Tag Archives: Positive Thought

Finding Your Marital North Star

premarital counseling charleston scOften times when I work with premarital couples I ask them what characteristics they would like to see in their marriage. I encourage these couples to take time to think about what is important to them in a relationship, write it down and look back on in frequently.  I then talked to couples about using this list as their North Star that will guide their behavior in their marriage.


During the good times we don’t need this list as a guide. We can easily see the good in our partner and are open and loving. But when things become difficult we quickly lose sight of what is important to us and we get pulled off course.


In difficult times many people will begin to use their partner’s behavior as a guide for their own behavior (i.e. you hurt me so I will hurt you back, you are disrespectful to me so I will be disrespectful back, you withhold from me so I will withhold from you). One can see how this would become a vicious cycle for disaster.


We get pulled away from what we really want in our relationship if we base our behavior on someone else’s behavior.  This is because behavior is not a constant in any relationship. Additionally, our perception of behavior is not constant so all it would take is our perception being off for us to be pulled off course.



I was having brunch with an unmarried pregnant friend recently. During the course of brunch she was telling me that she was in a difficult position about what last name to give her baby who was soon to be born. She was no longer with the baby’s father in the romantic sense and she was not happy with all of his life choices.


On the one hand she was not particularly attached to her last name and she did not feel compelled to give the baby her name for any personal reason.  But, on the other hand she was not sure if she wanted to give her baby the father’s last name because she felt as if she was rewarding him with that honor.


We talked about it a little and I asked her if she wanted a friend answer or a therapist answer. She said she would like to hear both. As her friend I told her, “F- him” we laughed and than I told her about what I talked about above.


I asked her to think about what kind of relationship she would ideally like to have. What characteristics would it have? I encouraged her to use these as a guide during these difficult times so she did not get pulled away from what she really wanted in her relationship.


There is one mistake that people commonly make with this exercise. They make their list and then expect their partner to do it. Or, they give these things only if they feel their partner is doing the same thing.


What ever you want in your relationship give it to your partner, but give it freely with no expectation of getting it back or needing it back. When we need to get the behavior back in order to give it we fall into the trap of using our partner’s behavior as our guide. This will lead us off course.



There is one phrase that helps me when making difficult decisions in my life and I use this as my guide in all my relationships, whether personal or professional. My go-to phrase that helps me is “Is it loving?”


This phrase helps me when I get off course and even though I am not behaviorally perfect and forget this phrase, it is always there to help when I am ready and open to accept its strength and wisdom.


The phrase, “Is it loving?” does not mean I become a doormat in every situation. It might be more loving to leave a situation then it would be to stay. If I am married to someone who hits me and my children the most loving thing might be to leave. This person hitting me cannot see that there is a better way to live. As long as I stay I may be holding them back from seeing another way to manage their anger.


It might be more loving to stop giving financial support to my child so they can learn how strong they really are. It might be more loving to let my child struggle with the consequences of poor decisions. Being expelled from school and grounded for drinking at school helps the child learn appropriate behavior. It may also keep them from progressing their behavior of drinking that later develops into driving under the influence and killing someone else.



“Is it loving” can also be applied to the thoughts I think about other people. Thinking unloving thoughts about any one has a direct effect on me. I don’t like the way I feel when I think of someone else being the “bad guy”. When we can see the innocence in another it has a different effect. When I can see the person as doing the best they can in that circumstance the emotional pressure is released.



Examples of Characteristics People Report Using as Their North Star in Their Marriage:



  • Respect
  • Listen to understand not to dispute
  • Kindness
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding
  • Not nitpicking faults
  • Open to suggestions
  • Giving partner space to be exactly the way they are
  • Taking responsibility for behavior
  • Willing to admit when they make a mistake

Not One Thought You Have Is Completely True: Opening to another possibility

“Not one thought you hold is wholly true. The recognition of this is your firm beginning.”finding happinesss

– A Course in Miracles (The Problem and the Answer)








There once lived 4 blind men who went to visit an elephant. They were all very curious about what exactly an elephant was. They had heard people talk about elephants many times but being blind from birth they had never seen one with their own eyes.


This day was very special for all of them because they would have the opportunity to explore an elephant with their hands and finally discover what it was people were talking about.


The first blind man grabbed the elephant’s ear. He felt how it flapped around and was large and flat like the sail on a ship. Oh… this is what an elephant is. An elephant is similar to the sail of a ship.


The second blind man approached the elephant’s leg and began his examination. He felt the massive girth of its leg. Oh…this is what an elephant is. An elephant is like a tree.


The third blind man came close to the elephant and grad a hold of its rough tail. He lifted that tail and felt the fibrous hair. Oh… this is what an elephant is. An elephant is like a rope.


The fourth man had his turn to meet the elephant. He approached the elephant’s face and grabbed his heavy, malleable trunk. Oh… he thought this is what an elephant is. An elephant is similar to a rolled up cotton rug that can grab objects.


All four men walked away from the elephant satisfied that he finally knew what an elephant was. They had not gone very far before they began to discuss their experience.


“Who would have thought an elephant was like a rope?” asked the third blind man.


“It most certainly is not like a rope,” argued the other 3 blind men.


“It is like a tree”, remarked the second blind man.


“No, not even close. It is similar to a sail on a ship,” rebutted the first blind man


“How could you even think that, when it is obvious that is comes closest to a large coarse rope?” added the third.


The blind men fought amongst themselves for quite sometime until they stopped at a tavern for dinner. They made the decision to ask the keeper of the tavern who was right. Was the elephant like a sail, a tree, a rope or a rolled up cotton rug?


The tavern keeper laughed, “You silly men. None of you are correct but neither are any of you fully wrong. You have all described parts of the elephant that make up the whole. All parts are equally important to the whole elephant but none, by itself, is the whole truth of what an elephant is.”


I really like this story (obviously, or I wouldn’t have shared it). It’s a helpful reminder to me when I feel an exceeding amount of self-righteousness brewing in me or when I don’t like (or agree with) something my partner is doing or saying.


It can be challenging to let go of the belief that we have the whole story and are fully capable of passing judgment on another. But in truth, we never have the whole story and we pass judgement based on only partial information.


“She is so selfish, she should be spending more time with my family.”

“He only thinks of himself.”

“They never want to have sex with me, that’s not what a good partner does.”

“I would never hurt them the way they hurt me.”


Do any of the above sound familiar? If you haven’t heard yourself say or think these or something similar to these at least once in your life you may want to check for a pulse or denial.


Usually we try to blame others to get ourselves in a better place.  The thinking goes, if I can make them wrong, by default I am the innocent one. We bring others down so we can temporarily feel slightly superior.  But, we don’t always think it through all the way.


When we choose to see the other as wrong, the bitch, the scoundrel, it has its effect on us. It leaves us feeling like a victim.  When we choose to see them as an individual who is doing the best they can with the resources they have we can begin to see their innocence.


Would you rather be with an innocent being or a no good scoundrel? Whatever you are looking for in your partner you are guaranteed to find it. This by no means means that you need to put up with unconscious behavior.  The best thing to do may be to leave, but you have a choice in how you see the person you are leaving.

So You Want Respect: How to get respect in your relationship


You don’t have to go very for to hear someone giving his or her opinion on respect. Some will say that respect is something that is earned; that so-and-so has not earned our respect so we will happily keep it to ourselves.  “No respect for you”- soup Nazi style.


We hear people say they demand another’s respect. I often wonder how this works exactly. Is it that they force the other’s respect through threats, muscle or might. Does this demand of respect add up to something like “Respect me or I’ll tell on you” or “Respect me or you’ll be sorry”?


Indeed the demand of respect doesn’t sound that respectful when it is couched in such terms.


I, for one, think respect is very important to our lives. But I don’t think respect is something that should be earned or demanded.


That doesn’t mean we need to put up with unconscious behavior.  There are times it is best to move away from destructive behavior, but we can still do it in a matter that respects the other individual.


What does it mean to respect?     How to get respect in your relationship

 For those of you reading this who know me you already know how I feel about religion.  I welcome religion, all religion for that matter, but do not prescribe to one specific one myself. If anything I love the philosophy behind religions.


I have heard it said that religion and psychology, in their finest condition, meet.  I believe there may be some truth to this.  I say all this as a preface to what I am about to say about respect.


When we look at the word respect and break it down it means re-“again”, and spect-“look” put it together and we have “to look again”.


This is where some people say big whoop- I know this from grade school. It’s also where some people say “Right! And if they want me to look again (or respect them) they had sure better earn it”.


This is where I have a slightly different view on respect. When we look again we are looking to see something we have missed before with our superficial glance.

When we look again we are looking through the surface level.

Some might say we are looking to see the divine in that individual. Some might say you are looking again to see that person in a different light. Other may say our second look is done to see that person’s side of the story- to see them as innocent.


The view I like is that respect means we look again to see the divine in another.  Some religions teach that when we begin to recognize the Divine in another we begin to see it in ourselves. This is one of the reasons I like this explanation of respect so much.


When we begin to look for the innocence in another we begin to see it in ourselves.  When we learn to treat others with genuine loving kindness we begin to offer ourselves that same.


When we begin to understand that respecting others is actually for our own benefit we are more open to the experience.


This is way we are better off not living from the viewpoint that respect must be earned. When we live like this we end up selling ourselves short.



So know I know why it helps be to respect others- what can I do to start getting other’s respect?


Whatever you feel that your relationship is lacking, start giving it.


If you don’t feel like you are getting enough respect- start giving respect.


If you don’t feel like people are listening to your ideas- start listening to their ideas.


If you feel like people judge you too harshly, begin to look at how you are judging others.


Think about the times when you have been disrespectful to another person. (And if you are saying right now that you have never been disrespectful to another than I am going to call B***S*** on you. 😉 But denial is a tool we use until we don’t need it anymore so that is still ok.)


Think about that time when you have been disrespectful to another, maybe because you felt they deserved it, or may be just because you were having a bad day.


Are you there thinking about it?…Good.


What happened when you were disrespectful to them? Did they react in a way that caused the situation to get worse fast? Did communication stop? Did they walk away?


There may be a chance that that person was disrespectful right back and it may not have been to your face. Perhaps they were very respectful.

Consider that other person was not respectful, what would have happened if they responded with respect. Would you be more or less likely to show them respect? Typically people would answer they are more likely to show another respect when they think they are getting it.


So this is how you begin to get more respect in your relationships- start giving it.


Whatever you feel like you are lacking begin giving it- BUT YOU HAVE TO GIVE IT FREELY.   Stop keeping tabs on how much you are giving to others.


Do you like it when people give you something just because they want something in return? I know I don’t but I know that sometimes I can get caught in this trap of giving to get something.


If you are giving to get something- take note but don’t punish yourself. Sometimes it helps to remember you are a Divine being and a Divine being doesn’t deserve judgment.


If your not comfortable with the word Divine that’s all right find another word that you are comfortable with.




I would like to your thoughts


Should respect be earned or given unconditionally?


What is some advice involving respect that you have found helpful?


Should we strive to see the Divine (or good) in everyone?


Are there those you feel do not deserve respect?

Can Someone Really Make You Feel Bad?: How responsible are you for your own feelings?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt


The above quote is one I refer to often when working with people. The problem is never coming from the other person, but we continuously give away our power by putting the responsibility on someone else.


It is difficult to believe that the pain we can feel when interacting with another person is actually coming from us, but it is. It doesn’t matter what the action, if you feel an emotional reaction to it, know that it comes from you.  Let’s do a short exercise just for the sake of clearing up this point.


For a minute, imagine the last person you became upset with. Got them in your head? Now, imagine that you are in an altercation with this person and they call you a “purple unicorn”.


They keep calling you a “purple unicorn” over and over again. Would it upset you being called a “purple unicorn”? My guess would be no. I have yet to run into a person who says being called a ‘purple unicorn’ feels damaging in some way.


Most people admit they would think that the other person was crazy because they know they are not a purple unicorn. I imagine you would say something close to that.  In this example of another person calling you a “purple unicorn” you can see that the behavior is clearly about them.


Their actions are coming from them and it has no effect on you because you know you are not a “purple unicorn”.


But let’s change things around a bit. Let us change the name “purple unicorn” to something else. What if we changed it to “jerk”, “bitch”, “incompetent”, “selfish”, or any other name that gives us a little sting? Now we might be looking at a different story. We all have names we react to, but have you ever thought about why you react to them?


We react to “negative” things people say or do because it triggers a belief we already have about ourselves. “P.U. ” doesn’t affect you because you know you are not one, but other names do affect you because it is an idea we secretly harbor about ourselves.  People can only supply a stimulus; how we react to this stimulus reflects a lot about our belief system. 


Many people will respond by saying, “Well my partner doesn’t call me names. I am angry because he doesn’t do ______________(fill in the blank with what upsets you).


Some say they are upset because of the cheating, or lack of sex, or lack of attention.  One often times looks at their partner and quickly evaluates them on how well they are doing as a partner by whether or not they give that person want they think they want.  Very rarely does an individual take a second look and ask the important questions. Questions like: “Why do I believe I need my husband to listen to me (tell me I’m beautiful, tell me what a good job I’m doing, etc)?”, “Do I really need him to talk to me?”, “What would my day be like if I didn’t have the expectation that he should talk to me?”, Would I be happier without this thought?”.



When we refuse to take a deeper look we are left powerless and unhappy. We are letting our happiness ride on a factor we have no control over, someone else’s behavior.


If we begin to question, really question, why we think we need that other’s attention we can return to our only place of power- ourselves. Why do I need my partner to give me attention? If we truly look at this and want a real answer, we will get it.


Often times we don’t want a real answer. Often times we just want to be right. Many people answer angrily and says something like “because she’s my wife and she should be having sex with me 3 times a week”, or “I’m not crazy for wanting my husband to show me love” or fill in your choice answer that makes you look right.  Ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?”


When we truly want an answer to questions like “Why do I really need my partner’s attention?” we’ll start to get answers like: “Because I believe if someone doesn’t recognize my worth it’s not there”, or “I don’t feel lovable if someone does not show me attention”, or “I am putting my own desire for something over my partner’s desire to not do something. I am acting out of fear of not having enough and not from a place of love”.


It can seem impossible at times when we are hurt to start asking these questions with the hopes to get real answers. It is tempting to make ourselves “right”. When we are upset we feel like this is our only option if we want to heal. But being “right” rarely helps anyone. After the short-lived high wears off we are usually left with an uneasy feeling of isolation.