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Ask Julie: Sharing Difficult Feelings in Marriage

“My husband and I have been married for almost 4 years. My problem is that I have always had a really hard time sticking up for myself and when we get in arguments he tends to say things that really hurt my feelings. I have never had a lot of confidence in myself and when he says hurtful things it brings me down more. I have always had a hard time with holding things in since I grew up in a family that didn’t really talk about our feelings we always just kind of held things in. I need some advice on how to learn to stick up for myself so that I can feel more confident in myself?”

 
 

Identify Your Feelings, Thoughts, Needs

Before you can get comfortable expressing your inner experience with your husband, it’s important to get acquainted with your own inner life.  Ask yourself daily, “How am I feeling?”, “What am I thinking?”  & “What am I needing from my husband?” A helpful place to start in identifying your emotions is ask yourself which one of these 4 feeling words describes what’s going on inside:

happy     mad      sad      scared 

Knowing how you feel, what you think is the first step to developing the confidence to share the deeper parts of you with your husband.

Explore Family Patterns

Great job recognizing the impact of your family on your emotional tendency to hold things in and challenging yourself to express when it doesn’t come naturally to you. Since you didn’t learn the skills to express emotions and thoughts it may take some time to get comfortable sharing your inner experiences with your husband. Often we apply our family of origin relationship rules to our current relationships, whether or not they actually apply to the current situation. Ask yourself the following questions:

“How did my family manage intense emotion?”

“How does my reluctance to express myself make sense, given my life experience?”

“What am I afraid will happen if I speak up now, in my marriage?”

Revisit the Hurt

Once you’ve identified what’s going on inside of you, during a calm time sit down with your husband and revisit a time when he has said something that hurt you. This is not  an opportunity to prove him wrong, but to share your feelings with him when neither of you are emotionally escalated.  You might want to say something like, “Remember last week when we were talking about the money? I know we were both upset. I wanted to tell you that I felt hurt when you said that I my poor budegeting is the reason we are in debt. Can we talk more about that? I need you to hear how hurt I was and I want to understand better where you are coming from.” 

Trust Husband’s Positive Intent

Assuming your husband is a nice guy, he may be unintentionally saying hurtful  things to try and get ANY kind of emotional response from you to prove that you are still invested in marriage and that you still care about him. His jabs may be a way of trying to reach the deeper parts of you and to connect with you when you start to shut down emotionally.  If you have a pretty good relationship overall, it’s best to assume the best, instead of the worst, about your spouse’s intentions, even if it doesn’t appear that way on the surface. Hold on to his positive intent to help you gain even more courage to share more of yourself with him.

I welcome questions and comments about this topic. Please use the comment box below (your email address will not be made public).

To Forgive or Not To Forgive?

What is Forgiveness?

The topic of forgiveness has cropping up frequently in many conversations this week: women’s workshops, individual or couple therapy sessions, and casual conversations. What is forgiveness anyway? At first, forgiveness seems like a simple and straightforward concept. But on second thought, it is not easy to understand, and it’s even harder to practice. We are all in the same boat: we will all offend and be offended during this life and will struggle to seek and offer forgiveness.

Forgiveness is an evolving concept. As a child it meant that when a friend apologized and said, “sorry for taking your toy” that I should continue to play with them.  During adolescence, forgiveness meant being nice and pretending that I wasn’t resentful, angry, or hurt. At this point in my life I find the most helpful definition of forgiveness is to give up resentment or to cease to feel resentment (thank you Websters). I love this definition because it helps clarify 2 stages of the forgiveness process:

1) feeling resentment
2) ceasing to feel resentment

It’s tempting to try and skip the first step – “the feeling part” – and jump to the “cease to feel” step.  A lot of the forgiveness work that I help clients with in therapy is allowing the FEELINGS to be experienced. You can’t give up something that you don’t have.

Common Questions on Forgiveness

Does forgiveness always involve forgetting?

No. I can’t think of one instance of deep hurt in my own life where I have forgotten the event. Forgiveness is about letting go of the emotional charge of the event, not the memory of it.

Does forgiving someone mean that you have to continue a relationship with the person you have forgiven?

No. It is possible to cease to feel resentment toward another and still choose to not have a relationship with him or her for various reasons ranging from personal preference to protecting self or family from serious harm.

Does forgiving a person eliminate the impact of their offense?

No. In the case of childhood abuse, I have often heard families throughout my years of therapy practice use the concept of forgiveness to silence the abused family member and prevent them from expressing the negative emotions about the impact of their abuse.  “He’s been forgiven. Why do you have to keep bringing it up? It was so long ago. Forgiveness does not eliminate the long term consequences of abuse for the victim.

Forgiveness is a Personal Process

My own experiences with forgiveness has taught me that to forgive is usually a process rather than an event, that it is a process of working through hurt and pain, and that it is ultimately a gift to ourselves. It is the gift of emotional and spiritual freedom by no longer allowing someone’s behavior, words, or attitudes to smother our growth. I’ve heard it said that lack of forgiveness and holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.

The following lyrics were born out of my wrestle with the forgiveness process

Out of Jail (lyrics by Julie de Azevedo)

It’s time I let you out of jail
In my mind in my mind
It’s time I let you out of jail
You may not know it
But you’ve done time
You’ve done time

I’m tired of leaning against this door
And screaming all the things that you’re in for
I’m tired of holding shut the gate
My hands are worn and I can’t escape

It’s time I let you out of jail
In my chest in my chest
Bound in angry iron chains
It’s high time I took a breath
And got some rest

I’m tired of seeing the world through bars
I’m tired of being a prison guard
Wearing armor and wielding swords
I’m calling truce on this one way war

It’s time I let you out of jail
So I speak so I speak
Forgive me

It’s time I let you out of jail
In my mind in my mind
It’s time I let you out of jail
You may not know it
But we’ve done time

Download “Out Of Jail” in iTunes

I’d love to hear your thoughts about forgiveness. Feel free to leave your comments in the comment box below (your email address will NOT be posted with your comment).

New Twist on New Year’s Resolution

Pick up the latest issue of Wasatch Woman Magazine for my relationship article “New Year’s Resolutions: Try a “Ta Da” List”

It’s that time of year. The time when “To Do” lists get pulled out and we add to them our resolutions for the New Year. Too frequently though, by February 1, our list of good intentions has been relegated to the junk drawer due to failed attempts and we’re left feeling down on ourselves or worse yet—guilty for what we didn’t do. But, what if the answer to avoiding the guilt was to simplify and not make a “To Do” list?

You’re probably asking yourself, “How can you reach a New Year’s resolution if you don’t write it down? Isn’t that the first rule of goal setting?” Well don’t panic. Writing down things to do and ways to improve can be a helpful tool in becoming who you want to be. But the trouble with “To Do” lists is not that we use them, it’s how we use them.

Ta Da List Julie Hanks

Let me know what you think! What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

Eat Pray Love…At Home

(I’m reposting this one because I FINALLY go the video clip added)

Studio 5 Contributor and Self & Family Expert Julie Hanks, LCSW shares ways to continue your personal growth and rediscover your passion without leaving your life to travel the world.
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Eat, Pray, Love…at Home


Taking a year out of your life and traveling the world to rediscover yourself, like Elizabeth Gilbert in her best-selling memoir turned blockbuster movie Eat Pray Love, is hardly realistic for me and for most women I know. Yet, there is something about Liz’s quest to reconnect with herself and to rediscover her passion for life that resonates with millions of moviegoers. I believe its possible to continue the journey of personal development while remaining committed to family relationships, and without traveling to exotic destinations.

Tips to Eat Pray Love…at Home:

1-Venture out of your comfort zone

Liz: “I used to have this appetite for life and it’s just gone!” “I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something!” (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

If you feel numb, shut down, or on emotional “autopilot” try stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new, uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Try a new restaurant or a new sport. Extend yourself to someone outside of your circle of friends. If you like to read fiction, read non-fiction. You don’t have to travel to an exotic destination to get a new perspective on life.

Kelly O. a single 30-something professional decided to face her fears and say YES to new experiences throughout the year. Read her blog post “Unplanning Life” which highlighting 55 new firsts she’s experienced this year. http://kellyolivia.blogspot.com/2010/03/unplanning-life.html

From a man’s perspective…Steven Kapp Perry, radio host & father of 4 got out of his comfort zone by “climbing King’s Peak with my boys (twice) and I’m afraid of heights. I could go on. I think everything good about my life has come from venturing out of whatever my comfort zone used to be. It’s a lot bigger place these days.”

2-Savor your senses

Liz: “I’m having a relationship with my pizza”. This is my no Carb left behind experiment.” (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

Are you trapped in a routine of checking off tasks and making schedules? If so, try tuning into your senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. The ability to savor your own experience, no matter how small, adds dimension and increases positive feelings of pleasure. Focus on how it feels to be in your body, the wonderful smell of your favorite pizza, the warm touch of a friend’s hand on your shoulder, the beautiful sunset…

In my psychotherapy practice with women, many clients express that they have lost the enjoyment in physical intimacy. I think this is in part because they have become so good at tuning into their loved ones needs and emotions that it becomes difficult to “switch gears” and focus on their own senses; a requirement for fulfilling sexual experiences.

3-Practice mindfulness

Liz: “Ok, Simply empty your mind. You’re going to sit here for an hour of your life and you’re not moving, why is this so hard…” (Eat Love Pray, 2010) .

Focus attention solely on the present moment and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without judgment. Take a few minutes each day to quiet your mind and see what comes up. Relaxation, meditation, yoga, prayer, and many other spiritual practices provide health and mental health benefits, and have even been shown to improve your relationships.

Jennie M., wife and mother of three boys advises: “Take time to focus on things that matter most to us and try to have a good balance. For me it is running. My husband supports me and watches our 3 boys while I go run 30 – 60 minutes. It’s my time to get out think, pray, re-focus, and have time to myself.”

4-Listen to your inner voice

Liz: “I need to change. Since I was fifteen I’ve either been with a guy or breaking up with a guy”  (Eat Love Pray, 2010).

It’s easy to let the voices, needs, opinions, and expectations of others drown out your own voice, just as Liz experienced in Eat Pray Love. If your gut says you need a break, or need more time with friends, or need to rest, listen and ask for your needs to be met. Longings, dreams, thoughts and feelings are clues to what you need in order to continue your personal growth.

Jennie G., wife and stay-at-home mother of five says: “Learn to trust that inner voice. If it tells you that you really need a night out with a friend, do it! If you need to start a new book, buy one. If you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself, go serve someone else. If you want to learn something new, sign up for a class. I think each of us know what we need, we’re just too scared or not used to listening to that inner voice that will guide you to exactly what it is you need. The trick is to listen, and know that you are worth listening to!”

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Connect with me on the web!

What did you think about the movie Eat Pray Love?

How do you stay passionate about your life and continue your personal growth?


Merry Christmas! Azevedo sister’s sing Jingle Bells

Three years ago my dad, Lex de Azevedo, gave his daughters 3 arrangments of favorite Christmas songs inf 5 part harmony for us. Here’s “Jingle Bells” sung at a recent holiday party. HERE . From left to right: Lex (on piano) Rebecca, Rachel, Carrie, Emilie, me.

Want Hubby to Help With Holidays? Here’s how!

Watch TV Segment

Women often complain about their husband’s lack of help or enthusiasm for the holiday preparations. Husband’s are often puzzled about why wives get so stressed out about shopping, decorating, and baking. Here’s why women get stressed and solutions to get your man to help with the festivities.

1-Women feel responsible for the “intangibles” of family life (e.g. maintaining relationships, fulfilling family expectations, setting mood & tone, giving meaning to family traditions, a sense that they are adding value)

Get your man to help by…Sharing what your holiday traditions mean to you. (“It’s important to me to keep in touch with friends and family through sending yearly Christmas cards.” “Baking cookies reminds me of holidays with my grandmother and helps me feel connected to her.”)

 2-Women want to fulfill their own & other’s expectations

Get your man to help by… listening to your husband’s feedback that challenges your assumptions about the way things “should be”. Allow your spouse to help you find more realistic expectations. (“Maybe we don’t need to send out Christmas cards every year. Maybe every other year would be fine.” “Do we really have to make homemade gifts for the entire neighborhood?”)

3-Women feel like they should be able to “do it all” & have difficulty asking for help

Get your man to help by… Ask for help directly, specifically, & with a time frame. ( “Will you help put labels on the Christmas cards by the end of the weekend?” “Will you be in charge of buying gifts for Brooke & Darin this year?” )

Alone time? What’s that?

I slept in this morning without interruption. I got ready for the day without interruption. These are rare occurances since becoming a mother 19 years ago. I’m not sure who thought that Dec. would be a great time to have a conference. That person must not be a mother. Can you think of any time of the year more packed with programs, parties, projects than December? It’s the WORST time of the year for a mother of 4 to go M.I.A. and head off to CA for an 8 day therapy conference. Or is it? Maybe it WAS a mom who chose this date at this time of year! The relief I felt excitement and relief as I addressed the last Christmas card, packed my stuff (only my stuff & not several other bags), and headed with a colleague to the airport.

Now my dillemna is whether I will go to every possible workshop with 70000 other people and soak in all the knoweldge and inspiration from psychology gurus from across the globe or should I take time this week to relax, relish silence, nap, and be…alone? I’m sure I’ll find somewhere in the middle.

But at this moment, I am alone and I like it.

Preventing Burnout Workshop

motherdaughter_low

Thanks to the wonderful women of Sandy Cresent Wards who attended the Wednesday’s “Preventing Emotional Burnout” workshop. It’s the perfect time of year to remember to be kinder to yourself, remember that every family is “messed up”, and what God wants is “a perfect heart”.  You gals made me giggle more than any other group with your Diet Coke and Chocolate comments! I love presenting this workshop because it reminds me that I am not alone. Thank you.

I’ve had some requests about the songs I performed as part of the workshop:

God’s Signature (new song to be release on Julie de Azevedo Best Of cd coming out Spring 2010)

Make Enough of Me (from my CD Home) & is available for download on iTunes. Here’s a link to the Music Video of Make Enough of Me (Requires Quicktime).

Several of you came up and asked about my counseling clinic and services in SLC. Here’s more info about Wasatch Family Therapy. To find out where I’m doing another “Preventing Emotional Burnout” Workshop or other events, classes, firesdies click here.

Oh, and the dessert bar was heavenly. My family thanks you for the silver platter of goodies!

See My Dad’s Gloria Concert Dec. 4 & 5th

Looking for a great way to kick off the Christmas season and start a great Holiday tradition? My dad is presenting his…

“Gloria: Celebrating the Life of Christ” Concert
Dec. 4 & 5th 7:30 pm in SLC.