Monday, December 14, 2009

Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men

An Antidote to Criticism

We are all familiar with the angels’ words to the shepherds in announcing the birth of Jesus. They promised “peace on earth, good will toward men”.

We tend to focus on “peace on earth” – of course, something we all desire. However, we need to ponder more carefully “good will toward men” because that’s what creates peace on earth.

What does “good will” mean? "Will" is our power to choose. It is also our wish, desire or attitude. Thus, “good will toward men” means we choose to view others in a good, positive way.

On the other hand, when we criticize others, we are seldom looking at them in a positive way but rather in a negative way. We could say we have “bad will toward men”.

An antidote for criticism, then, is to choose to see others in a more positive light. We may still make requests or give suggestions but we make them with respect and good will.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Another Alternative to Criticism

A Lesson from the Creation

As we read the account of the creation in Genesis, we notice that God paused after each period of creation and “saw that it was good”. He didn’t wait until the entire creation was finished to say it was good. He acknowledged and celebrated each day.

None of us are perfect (complete, finished or fully developed) but we can follow the example given in the creation and acknowledge and celebrate what we do right along the way – every day -- even while knowing there is yet much more to do.

Instead of criticizing, we can focus more on what is right, what we do appreciate. In David Burns book, Feeling Good Together, he suggests that we try to give 25 compliments a week. Try it. Even if you don’t give that many, it’s a great way to change your mindset from focusing more on the negative to focusing more on the positive.

Remember, God "saw that it was good" every day!

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Alternative to Criticism

Think about the last time you criticized your spouse, what were you thinking and feeling just before you gave your criticism? It’s often hard to identify because it’s most likely not a thought or feeling we want to have. It may be a feeling of anxiety or insecurity, for example, and those are very uncomfortable feelings. Thoughts might be something like “Do you really value me?” or “Can I count on you when I need you?”

What’s interesting is that what we are really thinking and feeling is that we want to be reassured that our spouse is there for us, that we are securely connected. However, instead of asking for that reassurance, we criticize, which usually creates even more emotional distance and thus increases our anxiety and insecurity. As the scripture says “It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone”. We want and need to be close and connected. It is a universal, even biological need.

So instead of criticizing, we can look at what our needs and desires really are and express those to our spouse. For example, instead of saying “You need to quit being so disrespectful”, we can say something like “I feel really hurt when you do that. It makes me feel like you don’t value me and it's important to me to know that you value me.” By recognizing and sharing these kinds of feelings honestly and sincerely, we are much more likely to receive the reassurance we need and as a result, feel even closer and more securely connected to our spouse.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Earlier this week was the 20 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. What a historic occasion that was 20 years ago! For those of us who lived through those years when the wall was up, we saw its fall and the subsequent reunification of Germany as nothing short of a miracle.

Just like the Berlin wall, we sometimes build symbolic walls, walls that supposedly protect us from sharing vulnerable feelings and risking getting rejected and hurt. They also, of course, prevent us from connecting and feeling the joy that comes from having close relationships. Some couples live with these walls for years and see little hope of them ever coming down.

But just like the Berlin wall has shown us, there is hope! Our walls can come down -even if they've been up for years - and we can be close and united with our loved ones again. Miracles can and do happen, including the domino effect, so movingly illustrated in the 20 year celebration. We just need to take the first step and have the courage to tear down our walls.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Other Destructive Weeds

John Gottman, in his study and observation of marriages, has pointed out four behaviors that he says, if left uncorrected, will destroy marriages. He calls them the “4 horsemen of the apocalypse”. They are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.

Most likely anyone that reads this will recognize some of these “destructive weeds” in their own marriages. We probably all criticize from time to time or react defensively, especially when we feel threatened. Contempt and stonewalling are more desperate (and harmful) measures but even they may creep up from time to time.

So why are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling so destructive to relationships? For one thing, they all serve to divide rather than to connect. When we criticize (or receive criticism), for example, we are no longer viewing our loved one as a friend or ally, but, in a sense, as our enemy. Defensiveness has the same effect. We are protecting ourselves and thus becoming more distant and less connected from our loved one. Contempt and stonewalling also presume enmity.

When we view each other as enemies or opponents rather than as friends or allies, we no longer work together and grow together. Instead we go our separate ways. We are alone, weak and vulnerable. Criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling are not just destructive to marriages, they are destructive to individuals. In future posts to this blog I will address healthier alternatives to these destructive behaviors.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dear Readers

Please give me some input and feedback. If you are reading this blog, please give me your comments either here or e-mail me separately. Your input and feedback is very important to me. Also, how often do you read it and/or would you like to be able to read a new post? Am I covering aspects of relationships that are important to you? Etc. Etc. Please give me your comments.

Thank you.
Gloria Hubble

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Those Pesky Weeds

Can you imagine how your garden would look if you didn’t have some way to control the weeds? Weeds are so pesky, so annoying but we learn to deal with them, both by making efforts to prevent their growth in the first place and by making efforts to get rid of them when they do start to grow.

Just like weeds or unwanted plants, we also have unwanted thoughts – thoughts that get in our way of personal growth, thoughts that crowd out our happier feelings, thoughts that get in the way of enjoying our relationships, thoughts that are just plain pesky and annoying. So what do we do with these thoughts? First of all, we recognize that we’re in charge. We don’t have to believe all of our thoughts anymore than we have to allow every weed to grow. To many people, that in itself is a very liberating thought! We can choose which thoughts we want to nurture and cultivate, which ones are consistent with our values and principles. We can also choose NOT to nurture and cultivate those thoughts that are not consistent with our values and principles.

The way we cultivate thoughts is to pay attention to them. So if we want to get rid of a thought, we acknowledge it’s there and then choose to let it go, to not give it attention but instead focus on the thought we want to cultivate. Usually it’s best to let it go gently rather than fighting it because that, in itself, is giving it more attention. One technique that is helpful for a lot of people is to visualize unwanted thoughts as leaves in a stream and just letting them pass by, while at the same time carefully cultivating those thoughts we want to keep.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Finding the Red Tomatoes

We have enjoyed finding and eating ripe red tomatoes from our garden. We didn’t stake or cage them so it’s quite a process to find the red ones. We have to lift up the vines and really search but when we have a glimpse of a red one, we’re motivated to make that search. We know the reward is well worth the effort.

Feelings are like this too. Feelings of anger and resentment, for example, are usually close to the surface, easy to recognize. We don’t have to look very hard to find them. But what’s underneath those feelings? Sometimes we’re afraid to look or we convince ourselves there really isn’t anything else. But there always is.

When couples share their “surface” feelings, I often ask them to “dig deeper”. What’s underneath that? And what’s underneath that? If they’re willing to really make the search, they find that underneath the anger is usually something like hurt or disappointment or concern. Those are like the green tomatoes. And with a little more searching, they too can find the red tomatoes. But sometimes they’re hesitant to make the search – afraid it might be too painful. The truth is, it’s usually just the opposite. Underneath those feelings of hurt and concern are feelings of love and caring and those are the real rewards, the red tomatoes. Those are the feelings they can pick – hold on to – and share with their spouse. Those are the feelings that will nurture their relationship and strengthen their marital bond. They are there, underneath the surface, just like the red tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Good Soil: 5-1

We know that in order for plants to grow and thrive, they need good soil. The same is true for marriages. So what is the “good soil” that marriages need? Fortunately, through the research efforts of John Gottman, who has observed married couples for over 30 years, we have some answers. Gottman found that happy, successful marriages had a 5-1 ratio: 5 positives for every 1 negative. In sharing this research with couples, I often ask them to estimate what the ratio is in their relationship. It’s not uncommon to hear answers like “Ours is about 1-5 (1 positive for every 5 negatives)”.

I typically give them homework to really make an effort to find 5 positives to each 1 negative. These positives can include their own thoughts – choosing to look for and notice the good, including remembering good times. They can also include saying and doing positive things - compliments, affection, a kind note, even a smile or a wink. It can also include receiving positives instead of rejecting them. Granted, it will take some effort to turn this ratio around. However, if these efforts are made sincerely, what usually happens is that when it is time to give the 1 negative (after the 5 positives), the “soil” is sufficiently softened so that it is much better received. The person giving the negative sees it in better perspective and gives it in a softer way. Sometimes, it even disappears with the recognition of all the positives they hadn’t noticed before.

Like all living, growing things, marriages need “good soil”.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Comments from you

Dear Readers,

Some of you said you had difficulty getting your comments posted. I made some adjustments on the settings which should make it easier for you. Please try again. Remember, you're welcome to make a comment on any post at any time. I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Roots and Stumbles - The Nature of Growth

From time to time people say they think they’ll stop coming to counseling because they’re not seeing any improvement. Specifically, they usually say their spouse isn’t changing. Interestingly enough, when I have these conversations it’s often shortly after a very good session where both husband and wife are beginning to come together and connect. However, they say that while things went well during the session, it wasn’t lasting - when they got home they went back to their old habits. (However, they don’t usually include themselves in that observation of “going back to their old habits” – just their spouse. Interesting how that works.)

I sometimes wonder what expectations we have of the change process, of growth, of improvement, of development in general. If we look at nature, we see how it works. We plant a seed, for example, and don’t go to bed expecting that in the morning we will have delicious fruit ready to pick and eat. We know it will take some time as well as some sunshine, moisture and good soil and cultivation to facilitate the growth of the fruit. We don’t expect to see anything for a while. We just have faith that the roots are growing under the ground even though we can’t see them. We may have to wait quite a while for the stem and leaves to appear, let alone the actual fruit, but we tend to be more patient and kind with our plants. We recognize and have faith in their often uneven and sometimes lengthy process of growth.

We can also look at children. When they first learn to walk, for example, we don’t lose all hope when they stumble or fall or even go back to crawling as they’re getting steadier on their feet. In fact, we expect that. We understand the process of growth and development in children. We’re not only patient and encouraging, we’re thrilled and excited that they took that first step, even knowing they will fall and stumble as they’re developing this new skill.

So why do we have such a different standard for growth, development, improvement in marriage? Maybe, it’s because we don’t realize that marriage is a living, growing thing. But how can it be anything else? It’s a relationship between two living, growing human beings and a living, growing creation itself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


As I listened to a woman talk about her struggles in her relationship with her husband, I recognized that there were several gestures on his part to be conciliatory, to reach out to her but she rejected each one and he finally gave up. It’s so important to “receive” in marriage. I see this so often where one spouse complains about the other not doing certain things but when they make the efforts, they’re ignored, discounted or blatantly rejected. As the cliché goes, marriage is about “give and take". Maybe a better way to describe it is “give and receive”. Receiving in this context is often not a passive thing. Rather, it often takes a lot of “self work” (self-control/self-discipline) to accept efforts from another who has previously withheld them or even done hurtful things. It takes letting go of anger, resentment, disappointment and really humbling oneself to receive the efforts one has requested. If this is not done, the vicious cycle, which both spouses are caught up in, can not be reversed.

“Receiving” is an essential act not just in marriage but in being able to access the gifts the Lord wishes to bless us with. He cannot and will not force these gifts on us. That would go counter to our very purpose of existence – to have agency, to be free to choose so that we can grow and progress, fulfilling our purpose on earth. If we’re not able to willingly and humbly receive gestures from another, how can we receive the greatest gift of all, even the Atonement? It was freely given and must be freely received.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Drip Hose

It seems what it really takes to improve and sustain a marriage is just a little effort by both the husband and the wife (or even just one of them) – effort to be a little more aware, a little more patient, to use a little more self-control, show a little more kindness. It doesn’t have to be big and dramatic – in fact, that rarely lasts – but rather, it needs to be continual – more like a drip hose than a thunderstorm. And especially, the effort needs to continue even when the individual doesn’t feel like it. That is when it really counts, when real growth occurs. It’s easy to show kindness, for example, when things are going well but far more difficult when things are not going well. However, that is precisely when the effort makes the most difference.

It seems so easy – just give a little more effort continually. So why don’t we do it? One reason may be expectations. We assume love and marriage are supposed to be effortless. That’s what we're conditioned to believe – “happily ever after” – it’s just finding the right one and then a life of continual bliss. If it requires effort, we conclude that we haven't found the right one.

In addition, we have societal expectations of instant gratification. We are conditioned to look for ways NOT to make effort – including blaming others or circumstances rather than taking responsibility ourselves. The problem with these expectations is that they go counter to the natural law of growth and development which is inherent in all living things, including us. We are designed to grow and develop and when we are not growing and developing we are not happy. A different mind set is required – one that acknowledges personal responsibility and growth potential and yes, a little effort is necessary to make that happen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blossoms and Fruit

Hi Family and Friends.

I have decided to create a blog to share some of the things I have learned in counseling couples and individuals (and in life!) I'd love to get your comments.

The Truth About Love and Relationships

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned is that love takes time to develop and for a strong bond to be formed. It needs to be tested to be strengthened and deepened. What we see in movies, romance novels, etc. is usually just the “honeymoon stage”, which is similar to blossoms appearing on a vine, which disappear as the real fruit appears and grows to maturity. It’s exciting to see the blossoms. They give us hope that the fruit will come but the fruit (not the blossom) is what is lasting and enduring and, in fact, the purpose of the vine.

So many couples “throw in the towel” before the fruit has even begun to develop because the blossom isn’t there any more. Not understanding that the blossom gives way to the much more valuable, enduring and sustaining fruit, they decide they’re not “in love” anymore. How sad and short-sighted this is.