Relate Well! Blog

Addressing the all-important and often perplexing topics and issues related to enhancing your personal growth and professional development

4 Keys to a Strong Marriage

I am always encouraged when a couple seeks counseling to work on a problem in their marriage. It seems so easy today to throw in the towel as soon as one or both people feel unhappy, misunderstood or disrespected. But in most cases there are a few simple (not necessarily easy) things that can produce life-changing results. 

In my work with couples, I have discovered four key elements that must be consistently present in order to have a strong and fulfilling marriage.

Put each other first.

As simple as this sounds, it may be the hardest thing you will ever do. Our inner instinct is naturally “Me first.” “What do I want?” “What makes ME feel good – or bad?” “How is my spouse failing to meet MY needs?” Putting someone else above ME is an act of the will and takes practice. But all couples can experience intimacy and satisfaction when both partners are willing to cultivate an attitude of humility and giving. It may seem awkward...

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10 Resolutions for Building a Strong Family

Building and maintaining a strong and loving family in today's culture takes a determined will and a conscious and sustained effort on the part of every family member. With so many things competing for our time and attention it is easy to lose sight of the value and significance of the close, loving relationships our families can provide. 

It's often been said that when a person comes to the end of their life they realize that the only things that really matter are the loving relationships that were established and cultivated throughout the years - especially those with family. 

If you want to build a firm foundation of love and support for your family that will stand the test of time and weather the storms of difficult life circumstances, we encourage you to embrace these ten resolutions for building a strong family. 

As a family, we commit to...

  1. Live our lives according to what we value and believe - 
    even when it isn't popular!
  2. Respond to each other with...
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How to Respond to a Complainer

Ask some folks how they’re doing, and they’ll tell you they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. This can be a completely reasonable answer because we all have times when we feel the same way. However, some have a pattern of going on and on about their problems every time you see them.

We’ve all met people who complain constantly about physical problems or other things going wrong in their lives. They seem to believe they’re magnets for misfortune and nothing is ever positive. How should you handle it when someone has a habit of complaining to you?

First, practice compassion. As annoyed or impatient as you may feel, try to remember that the grumbling is an expression of pain. Even if the complaint seems unimportant to you, or even if it’s the complainer’s own fault, the pain is real to them. To set an appropriate boundary, kindly tell the person how much time you can spend with them and then do your best to compassionately...

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How Do You Say “I Love You”?

Walk into any variety store and it will be obvious that Valentine’s Day has become a commercial extravaganza. Red cards, boxes and candies are everywhere! Love is in the air, along with high expectations and, to be candid, a real possibility of disappointment if the message of love isn’t sent effectively.

Everyone has their own thoughts and feelings about Valentine’s Day. Some people are starry-eyed romantics, others are practical to the core and there are some people who would rather forget about it. But wherever you fall in that spectrum, you will probably want to express your love for someone at some time, even if it isn’t February 14th.

Psychologist and author Dr. Gary Chapman has published some of the most helpful information on the market today about what says “I love you” most effectively. His original book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts was a game-changer for many faltering relationships. He had discovered...

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Dealing with Disagreement

Do you ever wish we could all agree on everything? Wouldn’t that stop all the arguing and fighting? Maybe, but it would also stop a lot of progress and prevent important changes from being made. While disagreement can be uncomfortable, it can also be beneficial if it’s handled the right way. Here are some keys to making it work for everyone involved.

Clarify the Issue – I’ve seen couples, work teams, business partners and family members get embroiled in arguments that escalate into hostility, only to find out they’re not even fighting for the same reason. Begin your discussion by making sure you all have the opportunity to say what your concerns are and what you think the “win” will be once the conversation is over.

Respect – No conversation works well if one or more individuals speaks or behaves in a disrespectful manner. It’s critical to acknowledge that everyone has a legitimate right to their own opinion and that...

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Holiday Traditions Can Strengthen Your Family Ties

Have you heard this one? During a discussion of holiday traditions, the teenager complains, “We don’t have any traditions. We just do the same old things every year!” While we smile at the kid’s perception, we recognize the value of giving the family a sense of continuity that ties them together through the years.

I am reminded of a holiday a couple of years ago. The host of the family gathering that year was dropping hints that they planned a surprise “non-traditional” dinner, and the person most distraught about the prospect was a 17 year old boy! Just when you feel as though a child wants nothing to do with the “old-fashioned ways” it becomes apparent that it actually matters to them – a lot!

Traditions don’t have to be fancy or expensive. In fact, it is often best if they are not so they won’t be difficult to carry on. When the children grow up and establish their own homes, it’s heart-warming to see them...

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Are You “Spooked” About Getting Married? (Maybe you should be!)

For most people, getting married and establishing a life with that special someone is one of our greatest desires. And it’s not surprising, considering that we are social beings with a need for secure attachment. Being securely attached to someone in a committed relationship is a vital source of stability, safety and contentment – or at least that’s what we want!

Unfortunately, we can be blinded by those desires and overlook some important red flags. I recently created this list that will help you understand when you should get “spooked” about getting married and slow down… or even run!

Before You Say, “I Do”… Consider These Cautions

Marriage, in its original design, is a sacred commitment that promises fulfillment, stability, partnership and purpose. But it only works well if it is based on a firm foundation. Be very cautious, or avoid the altar altogether if…

1. Your partner doesn’t share your strongly held faith...

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Keys to Confronting Well - Part II

In last week’s blog I shared the first five of ten keys to confronting well. Have you had an opportunity to practice those principles in a confrontation? If so, let us know in the comments below!

Confrontation can be a scary proposition, but when you learn to do it well it can be the key to resolving differences and strengthening trust in your relationships.  Here are the last five keys to confronting well.

  1. Express your thoughts and feelings

Expressing what you feel openly and honestly at the outset of a difficult conversation will help to reduce anxiety and diffuse pent up emotion that might otherwise escalate during the discussion. For example, stating, “I am angry” will actually help prevent anger from controlling your responses.

  1. Remember that it’s far better to be respected than to be liked

Although the person you are confronting may not like what you have to say, if you appropriately communicate your concerns, they are much more likely to...

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Keys to Confronting Well - Part I

Many people struggle with confronting well. The thought of speaking up, especially during a conflict or uncomfortable situation, can be almost paralyzing. However, the ability to effectively confront tough issues by clearly stating what you think, feel, and want can be one of the most valuable interpersonal skills a person can possess.

This week we will look at the first five of the ten keys to confronting well so you can be prepared for those difficult conversations.

  1. Objectively describe your concern

Stick to the facts only when describing your concern or complaint. If you begin by talking about the other person’s motives or intentions, you’re likely to trigger a defensive or angry reaction.

  1. Avoid making it personal

Address the action or behavior without attacking the person with criticism, name calling or blame. Negative personal comments can damage your relationship, even into the future.

  1. Keep your comments brief and to the point

Reserve the lectures for the...

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Honesty Builds Strong Relationships

When my youngest daughter, Kathryn, was four-years-old I asked her why she wrote her name on our front door with a pencil. She responded by saying, “Because I couldn’t find my marker.” Although her behavior was unacceptable, I found her honesty to be quite refreshing. It was one of many times I had to bite my lip so I could maintain a serious expression while disciplining one of our kids.

Unfortunately, there are many people today who don’t value the virtue of honesty. Every day we witness the dishonesty of public officials, high profile athletes and many others who are role models to our children. Many people don’t think twice about telling a lie if it will keep them out of trouble or from having to experience a painful consequence. Too often, people are unwilling to stand up and take responsibility for their actions.

People often justify dishonesty by rationalization, or inventing a reason why doing something wrong is actually right or at least...

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