Spiritual Marriage Counseling: Contentment is a Choice

Spiritual Marriage Counseling is about creating contentment in a relationship. Contentment is not based on circumstances. It is the power of focusing your energy effectively in any situation – it is the choices you make every second of your life. It is taking action to change your circumstance while focusing on the joy in your present situation. Satisfying a desire differs from contentment because it does depend on circumstance and is usually fleeting. It’s easy for us to feel good when our desires met are met by a partner. But this cycle of looking for contentment by fulfilling desires is not a spiritual existence, it’s a hamster wheel life because it is not a constant and this is especially true in marriage.

Often we feel blissful when we get a new job, a new romance, or other token that we want. How often does that bliss last? The newness simply does not stay new. Many couples in marriage counseling say “I want the relationship I had when we were first dating.” New love ends because the oxytocin, serotonin, adrenalin, and endorphins wear off. What people are left with is the desire for the high and a misunderstanding of what it takes to build love and contentment in a spiritual marriage. Spiritual love is a result of the choices you make with your partner.

A Genie grants a man 3 wishes.
The man asks that his wife die so he may find a better one.
Poof: She’s dead.
At the funeral, friends and family say how wonderful she was. The man realizes his mistake and asks the Genie to bring her back.
Poof: She’s alive again.
Having one remaining wish, the man ponders, but cannot think of what wish is best. So, he asks the Genie for a suggestion.
The Genie laughs, then says, “Ask to be content no matter what you get”.

I don’t suggest that couples give up all desires, that would be foolhardy. Rather, the point of spiritual marriage counseling is learning that marital contentment begins with self contentment. Self contentment begins with an awareness of and embracing one’s own inner life, emotions, needs, and purpose. From that point learning to be content with each other is a matter of choosing to remain in love, each second of every day.

Just Because You Are, Just Because You Can

Just because of the past doesn’t mean the future
Just because you fear doesn’t mean danger
Just because no one has doesn’t mean you can’t
Just because you hunger doesn’t mean eat
Just because you err doesn’t mean your worth
Just because you feel doesn’t mean it’s so
Just because you’re wrong doesn’t mean it’s bad
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
Just because others believe doesn’t mean you should
Just because you think doesn’t mean it’s true
Just because you love doesn’t mean you care
Just because you fail doesn’t mean quit
Just because you hear doesn’t mean you listen
Just because you’re right doesn’t mean it matters
Just because you see doesn’t mean you know
Just because now you create tomorrow
Just because you are means you are loved
Just because you’re loved means love others
Just because you feel means be aware
Just because you see means appreciate
Just because you think means reason
Just because you receive means give
Just because you hear means connect
Just because you dream means you can
Just because you can means live fully
Just because God means we are one

Embrace Change, Change Yourself to Change Your Relationship

What is the one indispensable tool for more love, wealth, and happiness? Change yourself – It’s where the action is.

High FiveIs anything as compelling as the keys to a happy life?
We all seek the holy grail of happiness and certainly we’ve each found any number of useful rules, tools, and directions in our search. I’ve identified a few necessary ingredients which are surely familiar to you. “Be true to yourself,” “love and be loved,” “let your light shine,” and “be fearless and bold” are all commands that guide us well on the path to joy. Each one is at once powerful and alluring. “Embrace change” doesn’t sound nearly as enticing; it isn’t a favorite device in my personal quest for happiness; but I find it indispensable.

We make the same crazy mistakes in life because change isn’t fun,
glamorous, or easy; change is hard. Have you ever heard anyone say, “The one thing l love most in life is to change myself?” Fall Canopy Of TreesNot likely, because we all want the easy path. Come on, face it; we want everyone else to change; we want the rest of the world to be different, to bow to our personal whims and desires. Deep in our hearts we believe: “If only people would do what I want, everything would be great!” Ah, but life doesn’t work that way. People are stubborn; they want to live life their way, not ours. We understand this at an intellectual level, but at a practical level we still want them to be different.

So, how to do it? How can you embrace what you don’t want?
Most likely, you won’t – unless you make it fun and interesting. Make change a “want to” rather than a “have to.” It’s all in your head, really. Several years ago I was convinced I couldn’t come up with $700 to take a weekend workshop, so I borrowed the money. After the class, I was so motivated by what I learned that three months later I come up with $11,000 to take the training to teach the class, I didn’t borrow any of it; I earned and raised every penny. Man LeapingWhat was different? I really wanted it. You’re going to find it extremely difficult to change your life and create the happiness you want if you focus on the difficulties and obstacles. The moment you set your sights on the possibilities rather than the challenges, the impossible will begin to become probable.

Stop thinking of change as something that happens “out there,”
and begin to see it as what happens “in here.” Rather than waiting for life to give you something, make yourself into the life you want. Do you want love, wealth, happiness, and health? Great! Be the change to make it happen. Embrace change. You deserve it.
David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin, Texas
Embrace Change – Article © 2009

The Recipe for a Happy Life: Happiness Is a Way of Life, Not an End

Happiness is at once the best, the noblest and the pleasantest of things. ~ Aristotle

Dance PartyNo single formula exists
for a happy life. We are each unique beings with differing needs and values. Many tools are available to aid you in living happily, many paths; but the foundation for that life includes a few essentials: love, virtue, effort, a clear mind, and meaning.

Chief among these elements is love,
without which life is empty – not romantic love (which can be tasty and delicious) but love of self. Self-love is synonymous with self-respect or personal worth; with it we’re able to receive love, without it we instead build barriers to others. Being able to take in love is the first step to giving love and to being happy.

Virtue is a challenge
for all of us! But its role in creating happiness is made clear in the words of Confucius: “Virtue is never left to stand alone. He who has it will have neighbors.” Living a life of virtue is a safety net for everyone on the path to becoming a joy magnet because it connects us firmly to our community. It is a synonym for giving and love, the golden rule.

True effort is required
to achieve any worthwhile objective in life, but it must be made with the correct goal in mind. Many people work diligently but make hardly any progress. Whether you call it joy, peace, or freedom, know that your goal is great happiness. See your life as one giant experiment. Life is a struggle full of landmines, there is no doubt about that. Develop the determination to overcome challenges. Bill Reidler, one of my best teachers, once gave a friend excellent advice about this: “Pick something and be willing to really screw it up!” He meant for her to take risks, to dare to live a noble, most excellent life.

MeditationA clear mind is the light
that guides us to fulfillment. Perhaps this is the most difficult of the happiness requirements for anyone to implement. I believe the reason for this is that it is very hard for us to step out of our own skin, to see ourselves as we really are rather than how we imagine ourselves to be. I also believe clarity of mind can be learned; it can be practiced. The best tools for this are daily doses of humility, listening, and meditation.

These four ingredients
– love, virtue, effort, and a clear mind – give our lives substance and direction. Yet they are not enough; meaning is still lacking. To be happy you must be true to yourself; you must seek and live that which makes your heart sing. Your life and your work must be significant – to you. Treat yourself also to the pleasures of life. A hedonistic life is fun and seductive, but will never suffice to create happiness. However, a life bereft of pleasure won’t either. We should be passionate both about our work and about those things that make us feel good: the myriad sensations and sweetness of nature.

In the book “Happier,” Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar
Mountain Climbingsays, “Becoming happier is a lifelong pursuit.” He makes the point that we do well to approach fulfillment as a process rather than a finite end. A clearly defined goal creates for us the freedom to live the goal. We know where we’re going and we have the tools; now we can stop obsessing or worrying about it and get busy living it.
David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin, Texas
Happiness Is a Way of Life, Not an End (article) © 2009

Ecclesiastes 1:12,13

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

Where Does Our Sense of Right and Wrong Come From?

Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right. ~ Isaac Asimov

Striving to be good
, kindhearted, or understanding can be as debilitating as any addiction. Others may speak up; but many, often women, give in to people by use of a misguided idea of virtue. Is this you? You are likely capable, industrious, intelligent, and “nice.” For you pleasing others and stuffing uncomfortable emotions is a way of life; you avoid the slightest appearance of confrontation. Because assertiveness seems mean, you may tolerate abuse. Alternately, you store anger, punish yourself with guilt, and then try again to be the better person.

Goodness in adulthood
is valuable only when practiced with maturity and wisdom. In the absence of discernment it creates intense self-doubt, anger, and loss of self-identity. A person who lives like this often feels crazy in a relationship.

Blind compliance
and the desire to be good are often a measure of one’s need to feel loved and accepted. This need is natural, but mindless acquiescence is avoidance of responsibility. It’s an ineffective response that leads to hopelessness and resentment. You can’t create good relationshipsDetermined Woman or contentment in your life just by being good. When a course of action does not honor and dignify you or others, then you must learn to choose another. You train others to treat you according to your self-image and by your willingness or unwillingness to speak up for and do what is right. You certainly should listen to and consider what others say, but you must be true to yourself. Look for what is real and take responsibility for your choices and their consequences.

In order to live joyfully
and to your true potential, be bold and courageous. Create the determination within yourself to experience the truth that love and assertiveness are not mutually exclusive. Learn to be both respectful of others and self-respecting. You’ve been good much of your life, but that isn’t enough. Be authentic, trust, and honor yourself.
David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin Texas
When Being Good Doesn’t Work © 2009

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

Change Emptiness to Happiness

So, instead of going to heaven, at last–
I’m going, all along. ~ Emily Dickinson

We frequently attempt to prove our value
to ourselves and to others through external accomplishments. We may get college degrees, lose weight or work eighty-hour weeks. We do this in order to make the emptiness go away or from a mistaken belief that it will result in happiness. But we get only fleeting glimpses of joy this way; the emptiness remains. Our real goal has been love and fulfillment.

Action is necessary,
but not sufficient, to fill the emptiness. Doing and accomplishing things does not create happiness. This will come only with love and meaning. The absence of love is toxic and debilitating.Content Woman It can however, be learned. Yes, it is better to give than to receive, but the experience of receiving is an essential foundation of life. By receiving love we learn to value ourselves. Self-love, then, is the seed for love of others and the prime ingredient that fills the emptiness. Only with the confidence of love are we able to embrace the possibility of joy and fulfillment. Do you frequently criticize yourself? Begin to embrace the fact that your mistakes are not a measure of your self-worth but a measure of your humanity. Rather than casually dismissing praise, practice accepting with gratitude the gifts of acknowledgment you receive from others.

Fulfillment does not come
with the achievement of goals; it is not a finite end but an ongoing process. It is the result of living in the present moment rather than in the illusion that some future event will result in happiness. The accomplishment of goals brings feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, but they are temporary and we soon revert to the same general state of emptiness or happiness in which we lived before the event. Goals are good as long as they are in accord with our true desires, a part of a meaningful life rather than an end. Certainly enjoy your successes, but don’t kid yourself into believing that success is in itself happiness. In the same way, failure is not an indicator of unhappiness; instead, it’s an indicator of change, nothing more and nothing less. Both success and failure are important elements of a joyful life.

Be true to yourself;
identify the people and things which are most significant to you and nurture them. Live your life with gratitude, enthusiasm, and a giving heart. Practice looking for the good in life, this is not an easy accomplishment, it takes considerable effort. Be fearless; know that both pain and pleasure are essential facets of life, not to be shunned. Accept them equally, but do not obsess with either. The result of this is increasing courage and confidence in the face of adversity. Surely, the emptiness will begin to dissolve; the path to happiness will be yours.
David Cantu
Marriage Counselor Austin, Texas
Change Emptiness to Happiness © 2009

Psalm 23:6

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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