Thursday, January 28, 2010

Relationship Advice: Love, Couples & Friends

Before you got into a couples relationship, you had your own friends to hang out with and have fun. You never had to worry about a partner who did not like your friends or did not want to hang out with them. You never had to concern yourself with problems that could arise if you simply wanted to spend some time with your friends rather than your partner. But once you left the singles scene and became a couple, some things regarding friendships began to change.

Following are some common challenges that couples face regarding friendships.

(1) Finding couples friends that both you and your partner enjoy spending time with.

One of you might like spending time with another couple while the other does not. So what do you do? There are a couple of factors to consider when looking for other couples to hang out with:

How time is spent together

When couples share common interests, they are more likely to enjoy the company of other couples with the same interests. For example, if both couples like to do certain things like go to sporting events, (or concerts, comedy club, the theatre, bowling, golfing, or playing cards, watching movies, or just hanging out and talking), they will all enjoy the activity and are more likely to actively engage and work together. We have all participated in things we really enjoy and find that even if we have an issue with someone or something, we can still enjoy ourselves. Personally, I experienced this when working in an orchestra. Once we got into playing the music, our differences subsided for the time being and we all had a great time. On the other hand, if one or more individuals really lack interest in the activities, there is a good chance they will not enjoy spending time together. It might be the activity more than the couple that they do not appreciate and enjoy. Finding things both couples like to do can make a big difference.

Personalities, Compatibility, and Connections

Another important factor that affects enjoying time spent with couple friends is the connection they all have. Do they genuinely like and respect one another? Are they comfortable and feel safe to open up? We connect with others when we find commonalities on which we can bond, such as hobbies, political or religious views, interests, problems, or life experiences. There are so many different levels on which we can connect. Once we do, real friendships can develop and we begin to enjoy time spent together in laughter, sharing, learning, and appreciating life together. Oftentimes, the most rewarding couple friendships develop between couples involved in common goals and interests. That is why it is important that each couple develop goals together first, then they can share them with other couples.

(2) Avoiding conflicts when one of you does not want to hang out with the other’s friends

Couple relationships require a great deal of sharing, giving, and compromise if they are going to be happy and healthy. Doing something the other person wants to do when we do not want to can be handled in several ways. First, you have the choice to do it anyway. That can be a sacrifice on your part, but you do it for your partner. Secondly, you can decide to work out a compromise. You need to discuss this and both feel good and right about it. If one partner feels taken advantage of, it can turn into resentment and bitterness that will eventually come out and affect the relationship. So, you may agree to hang out with his friends today and he will go shopping with you all day tomorrow. Do whatever works as long as you both have a good attitude. It is about give and take. The better we get at it, as it applies to our relationships, the better we can avoid conflicts and find lasting satisfaction in our relationships.

(3) Allowing each other time apart and freedom to choose how and with whom it is spent

Couples ought to have an agreed upon together or "we time" and agreed upon time apart or "me time." Me time should be used any way the person chooses, whether alone or with friends. If one partner does not have their own friends, they can use this time to visit their relatives or simply do something on their own. Whatever they choose to do, the other person’s time apart ought to be respected. It is a good idea to discuss and agree that time alone and time apart from each other will be honored and respected without resentment. The important thing is that couples are satisfied with their time together. A satisfying relationship built on trust creates security. Couples ought to be secure enough in their relationship to let their partners go when separate time is needed. Relationships require a certain amount of freedom. There is an old adage that says, "When you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it does not, it never was." It is not in the best interest of a relationship to make the partner with friends feel guilty or to impose upon his or her "me time." If the issue has to do with the type of friends he or she is spending time with, this needs to be addressed. If it is his own insecurities or boredom, he ought to develop some new interests apart from the relationship or talk to a counselor who can help him work through some possible insecurities, fears, or boundary issues. Couples can also benefit from couples counseling as they establish healthy boundaries and build new friendships.

Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved. Written by Krystal Kuehn.

I wrote this article in response to an interview for The Detroit Free Press. To read more on the topic, check out: Don’t Forget Pals When Dating by Cathy Nelson (The Detroit Free Press, January 10, 2010).

Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC is a psychotherapist, author, teacher and musician. She is the cofounder of New Day Counseling Services, a family and couples counseling center and, an award-winning, self-help and personal growth site where you can find hundreds of free resources, insights and inspiration.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Taking Better Care of Our Spirits, Souls & Bodies

If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it's because they take better care of it. ~Cecil Selig

Do you ever wonder why it seems that some people have better attitudes, healthier bodies, and more successful relationships than others have?  It is easy to just look at them and assume that they are just lucky or have it easy as opposed to the rest of us.  But more often than not, it is because they work on these areas in their lives. 

Positive attitudes are the result of repeatedly making it a habit to be thankful, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, looking at the good rather than the bad in ourselves and others, and focusing on possibilities and solutions rather than the problems.  Healthy bodies do not just happen either.  Our eating habits, exercise, and stress all play a part in our physical well-being.  It takes discipline and commitment to resist and limit our intake of unhealthy foods, eat right, exercise at least 3 times a week, relax our bodies and minds, and improve our coping with stress.  And finally, successful relationships don't just happen, but require our time and attention.  Our relationships are precious and of great value.  There is so much we can do to invest in them and make them better. (See The 10 Keys to Happy and Loving Relationships for ideas). 

If we take better care of our mental and physical health, as well as our relationships, it WILL pay off. It may require some extra effort, work and investment, but we will find that it is well worth it!!

Take care, Krystal

Take better care of yourself--body, soul & spirit with the self-help program: The 9 Habits of Happy People
If you could use some help from a counselor, I encourage you to take better care of yourself and your family with family therapy or couples therapy

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's A New Day for a New Beginning

Though no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new end. ~Carl Bard

You've heard it said, It's not how you start, it's how you finish.  Sometimes we wish we could go back and do things all over again.  It would be so different if we could just have a brand new start.  But no matter how far off track we have gotten, or where the road has turned, we can still reach our destination.  The life before us is filled with hope and promise.  No detour can change our purpose and call.  We just might have to take a different way to get there than we expected.  Yet, we will fulfill our dreams and purpose as long as we are willing to pick ourselves back up and start from where we are at right now. 

It's a new day for a new beginning!

Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way.  Stay away from what might have been, and look at what can be. ~Marsha Petrie Sue

The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings. ~Dave Weinbaum

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Making Peace with Your Past

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself he becomes wise. ~Alden Nowlan

Are regrets, bad memories, or losses keeping you from enjoying each new day? Is the past keeping you from moving into the future with hope and anticipation?

I recently heard a man say that it was not until he made peace with his past that he truly began to live. It changed his life so drastically that everyone noticed there was something different about him. It was not until 20 years after losing his father that he began to grieve the loss for the first time. He finally allowed himself to face his past with all the anger and pain. There was so much that he missed out on. There were lost opportunities and things that would never be, so many regrets, poor choices, and bad experiences that would affect the rest of his life.

This man went through a process of acceptance and forgiveness. He felt the pain. He felt the anger. He mourned what was and could have been. And then, he released it. He made peace with his past, and he was ready to move on with his life. Suddenly, new opportunities before him became exciting. He began to fully appreciate what he had, the people in his life, and what he had become. He began to hope for a better and brighter future. He was ready to give more of himself to others. And he began to enjoy his life more and more.

For the first time since he could remember, he felt free—free of burdens from the past, free of unresolved pain, free of bitterness and self-pity. He was free indeed! He was free to enjoy his life, his family, and all that he had like never before. The past would no longer steal his joy and hope. It could not hold him back, and it was not going to keep him down any longer.

Is your past keeping you from fully enjoying your life? Sometimes we do not stop and think about it. Just like the man described above, we might have regrets, unresolved pain, sorrow, anger, or unforgiveness. These things keep us bound to the past. The past does not have to negatively influence our future. We can release it as we face it, deal with the emotions, come to accept what was and now is, and forgive our past.

Making peace with our past will lead us to experience healing, wholeness, and freedom to live our life with true joy. Every day is a new day to appreciate and enjoy. We do not have to allow our past to keep us from being truly happy today. Choose to be free and take the necessary steps to be free now. (We might want to have a professional counselor help us go through this process.)

Following are questions to reflect on and steps to take in making peace with our past:

1. Face your past. What are your regrets? What caused or still causes you pain? What are your losses? Have you grieved them?

2. Face your feelings. Does your past make you angry, sad, feel bad about yourself, bitter, damaged, cheated?

3. Forgive your past. Do you have any bitterness, hatred, or unforgiveness towards anyone (including yourself)? Why are you holding on to it? What would it take for you to release it and free yourself from its control in your life?

4. Accept your past. When we cannot change something, the healthiest thing we can do is accept it. Can you accept your past? What have you learned from it? How can it change you for the better?

5. Make peace with your past and be free. When your past no longer controls your life—your peace, your hope, attitude, relationships, ability to love others, give and share of yourself, dream, believe, and trust once again, then you are free!

It is my hope that this has helped you in making peace with your past, and in looking forward to better days ahead!


God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Copyright © 2007 All Rights Reserved

Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC is a psychotherapist, author, teacher and musician. She is the cofounder of New Day Counseling Services, a family and couples counseling center and, an award-winning, self-help and personal growth site where you can find hundreds of free resources, insights and inspiration.