8 Ways to Improve a Struggling Relationship

Jack and Jill were at it again. Yet another pointless argument over absolutely nothing. And they were both furious with each other. They both missed the early days of their relationship and wanted their relationship to work. But it was so difficult to trust each other, let alone have a meaningful conversation. At least not without arguing. They needed help to get their relationship back on track. These 8 tips can help Jack and Jill:

Understand Basic Principles of Communication

We are never really taught how to have an effective conversation. Sure, we learn how to speak, how to read. We might even have a public speaking class. But there isn’t a “How to talk to your partner about difficult things 101” class.

Learning how to identify what is important in a conversation, and how to tell that to someone else, is something that is critical to a good relationship. So is learning how to listen for what our partner is trying to tell us, and not simply what we think we hear.

The Warm Start Up

No one really likes confrontation. At least not the loud, shouting, argumentative confrontation. But having difficult conversations don’t always have to go this route.

Using the pattern of When… I feel… I need can have a profound impact on the direction the conversation goes, keep the conversation focused on what is important, and helps to prevent the four horsemen from showing up.

Avoid the Four Horsemen

The Four Horsemen are four things people tend to do in an argument that make things quickly blow up. They are called the Four Horsemen because, when they are used often, the relationship is quickly approaching an Apocalyptic end – but there is hope!

For Four Horsemen are: Contempt, Criticism, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling

Take Ownership

It can be easy to see the faults of your partner. Especially in an argument. When is the last time pointing out their faults helped? Yeah, probably never. Instead, taking ownership of yourself, your responses, and your relationship can be a powerful way to avoid the Four Horsemen and make significant progress in your relationship.

Focus on Improving Yourself

Similar to taking ownership, don’t focus on your partner’s faults. Instead, focus on being the best person, and the best partner you can be. This will set an example for your partner and keep a high standard for what is expected. When you focus on yourself, it starts to matter less and less what your partner thinks of you because you know you are doing better, and are a better person.

Rebuild Trust

It is difficult to have a close relationship when the trust is gone. And rebuilding trust can be one of the most difficult things to do in a relationship. It is also one of the most important.

Develop Family Goals

Family goals allow a common focus and something both partners can work together – and individually – to achieve. Big visions with SMART goals can be an effective way to plan out family goals.

Date Each Other

Relationships – even romantic ones – are often based on friendships. And dating is a great way for a couple to rekindle the friendship they had. Get creative in finding ways to date each other again!

Stay tuned as we talk about each of these in more detail!

Welcome Michael Carr

Michael Carr is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has helped people in a variety of settings. Some of these include: 12 years in parish ministry, 22 years in private counseling practice, and over three years with a large health care organization. Michael is passionate about helping people be free to be who God made them, regardless of their setting and struggles. He brings with him the unique skills needed to effectively help those in need for each setting he has worked in.

Why am I a therapist?

Michael has seen the struggles and difficulties people go through when they have experienced trauma or relationship difficulties. He is called to help people connect their faith and beliefs to their pain in practical and meaningful ways. He finds that his role of a therapist allows him to connect with people of all walks of life and help them be free to live the life they want, regardless of their beliefs, background, etc.

Can you help me?

Michael specializes in passionate about helping couples improve their relationship, and individuals to be free from the impacts of trauma. He finds clients often excel working with him through journal and expressive writing therapy. As a pastoral counselor, Michael makes room for individuals and families to embrace their own spiritually-based values throughout the counseling process. Michael sees himself as a temporary assistant of the Holy Spirit whose goal is to assist every person in becoming his/her/their own counselor and coach.

4 Steps to Stop Beating Yourself Up

We all make mistakes in life. We are human, it is going to happen. Some mistakes are easy to move past. Others stick with us for a while. Here are some things you can do to help move past mistakes:

1) Accept we are human and make mistakes

No one is perfect. Even very successful CEOs fail, have bad ideas, or poor implementations from time to time. So you did something you regret? So does everyone. You are in good company. But successful people don’t stay stuck there. Viewing these failures as an opportunity to learn and grow can be very helpful in forging yourself as well as learning and moving forward.

2) Accept the mistake happened and your role in it

This is not an easy step, but it is necessary. Mistakes happen, but an honest look at why can become very productive. If someone doesn’t take an honest look, they may miss opportunities to improve (more on that below) or to avoid making the same mistake again.

It is also helpful to carefully look for any way that we contribute to the problem. It may be a small way, or a big way. Size of the contribution doesn’t matter, just acknowledge that it is there.

3) Develop a plan to do better

Look at what you learned from #2. If you are in a similar situation again, how can you avoid the mistakes or get a better outcome? If needed, talk to others to have a rock-solid plan.

4) Reassess and, as needed, remind yourself thoughts and feelings can lie to us

If that little voice keeps telling you to beat yourself up, repeat this process. Did you miss anything? Do you honestly owe someone something to make amends? Or are you lying to yourself?

See, not every thought or emotion is an accurate reflection of our situation. We can essentially lie to ourselves. Did you do everything you can to correct the situation and prevent a recurrence? So those thoughts and feelings of guilt are not productive. They are false guilt. Find ways to remind yourself that you don’t have anything to be guilty about and to move forward. Those thoughts and feelings should decrease over time. If they don’t, seeking professional help may be beneficial to help with moving forward.

Acceptance – But Do I Have To?

Peace from acceptance

Jill was having a rough day. Her children weren’t listening, Jack was misinterpreting everything, and today had to be a good day. She was planning to meet with a friend that she hadn’t seen in a while. And then her car didn’t start. No matter how long she tried to turn the key in the ignition, nothing! As if she needed that. In frustration, she called her friend to cancel.

If Jill slowed down and accepted the car wasn’t starting, her children were being obnoxious, and her husband and she were not communicating well today, how would things have been different?

What is Acceptance?

First, I want to explain what acceptance isn’t. Acceptance isn’t resignation. It isn’t being defeated when things don’t go well. In fact, acceptance is the opposite of that. According to dictionary.com‘s third definition of acceptance, it is: “the act of assenting or believing”.

Acceptance isn’t about being stuck with something, it is about assenting – or acknowledging – reality for what it is. This is often a necessary first step in making big changes in our lives, or even fixing a small problem.

Acceptance is not resignation. It is the opposite. It is recognizing life on life’s terms so we can find what we do have control over.

What Does This Look Like, Practically?

When we accept something, we acknowledge it is real. If Jack is trying to loose weight but really likes to eat doughnuts, he needs to accept his food choice goes against his goals. Then, he needs to choose if he wants to continue his weight loss goals or keep eating doughnuts. It is his choice, and he is free to make either choice. But he can’t choose if he doesn’t recognize reality for what it is, and “assent” to his like of doughnuts.

Let me use another example. If someone isn’t feeling well but refuses to accept it, they will never to go the doctor. If they are sick, go to the doctor, and accept their diagnosis, then – and only then – they can begin effective treatments.

Back To Jill

Jill was struggling to accept that Jack and her children were having “one of those days”. And that she was, too. Accepting “one of those days” would have allowed Jill to pause just long enough to expect more problems throughout the day. Acceptance might have even let her slow down and realize she grabbed the wrong set of car keys.

Acceptance can be much easier said than done. If acceptance is something you struggle with, individual counseling can help! Feel free to call us at 717-219-5711, email us at info@magillcounseling.com, or use the chat widget below to see how we can help you.

Mental Health Counseling for Couples

Couple with good mental health

Jack and Jill were having a rough year. I mean, it was 2020, right? All of the stress from the lockdowns aside, they were struggling. Sure, financially. But also personally. And in their relationship. Jack was being short with Jill, he was very irritable, and wouldn’t stop worry about, well, everything! Jill started to feel overwhelmed, isolated, and down. She didn’t want to do anything anymore, and she rarely had a meaningful conversation with Jack. They were both struggling with their mental health, and that was impacting their relationship. They needed mental health counseling for couples.

How Does Mental Health Impact Couples?

Every relationship is made up of two people. The healthier each person is, the healthier the relationship can be. When someone in a relationship is struggling, the relationship can struggle.

Look at Jack and Jill. Jack’s anxiety was increasing the stress on Jill. This made the relationship less enjoyable and supportive for her. She felt disconnected from Jack. Add to that, Jill’s depression made Jill not want to go on any fun outings she and Jack used to love doing! It’s not really either of their faults. She was feeling especially disconnected from Jack. They are both struggling. And that struggle negatively impacted the relationship.

Like Jack and Jill, a relationship can get stuck until the mental health concerns are addressed.

What Can Help Jack and Jill?

It is important to maintain coping skills – things we like to do that help us deal with stress, feeling down, etc. – and keep in contact with supports – even if it is someone we can chat with about absolutely nothing at all!

Additionally, working through what is causing the anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns can be personally beneficial and it helps to remove another point of stress in the relationship. Sometimes friends can be enough, but sometimes a professional may be needed.

Also, couples counseling can be a great way to resolve any hiccups in a relationship, improve communication, and talk about the impact mental health is having on the relationship in a non-judgemental and supportive environment.

What Does Mental Health Counseling for Couples Look Like?

Mental health counseling for couples varies from couple to couple. Usually, there will be couples counseling that focuses on improving the relationship, and each person would have a counselor to help each person improve their mental health and / or work through the challenges they are facing due to their partner’s mental health concerns. This is a comprehensive approach that can show significant progress in a shorter amount of time than if only the couple or only one person was in counseling.

Back to Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill sought mental health counseling for their relationship. Jack learned how to let go of what he can’t control, how to focus on what he can control, and how to better communicate with his wife. Jill learned how to prioritize herself in healthy ways, better manage stress, stay connected with others, and better communicate with her husband. They went through a stressful time, but because they faced their struggles, they had a better relationship than they thought possible and were both happier than they had been in a long time.

Interested in mental health counseling for couples? Email us at info@magillcounseling.com or use the chat below for more information. Same week appointments available!

Welcome Cassandra Enck!

Jamie is struggling to focus on her work, has experienced some trouble with planning, and trouble coping with the stresses of work, which has affected her ability to maintain her employment. She feels like herself is to blame, feels bad about her ability to focus, and just wishes she could do better. She wants to make that change, but she just doesn’t seem to know how. Jamie also seems to have difficulty in getting the jobs she really wants and she has been experiencing pressure from her family to maintain a job. Jamie also has diabetes and has some difficulty in figuring out how to address that on the job. She wants to be able to tell her employers about her condition in case she experiences low blood sugar so others know how to respond.

Hi, I’m Cassandra, and I am passionate about helping people like Jamie take ownership over her life 
including providing her the skills to disclose her disability to employers. Additionally, I want to help 
empower people like Jamie believe that she can make the changes she wants, and tailor the steps to 
get there based on what suits her needs. From the first appointment, I work to create a trusting 
relationship with my clients and create goals by breaking them down into small and manageable 
steps. Together, I believe we can reach your potential, and you can reach further heights than you 
might be able to imagine.  

Currently, I provide individual and couples counseling. I also offer several groups
for vocational counseling for people with disabilities to learn skills and have conversations 
surrounding disability disclosure, how the current pandemic has affected the field of gaining 
employment, and the process in obtaining a meaningful job. 

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