7)      Other relationships such as extended family

8)      Hobbies

Many people who feel chronically stressed do so because their life pie-chart is out of balance. I often see people with a large pie chart section for work, marriage and parenting. But they have very few friends; hobbies and spiritual growth are often non-existent. This way of living can only last for a short time before a person burns out emotionally, if not physically as well.

An unbalanced life can begin to feel like the main character in the movie “Groundhog Day.” The main character kept repeating the same day over and over. Many people share that they feel the same way. Work, home, work, home, work, home…that really isn’t enough for a high quality life.

Take a look at your own schedule. Yes, we have to earn a living. Yes, we want to spend time with our spouse and children. But we also need time with our friends, engaged in a hobby we enjoy and most of all, growing in our walk with God.

Make sure that each of these areas are represented in your life, even  if only in a small proportion to start. If you find it difficult to get the areas listed above into your schedule, it might be time to spend a few sessions with a counselor working through your specific barriers to a balanced life.


Roles and Priorities

Our lives have boundaries imposed upon us by time. There is just no way to get around that fact. Time has a funny way of shifting too; depending on our desires. If you want time to move ahead, it feels incredibly slow. If you want time to stand still, it feels like it is moving at warp speed.  Within the context of time, we find our roles and priorities because we only have a set amount of time within a day to complete everything we wish to do.

The roles we want to hold in life will dictate our priorities. I want to be a “mom-that-volunteers-at-my-child’s-school”. That is a role. Therefore, my desire for that role drives me to make time in my busy schedule to volunteer and therefore setting it as a priority. As I started out volunteering at the school, I took on too much and felt overwhelmed. One frenzied day it dawned on me that I could still be a “mom-that-volunteers-at-my-child’s-school” but do a little less and take on two tasks instead of three. I still have the role as mom volunteer but in a dose I can manage.

I want to have the role of “wife who supports her husband’s hobbies.” This means that from November thru February, I hold down the fort at home several nights a week while my husband referees high school basketball in the evenings. I have set it as a priority to be a supportive wife, so when things get hectic around the house without my husband’s help during basketball season, there is an extra measure of grace within me because I have made it a priority based on the type of spouse I want to be.

Relationships are a wonderful  lens in which to look at this topic. If we want a role within someone’s live, we make it a priority and find the time in our schedule to keep the connection. Otherwise, staying in touch with that person “somehow” just falls off our radar but we tend to blame it on busyness. The truth is that maintaining a relationship with that particular person just wasn’t enough of a priority to give it the time-slot in our schedule that we do have to spend on relationships. Other people took priority because we longed to have a role within their lives more. A little harsh? Maybe. But I think it’s true. We have to face that fact and be honest at least with ourselves.

Take some time and think about the roles you want to have in your life and then begin setting your priorities within the confines of a 24 hour day…