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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Leftovers

With Christmas day behind you, it's time to think of, that's right, leftovers. Not the leftovers you might be conjuring up, but rather spiritual leftovers. Between the family, food, and fun of the holidays, it can feel as though the day flies by. There are special moments, memories, and feelings associated with the holidays that you might long to keep with you for more than a day. That's where leftovers come in.
On holidays and other special occasions, you often feel your spiritual best. You are moved to give more generously, feel more compassionately, act more kindly, or forgive more easily. Whatever it is about special days in the year, you get in touch with your inner being and take stock of how you can improve yourself, if only for one day. But what if you could bottle up these precious moments and compassionate feelings and take it with you as you plan your wedding or on your life's journey? You might begin to feel as though every day were a special one. You would see your life improve, as well as the relationships with those around you. A simple shift in attitude and mood can do that.
But how, you ask? Leftovers. On the days you feel a spiritual and emotional high and where your life is open to giving, take a moment to soak it up. Breathe it all in and then write it down. Pen the magic of the day; how you felt, the emotions swirling about and then commit to living another day feeling as blessed as you did just then. Put it somewhere close, but safe, so you can refer back to it, keeping those feelings fresh in your mind, body, and soul. It may even be helpful to have a token reminder, like a bracelet or a pin, on you at all times, so the feelings never leave. The holidays come and go, but the spirit of the day doesn't have to, if only you choose to keep it going.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays

Ahhh. The holidays are here at last. It's time to relax and enjoy the season with your loved ones. And while the movies occasionally make the holidays look easy and enjoyable, sometimes it's these moments that prove to be a challenge. Let's face it, when you're in a room full of family members, everybody is going to want to hear how your wedding planning is going. Some of them will want all the details and others may be happy with a simple few, but they will all have an opinion on your decisions and ideas. So give yourself a present this holiday season: enjoy it wedding free.
It's great to be able to talk about your wedding preparations with the ones you love, but you've been doing that since your engagement. And with so much to do, it can be hard to separate yourself from it even briefly. It's important and even necessary to take a break from wedding chatter so you can re-energize and reconnect with the people and the world around you. The holidays are a special time each year, where you have the opportunity to do that.
Taking a vacation from your wedding planning means you have more time to listen to what's happening in other people's lives, to let go, relax and not worry, and to just be in the moment. It means not having to deal with the less than supportive comments that may come with some of your relatives. And if those comments will come, whether you discuss your wedding or not, choose to live above them and not get pulled into their negativity. It's one of the hardest things to do, but putting on your virtual armor and participating in the joy of the holiday instead, will make you a stronger, happier person.
So put down your to-do list and pick up the cookie cutters or play out in the snow. Enjoy the beautiful season, the love around you, and the special moments you can create right now. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Keeping Family Drama at Bay

Everybody has an emotional history with their family members. It's no different for the bride. Ideally you get along with the majority of your relatives, but occasionally there is someone in the family who gets under your skin. And even if you get along swell with everyone, maybe there is tension between other family members. So what do you do to keep the family on their best behavior on your big day?
Start by discussing your hopes for a happy and peaceful wedding day with the potential "drama makers." Keep in mind your "I statements" from our previous blog. You want to show understanding, but at the same time let them know how important putting aside their differences for your happiness is to you. You might begin a conversation with, "I realize you and Aunt Gertrude don't always get along, but I do hope my wedding will be one filled with happiness, fun, and peace for the entire family." There is no blaming or negativity in that statement. It simply reflects your feelings and wishes.
Next, make sure to arrange the guest seating appropriately. Seat family members who get along well together. But don't put relatives who don't get along on the opposite side of the room if they will feel left out or not part of the family. You want to be respectful, while making them feel comfortable, as well. Also, appoint a wedding day "mediator" to act on your behalf if tensions start to rise. It's best to choose a non-family member or someone who is friendly with both sides. That will help eliminate the "you always side with them," argument and hopefully, keep you out of the mix.
Follow these steps to help reduce the potential for family feuds on your wedding day and then let it go. Ultimately, individuals are responsible for their own decisions and actions, so fretting about what might happen is futile. Enjoy your special day and let someone else worry about extinguishing any drama that might pop up.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Expressing Yourself Effectively

Now that we've gone over the listening aspect of communication, let's turn our attention towards the verbal part. Regardless of who you are communicating with, you want to make certain that you are able to get your point across. To do so, you must speak directly. No beating around the bush or playing a guessing game. Therefore, you have to feel comfortable with the person you are talking to.
Good communication also means being able to speak in a genuine manner, without negativity. It means talking without condescension, blame, anger, or hurt towards another person. You may be feeling some of these things, but that doesn't mean you need to address someone with hostility. It's best not to engage in conversation if you don't have your emotions in check. Give yourself some time before approaching a difficult topic, so that you can communicate rationally and respectfully. So, how do you approach your mother who insists on you planning your wedding the way she wants it? Or your fiance who isn't as involved as you'd like him to be? Or your photographer who isn't returning your calls in a timely manner? For starters, realize that it is okay to feel angry, hurt, frustrated, and any other number of emotions. But channel some of these emotions through positive activities, like exercising or cleaning. Then sit down and think about how you can communicate your feelings properly.
The idea of using "I" statements is not a new one, but it's an important one. When you are in disagreement with someone, turn to your "I" statements and express your feelings. For instance, in the example above, you might say to your mother, "I feel frustrated because I am not able to plan my wedding the way I want to," instead of "You always have to control everything, don't you?!" Or maybe you tell your fiance, "I'm disappointed. I thought we would make some of these decisions together." That is a much better expression than, "You never want to help. You don't understand or know what I'm dealing with."  Using "I" statements helps the other person understand what you are feeling and keeps you from blaming or putting them down. It also keeps the other person from having to be on the defensive, which typically occurs if you use "You" statements.  While this, along with watching your body language and showing empathy, is just the beginning of a lifelong journey of effective communication, it will definitely start you on the right foot.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Art of Listening

In keeping with the theme from the last post, part of communication means being a good listener. A good listener is able to sit and truly hear what another person is saying. That means you can accurately restate or summarize what your partner, for example, shared with you. Having to listen without interrupting, commenting, or offering your side of the story is challenging, especially in moments when you disagree. But doing so, not only helps you hear another person's thoughts and feelings, it also allows the other person to share their ideas safely, without feeling threatened. This is an important skill in any relationship. Keep in mind too that the best listening means free of distractions from phones, computers, etc. So if you're having an important conversation, unplug for the duration, so you can give each other your full attention.
It is also important to listen to yourself speak. Have you ever had those moments when you said something and then think to yourself, "why on earth did I say that?" Everybody has them. Thinking about what you are going to say and formulating the best way to state it, is critical in conversation. Of course, it's best to fully listen to what the other person has to say, so you know you "get it," before thinking about your response. We'll discuss the best ways to express yourself in the next blog. The part to remember here, is that you need to listen to yourself and how you speak. From there, decide what it is you can change in order to communicate better.
Listening skills will help you in all your relationships, not just with your fiance. Whether you are communicating with family, friends, or wedding professionals, accurate listening will serve you well. So when your officiant tells you the order of the ceremony or what to expect, listen, and then, rephrase what you heard back to her. This way you know you understood what she meant and that you're on the same page. Start practicing this with your wedding vendors, so that you feel more confident in the planning process.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Essentials of Good Communication

Good communication is the hallmark of all strong relationships. That means having the ability to both listen effectively to your partner and express your feelings, wants, and needs to each other. Both of these skills are essential to understanding and knowing what each of you desire in your relationship. Working on communication skills is a lifelong process. There may be days you are better at it than others, but if you pay careful attention to how you communicate, you can learn to improve it.
Any time is a good time to begin working on self-expression and listening. And now that you're engaged, it offers more of an incentive to ensure you both start off on the right foot. According to best selling author and psychiatrist, David Burns, three things foster good communication: 1) having the ability to openly and directly express your feelings 2) having the ability to listen non-defensively when your partner talks 3) having the ability to treat each other respectfully, even if you disagree or are angry or frustrated.
Take a moment to think about your relationship and maybe a recent conversation or disagreement you had with your significant other. Consider these three attributes of good communication. How successful were you at them? Did you feel comfortable expressing yourself honestly to your partner? Were you direct in what you wanted or  did you simply hint at ideas, hoping he might just "get it"? When your fiance spoke, did you listen attentively to what he had to say? Did you find yourself disagreeing, interrupting, or using negative body language, like rolling your eyes or folding your arms? Finally, were you able to have a conversation, even if you disagreed, in a peaceful manner and safe environment, without feeling threatened physically or emotionally? Analyzing your conversation style is the first step to understanding where change needs to occur.
Change doesn't happen over night and is something that takes time and effort. You also have to be willing to consider yourself as part of the problem. Remember that there are always two people in a relationship. Blaming or trying to change others is much less effective than working on yourself and improving your ability to communicate, both as a speaker and a listener. And the better you become, the stronger your relationship will be.
Recommended Reading: Feeling Good Together, by David D. Burns, MD, 2008

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Staying Positive

Now that you're engaged, you might find that with so much on your plate, there are days you feel low energy and zapped of your motivation. So what can you do to stay inspired and keep a positive mindset? One good practice is creating and reciting positive affirmations. Affirmations are short positive self-statements. Using these statements helps you focus on the things you want most while planning your wedding or on the big day itself.
Examples of affirmations for the bride include:
  • I am a beautiful bride
  • I feel calm and confident as I plan my wedding
  • I am creating a memorable wedding with the resources I have
  • My wedding day is as wonderful as I imagine it
  • I surround myself with people who support my wedding day dreams
The affirmations you create are specific to your needs and situation. Simply write them in the positive and stated in the present tense. Reciting them daily keeps you focused on where you want your energy to be. It is not necessarily "convincing" yourself of something you are not; rather it is shifting your attention to the emotional or physical state you want to be in. Such self-statements reminds you to take the action you need to make your affirmation a reality. A note on affirmations: they work well if you are having a minor setback, but in general have good self-esteem and emotional health. If you struggle with esteem issues or suffer from depression or excessive anxiety, it's best to seek out professional help to ensure you're on the right path towards healing.

Monday, December 2, 2013

On Second Marriages

Marriage is as unique as the person you decide to wed. So whether this is your first marriage or the second time around, your wedding is meant to be meaningful and memorable just the same. If this is your second marriage, look inside to see how you and your life has changed. Your tastes may have shifted and your ideas for a wedding may be completely different from your previous marriage. Maybe you prefer something smaller or more spiritual, or perhaps you're considering a destination wedding. Whatever your thoughts, remember to get your groom's opinion, as well.
If this is your second wedding and your fiance's first, you may think he wants a big affair to remember. And while that is a possibility, it's just as plausible he would be happy with an intimate gathering of family and close friends. It's important not to try and "mind read" here. Some brides may feel compelled to go all out with a big wedding party since he hasn't experienced it in the past. They might feel he deserves it or should have this grand event that every bride dreams of, even if they don't care to have another fancy celebration. A good rule of thumb is not to assume you know what's best for your groom.
Talk to your fiance about your wedding plans. Tell him what you had in the past and what your thoughts are on your upcoming nuptials. Then see what his ideas are. Instead of asking if your fiance wants this or that, ask open ended questions. Ask him to describe his perfect wedding day or what his hopes and dreams are to make it memorable, happy, and fun. Then try and work together on creating a day you both will find special and unique to your union together.