Abusive Relationships

When we imagine domestic violence, we may imagine a woman with black eyes or swollen cheeks.

  • Society stereotypes tend to minimize the total picture of abuse and make it hard on victims to justify leaving.
  • Men can be the victim of domestic violence as well. This can be an extra area of shame for men in this situation as our society gives more credence/ sympathy to a woman in an abusive relationship.
  • The frequency of occurrence is minimized by physical abuse seen as the criteria for a violent relationship

Many times, when we think of a domestic violence relationship we think of being beaten or punched. While that is true that people are often physically hit/ injured in an abusive relationship, that is not the only situation where a relationship would be considered abusive. However, things such as pushing, physical restraint, being slapped or even the threat of any of the above are all included within the criteria of physical abuse.

There are many other boundaries that are crossed that would make the relationship fit the criteria of abusive or to be in the category of domestic violence.

Let’s talk about a few other areas:

  • Verbal Abuse. Within this realm are where the abuser tears your self-esteem down, lowers your self-confidence, telling you you are not worth much. Some examples might be to talk about your looks, your intelligence or your overall value.
  • Financial control. Managing the money and not allowing easy access without asking for permission or assistance in getting it.
  • Sexual abuse. Yes, in marriage or dating there can still be rape. This occurs any time you are pressured, manipulated, forced or threatened into sex or a sexual act.
  • Isolation. In this type, your partner may manipulate, pressure or not allow you to have contact with those who would be otherwise be supportive of you by stating they are not a good influence on you or because that person does not like your mate or maybe even proves to turn you against your partner.
  • Control. The area that is one of the most defining criteria for a domestic violence situation would be the issue of control. Control issues in fact, may be the one initial red flag that can be the indicator of possible future abusive relationship. Control issues may be seen in simple areas like too freely giving an opinion on your style of dress, commenting about where you spend your money or time.

Do you know your rights in a relationship? If you or anyone you know, may be in an abusive situation, here are some contacts that could be helpful:

http://dallasdvresources.org/phone.php

http://www.thehotline.org/

1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

 

By: Julie Weaver, MA, LPC

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Marriage and Money

This blog is a collaboration of one of our Compassion counselors, Madelyn Murray, and her husband, Christopher Murray. 

Money has always terrified me. There never seems to be enough of it…or at least it feels that way.

Money certainly has a way of making you think about something’s value.

There you have it. Two different thoughts when the word money is introduced into a conversation between husband and wife. The wife has a feeling about money, the husband has a thought about money. And people wonder why spouses often argue about money. Mixing emotions and logic rarely ends in a peaceful agreement! So, this blog is going shed some insight into what budgeting has done for the  Murray marriage.

As Madelyn’s thought reveals, money evokes a sense of fear! Will there be ENOUGH? And for Christopher, it makes him think deeply about how each dollar is spent. Let’s think about this in the sense of actual spending behaviors. Since Christopher wants to reflect and think about how to spend his well earned dollars, his spending behaviors are often well thought out, researched and planned. Madelyn often is afraid there won’t be the amount of money necessary for the item needed or wanted which creates spending behaviors that can be more prompt and often more risky. So, how has this played out in marriage and creating a household of peace and harmony when it comes to finances?

Real life: Sometimes I still get really anxious when we have big house repairs or big purchases to make, even though I know budgeting has set us up to be able to make those necessary purchases.

Most times when approached about a big expense, my immediate thought is ‘how does this fit into the budget, how can we make this work?’

So if you have not already figured it out by now, Christopher really takes the lead in this marriage when it comes to budgeting and money planning.

I had to take a really hard look at myself and my feelings about money, and recognize, budgeting and financial planning is NOT my strength. It is hard for me to stay calm and think through things enough to plan a stable budget. But Christopher almost gets a rush out of it. Man, was it super hard to relinquish control of my spending and budgeting to him once we got married. I was embarrassed a bit, especially since I do think of myself as a strong, smart, independent woman.

For me, taking over the budget and planning for our family was more of a desire of not wanting to be behind the eight ball. I didn’t want us to start in a bad spot financially so soon in our marriage.  Budgeting is kinda like a game to me. I like to crunch the numbers until I can see all our goals being met. We pay our bills, meet our savings and retirement goals, and still have some left over for a little fun each pay period.  Once I felt we were in a productive groove, I began to notice Madelyn’s acceptance of my leadership in this aspect of our marriage. It made me feel happy to know that she was at peace, and I felt more confident as a husband.

How did this actually happen? LOTS OF COMMUNICATION, and honestly, a few…arguments…or maybe we should say, heart to hearts (with passion ). So here are our top 10 tips for when one of the spouses in the marriage has a knack for crunching the numbers and the other one, well, doesn’t.

  • It is still a team approach: Just because we agreed that Christopher was gonna have the lead, does not mean I do not get a voice in our financial planning. I always ask Madelyn what items we need to plan for about one month in advance. Holidays, birthday presents, social gatherings, vacations, etc.
  • Set some goals: I like goals. I could get behind this. I love planning and dreaming with Christopher. So, at the beginning of each year, we set goals. Not all of them are financial. Some of them are spiritual, relational, etc. But the financial ones often center around FUN. I need fun. Again, even though Christopher takes the lead with our budgeting, it is a team approach. Setting goals together will give each spouse a voice in what the year will look like financially. So, we usually set a monthly savings goal, a yearly savings goal (retirement related), and a vacation goal. Another goal to add could be a debt to pay off. We did this early in our marriage and now only have our house payment and my student loans. Those are just gonna take time to knock out. Oh, and don’t forget those home repair or renovation goals. We got a fixer upper, so there is stuff we have to get done! Sometimes we look at all we want to do and recognize that we may have to move some stuff to the next year, and that is OKAY! We aren’t made of money!
  • Do your homework: At the beginning of taking over the family finances, I wanted to know what our expenses really were. I wanted to know what exactly our income was. I began to look harder at how we were spending our money by looking at how we were using our credit cards, how much we were spending money on food (I like food), and just other miscellaneous expenses. Both of us had gotten into a bad habit of swiping our cards without really thinking about it.  I came back to Madelyn with some numbers and some plans on how we could begin to change some of our spending behaviors. I got my ideas for how to budget, change our spending behaviors, and pay off debt using videos from Dave Ramsey. That guy, he is the real MVP.
  • Calendar method: We sat down with a calendar and wrote out each of our bills on the date they were due. This gave us a bird’s eye view of our month and set up good reminders to pay things that can’t be on auto draft. In addition to bills, we also listed out our paydays. Gotta have something to look forward to! We put the calendar in a visible location so it can be seen by everyone in the house at anytime
  • Speaking of auto draft: We set up as many bills to be paid via auto draft as possible. We know this method may not be for everyone, but for us, it works really well. Using the calendar method listed above, we are able to anticipate when bills will be coming out of our account
  • Be flexible: Flexibility has been harder for me. When I make a plan that I know has worked, I become extremely reliant on said plan. Almost attached.  Real talk though, plans change, life happens, and in order to keep peace in my marriage, I have had to learn to be flexible and allow for variation with each month’s budget.  Madelyn likes to be spontaneous sometimes, which as you can see, is not one of my strong suits.  Apparently allowing her to be spontaneous is a good way to show her I love her. deep breath I can handle that…within reason.
  • Set a spending limit: It is not realistic to think that you can check in with your spouse every time you want to spend some money.  One of the first “rules” we set up was setting a limit on how much you could spend without having to check in with the other person. Now, I already shared, I get a little anxious about money, so I still often check with Christopher. BUT, we agreed that we can spend up to $50 without having to check in. Examples of this type of spending would be, a lunch out with coworkers, finding a great sale at Macys, or for Christopher, probably something related to new electronics or fitness.
  • Open up about money: Seriously. Ask questions to people who have done this money thing well. Talk with trusted friends and family about your plans and questions. We have learned a lot from the most random places. That does not mean we try everything suggested, but it has made this whole money thing a lot less terrifying.
  • Be generous to others: This is something I love to do.  Once we really started budgeting well, we actually found places we could be generous.  Taking a friend to lunch, surprising someone with a special gift, even being able to offer a friend to live with us rent free, because we had the $$ for extra utilities, etc.  I have dreams that one day we will really be able to live even more generously. That is something that helps me stay motivated to stick to our budget when I feel the urge to swipe my card.
  • Look at your budget more than one time per month: Don’t be afraid to look at your budget multiple times within the month, especially around paydays. Generally, I use paydays as budget setting days for the next pay period. Our pay periods are every two weeks, so normally, we have a new or revised budget by the time that the payday arrives. As the pay period progresses, the budget is being updated to reflect spending and to give us an idea of where we are within our budget before the next payday. I stick to the budget. Sometimes that means saying no, even if I do not want to, but the payoff will be so much better for our family in the long run.

Budgeting takes a lot of patience and even more practice. We certainly do not do everything right every single month when it comes to budgeting.  Honestly, we are still pretty young in our marriage and know we have A LOT to learn. What we do know is that once we set up a good budgeting plan for us, the disagreements about money almost vanished.  It was not an over night change, it has been an over time change. Learning to listen to one another and respect one another has been key to our success when it comes to budgeting as a married couple.

Smoothing Out The Transition

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Staring back to school can be difficult for children. Often the start of a new school year brings anxiety, stress, or a decrease in confidence. Each school year brings about a variety of changes: a new teacher, new schedule, new subjects, new kids in the classroom, maybe even a new school. Think about how you might feel if you were facing this many changes! Do you remember how you felt when you started a new job or moved to a new city? It can be scary and overwhelming.

Your child is likely facing many mixed emotions and may feel unable to handle them. All of these changes and emotions can make for a difficult time after school. If you are like me, the goal is for your children to come home from school, sit down, and start homework before doing anything fun. Get the worst part out of the way right? But is that what you want to do after coming home from a long, hard day at work? Especially if you just started new job? Most likely you need a few minutes to yourself, or some time to sit down and relax.

What if you created a “relax bag” for your child? Maybe even one for yourself. When you get home from school (or work) take a few minutes, even just 5 is helpful, 10-20 is more ideal and just relax! Here’s an idea for what you might put in a child’s relax bag (also check out the image below!):

Calm down bottle
Journal
Stress ball
Pillow
Music
Bubbles
Puzzle

And don’t forget a snack!

relax box

5 Self-Care Tips For A More Peaceful Existence

Is your life like a never-ending Bangles song?  One Manic Monday after another with no end in sight?  Then this post is for you.  Stress and poor work/home life balance can cause a lot more harm than just a tension headache, sore muscles, or relationship problems. High stress is linked to heart trouble, stroke, and even early death.  YIKES!!

By adding these simple self-care strategies to your daily routine you can lower your stress levels and even possibly prolong your life!

De-Stress


Self-Care Tip #1:  Create distinct boundaries

So many of us continue to answer email, respond to phone calls, and otherwise work for free when we are off the clock. STOP doing this! You are only hurting yourself.  Instead, create good boundaries between your work time and your home life.  Don’t answer those emails or phone calls after hours.  Clearly articulate that you can be reached during work hours only.  Free yourself from any feelings of guilt because you are helping yourself as well as others learn how to treat and respect you.

Self-Care Tip #2:  Exercise

Okay, I personally suck at this one.  I’m just not into running, getting hot, or sweaty even though I know it’s good for me.  I have learned, however, that yoga and Pilates really help me de-stress and unwind.  The deep breathing combined with somewhat less strenuous movement are more relaxing.  Plus the bonus is increasing your flexibility and core strength.  I strongly encourage some type of exercise at least 3 times a week.  Go for a walk in your neighborhood, ride a bike, go to the gym, do yoga at home using YouTube.  There are even great apps that will help you work up to exercising more often or doing short workouts when you can squeeze them into a busy schedule.  I like couch to 5K, seven minute workout, and simply Yoga FREE. (Insert links)

Self-Care Tip #3:  Make time to do something you enjoy

This sounds like a no brainer, but a lot of the time we don’t make FUN a priority.  It gets bumped off the list as frivolous to make room for other things that feel more important.  I can promise you, fun is extremely important!  We need this in order to refresh, enjoy life, and remind ourselves why we do all the other stuff.  Make time to do the things you love; go shopping, build something, plant a garden, arrange flowers, go out with friends, attend book club, play video games, cook/bake, watch a movie or tv show, etc.  I know a lot of people probably want to add drinking alcohol to this list.  I don’t blame you at all, but be wary of using alcohol as a self-care method.  It should not be used as one.  Since alcohol is a depressant it will often times leave you feeling worse in the long run than better, healthy, or productive.  I’m not saying you can’t drink of course, just don’t use drinking as self-care.  I personally enjoy watching movies/tv shows, gardening, and shopping.  I also love the spa!!! Hello massage and facials

Self-Care Tip #4: Meditate

It might sound hokey to some, but I believe this can be the key to creating peace in your life.  You can call it whatever you want if Meditation sounds too weird, but crave out 5 to 10 minutes a few times a day to just be.  Use an app like Calm to get started.  This will help you clear your mind, reset yourself, and after consistent use you will definitely feel much more relaxed and at peace with things.  Another benefit of using the Calm app is that you will get access to other helpful tools like sleep stories, sleep sounds, and body scan.  Some of the app is free and others are locked and require you to purchase the app, but either way you still great benefits.  I encourage you to try meditation three times a day; once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening (before bed).  If that is too difficult, try once a day and build up from there.

Self-Care Tip #5: Eat well

Again, I’m not so great at this one but I know the better you eat the better you feel.  I just can’t seem to say no to sweets!  UGH!  Therefore, I go with the moderation approach.  I can have a little bit in small amounts.  I try to be diligent about balancing meals; protein, veggies, fruits, carbs, etc.  About a year ago I severely cut back on my caffeine intake by cutting out most soda.  I drink Green Tea, Sprite, and other low caffeine options plus tons of water.  I can’t really say enough about drinking LOTS of water other than it makes a HUGE difference.  My skin is clearer, I have less headaches, I have more energy, and I sleep better.  All because I drink more water.  I encourage you all to really try it.  I also would recommend you eat something high in protein before doing anything mentally or physically strenuous.  Big tasks require more fuel.  Treat your body well and it will repay you later.

 

 

I hope you enjoyed these tips/tricks.  Where just one of these could start to change your life; they are much more effective when done together.  Make a few changes, add these to your routine, and enjoy your new peaceful existence.

 

-Amelia Worthen LPC-Intern supervised by Meredith Ivey LPC-S, RPT-S
compassioncounseling.us
817-723-1210

Reward Your Child In Their Language

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It’s a good idea to offer your children rewards. Not just for doing their chores or for good grades, but randomly offering a reward when you catch them doing something you appreciate. As parents we give consequences when we catch children misbehaving, yet often fail to offer rewards in the same way. These rewards do not need to be big, just a little thing that reciprocates the good behavior. Offering rewards in this way not only encourages that behavior, but builds the connection between you and your children.

When offering rewards you are able to learn more about your child by paying attention to the rewards they choose. Take note of the rewards your child picks and learn from this so you can continue to show them love in the way they feel it best. This is a sample rewards chart based on Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages. This chart is intended for younger children. You may want to make adjustments based on your child’s gender and age. If your children are old enough to participate have them help you make this chart.

5 love languages

Sample Rewards For Each Love Language:

Touch:

10 minutes of extra cuddle time before bed

5 min foot rub
Words of Affirmation:

Written compliment

Mom or Dad will share at the dinner table why they are proud of you.
Gifts:

Mom or Dad will pick up a surprise for you from the store

Pick a prize from the prize box
Acts of Service:

Help with your chore

Mom will make your bed for you
Quality Time:

15 min of one on one time

go on a walk with mom or dad

 

Here is a printable chart you could use to let your children pick their reward.

Good behavior reward

Some alternitives might be:

Touch: If you have a young girl, you might paint her nails or toes.

Acts of Service: Help your child with a fun project they have been wanting to do. Clean out your child’s car if they drive.

Quality Time: Just sit and watch your child play, be there while he does what he enjoys.

Gifts: This does not have to be expensive, it IS the thought that counts. Buy them their favorite meal for diner, or just a fun new pair of socks.

Words of Affirmation: Send a note in their lunch box, or buy a card and leave it on their bed.

Be creative and have fun finding new ways to show your children how much you love them!

Meredith Akin-Ivey, LPC-S, RPT-S

Overuse of Technology

As I read the articles listed below, I am reminded of times when I use the iPAD and TV with my children in order to get a moment to myself. I have also seen the “too much technology monster” come out in my three year old. Although I am in no way going to eliminate the use of technology in my house, I do feel it is important to limit the time spent using it. A tablet or television cannot even come close to the importance of authentic conversations, imaginary play, and outdoor exercise. Questions to think about when considering if there’s an overuse of technology in your household:

Is it possible that too much technology use is causing brain damage?

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain

Is it possible that the sedentary use of technology is linked to childhood obesity?

http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=379222&resultClick=3&version=meter+at+null&module=meterLinks&pgtype=article&contentId=&mediaId=&referrer=&priority=true&action=click&contentCollection=meter-links-click

 

 

 

Ashley Harmonson, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Meredith Akin-Ivey, LPC-S

Better In-Law Relationships

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We all need some tips and reminders that could help us journey through our in law relationships. I know I do! Here are some ideas:

 

Show Gratitude

   -Through your words

Think of something in advance that you appreciate about them and remember to tell them when you meet with them or even when you call to make plans.

For example: “I love that potato casserole you make, do you think you could bring that for Thanksgiving dinner?” “I love that you give the children your undivided attention when they talk to you. That’s one thing that makes you an extra special grandparent.“

Think of some of this in advance (be prepared) and then also look for things you appreciate when you are with them as well.

-“Gratitude without words translates into rejection.” -Stephen Nutt, Pastor of Creekwood Church Mansfield, TX.

People do not know our thoughts unless we tell them.

   -Through your actions

Showing them honor by some form of action shows gratitude.

Find something they need done and care for them.

 

Sincerity

Be sincere. Don’t use compliments you do not mean. You want them to be sincere with you so set the example you want. Criticism

  • Don’t be brutally honest. There will be imperfect things about them, just as with you, but we don’t need to always discuss those, especially during holidays when things may already be tense. There may be times something needs to be said, but analyze your motives and be sure they are pure and not just critical.

 

Inclusion

  • Include them in as much of the planning as you can. Include them especially when planning a birthday/other event for their son or daughter. They may have their own ideas of how they would like to celebrate that event. If so there could be an additional event if needed or they could be included in your planning. But remember the three questions (from the “In laws and Holidays” blog) so you don’t offer a choice you have decided you cannot live with.

 

Flexibility

  • You want to prepare yourself to do things at times to fit with your in-law’s family traditions or ideas. At times they may also know your spouse’s favorites better than you would on something. You may be surprised how much you enjoy some of their ideas once you try them.

 

Grace

  • Give them the same grace you should give yourself. Things do not have to be perfect.

 

Remember to have fun and relax when with your in-laws.

 

Weaver, LPC