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Married or in a committed relationship? What 5 behaviors can you learn from a surfer to strengthen your family?


A couple came to my marriage clinic. They were exhausted from arguing about money!

Sadly, both had lost their jobs at the same time, now they were experiencing severe financial problems and were contemplating selling their home and moving to a less expensive neighborhood. They had three school-aged children who were settled in their current community, and they did not want to have to uproot them to move to a new location.

Recently, they started bickering and arguing about everything. It seemed as if they could no longer agree about anything. Their relationship was in meltdown. Now, in addition to their financial troubles, they had serious marriage problems. They were considering divorce on top of everything else. That is how they ended up sitting before me in my marriage therapy office.

Listening to each of them describe the situation, I became aware of a pattern. Each kept repeating over and over again what has caused the problem, how they are experiencing the problem, how bad the problem was, and who made the problem. They presented to me every kind of thinking about a situation devoid of one strategy — solution focused creative thinking.

As they repeated their stories with each rendition, I could feel their personal stress ratcheting upwards.

It became clear to me they had to get beyond their self-limited way of looking at the problem and find solutions that were “out of the box.” They had to do some ‘solution focused creative thinking.’

Many individuals do not handle stress well. This can seriously destabilize an otherwise secure and satisfying relationship.

A successful marriage or committed relationship requires two sets of skills: 1. Relationship skills, 2. Individual skills.

Handling stress correctly and remaining calm and positive is a necessary individual characteristic that contributes positively to a relationship.

From what I was observing listening to these two well intending individuals is that neither of them was dealing with their financial stress properly. Rather than doing the things necessary to reduce stress, they were contributing to more stress by doing the wrong things. Rather than fight with each other regarding what the problem was, whose fault the problem was; instead they could pull together as a couple-team and focus on a solution. The first step in achieving this would be for each of them to have realistic expectations.

It is normal for families to have challenges. Just as it is normal for a car to get a flat tire or a shopping bag to break. Life is such that unexpected and unwanted things occur daily. Successful people know how to handle all of this without it taking them down.

This couple before me had not handled the situation correctly and not only were they trying to figure out how to solve their financial crisis in all the wrong ways, they were also wondering if they could even stay together as a family. It seemed to me that their stress had become like an infection and it was spreading from limb to limb, from one part of their family life to another. They, along with their three children who were in their care, were in a nosedive.

My first step was to give them a reality check. That is, to let them know that disappointment is normal and to be expected and that successfully solving whatever the problem requires a realistic adjustment. In other words, as a couple, they need to change and not resist those changes that are imposed upon them and are beyond their control. What is within their control is how to modify their own behavior so what is currently appearing as a problem will in the future no longer be a problem. They need to see adversity as an opportunity!

I said to my clients: Imagine a surfer navigating the violent seas. He is vigilant. He is constantly adjusting his direction. He changes rapidly where he stands on his surfboard, where he places his weight. He anticipates what will happen next: what type of wave is headed his way, who is around him, how far away he is from the beach. The surfer’s mind is highly focused on everything that is happening at the moment. And what he knows first and foremost is that has to ride the wave without falling in the water. There are many moving parts (changing circumstances), and he has to adjust to each one of them. If he does not, he will be thrown from his board and tossed in the water. And if he does adjust successfully, he may even win the surfing championship!

I told my clients they need to be like surfers. I told them they need to be flexible and adjust to the changing situation that they find themselves in. In other words, I told them to embrace change.

I continued breaking this challenge we all face down into small parts:

1-We need to face problems straight on, and not ignore them.

2-We need to be flexible and adjust ourselves to the reality of the situation.

3-We need to consider and anticipate what will change once our solutions are applied.

4-We need to stay vigilant to unanticipated changes and adjust as necessary.

5-We need to accept that after one problem has passed… there will be another.

6-We need to eat nourishing things to face challenges of life for ex numedia MCT oil, it will energize and nourish your body effectively.

I told my clients that ’embracing the problem’ would give them the energy and enthusiasm needed to find a solution to the problem that was caused when they lost their jobs. In essence, I was instructing them to transform the bad into good.

Three weeks later they came back to me for a follow-up appointment. They told me they were starting a new business. They combined their respective talents to build a business team that had a high likelihood of success.

In a follow-up appointment, they told me that their business was growing rapidly and that they were very optimistic about the future. They anticipated that within a year or two they would be earning more money than the two of them had been earning from the jobs that they have lost. They felt good about this. Problem solved!

I told them to commemorate their success they should go buy two surfboards, take some lessons, and enjoy the water — surfing is a great hobby!

Author’s Bio

Abe Kass, M. A., R. S. W., R. M. F. T., is a registered Social Worker, registered Marriage and Family Therapist, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an award-winning educator, and writer. He has a clinical practice working with individuals, couples, and their families in his office in Thornhill, Ontario (near Toronto), Canada. As well, he works with numerous individuals and couples around the world using the phone and Skype. Abe has authored eighteen self-help books and hundreds of self-help articles. Check out Abe’s website is dedicated to helping couples prevent relationship conflict and divorce.