Holding Time – Week 7

Holding Time: Exercise #4

Holder: Hold your spouse until you are both relaxed and your breathing is in sync. Ask your spouse to share a difficult childhood memory. (Avoiders: this may be more about what you missed than a traumatic event). Ask your spouse to share three feelings about this memory. Don’t fix or problem solve. Try and see your spouse as a child experiencing that event or absence of connection.

Think of a child that you are around in your current life that is the same age as you were when you experienced the memory you are sharing. Sometimes we forget how young and vulnerable we were! Try and visualize the memory as you share it.

We hope you have enjoyed this series on Holding Times. The more you practice the more natural and comforting it will become.

Milan and Kay will be in Chatsworth, CA on May 7th for a How We Love Workshop. For more details, please click on the Events tab at howwelove.com

Holding Time – Week 6

Holding Time: Exercise # 3

Hold your spouse until you are both relaxed and your breathing is in sync. Ask your spouse to describe a current stressor. Ask them to pick three words off the list of Soul Words to describe how that stressor makes them feel. Listen and empathize. Don’t fix or problem solve.

While you are learning to have holding times, pick a stressor that is not about your spouse! It is easier to learn to hold and listen when it’s not a personal complaint.

Switch Roles

Holding Time – Week 5

Holding Time: Exercise #2

Favorite Memories

Hold your spouse until you are both relaxed and your breathing is in sync. Then make eye contact by asking your spouse to look into your eyes. Share a positive, special memory with your spouse that has meaning for you. Be aware and try to communicate as much with your eyes as you do with your words.

Listen to your spouse as they share a favorite memory and try to take their words into your soul as you make eye contact.

Switch roles and repeat.

Holding Time – Part 4

Holding Time Part 4

Here are some specific ways to try a holding. Our advice is to make a clear distinction between holding and sex. We all need nurturing, comforting touch that isn’t sexual. Learn to communicate directly as a couple and make it clear when you want to give or receive touch that is non-sexual and when your touch is an invitation to have sex.

Exercise #1: Quiet Relaxing Holding. 20 minutes

Pick a quiet time with as few interruptions as possible. I know this is a challenge if you have small children. Find a comfortable spot and put on some relaxing music. Take 10 minute turns so each spouse is both a giver and receiver. Don’t talk and close your eyes. Be quietly present in the experience and notice what you feel. Try and sync your breathing so you are inhaling and exhaling in the same rhythm with one another. Use pillows and support so you can both relax as much as possible during this experience.

The Big Picture – Bible Study

For those of you that don’t know, my dad, Milan Yerkovich, is a gifted Bible Teacher. With all the amazing work my parents are doing with Counseling, Marriage/Parenting Speaking Engagements & Radio, daddy’s Bible classes have been harder to squeeze in. We have been begging dad to teach again. (Steve and I last took this class in 1999!) It’s a small miracle that we were able to make this happen.

If you long for a deeper understanding of the Bible, please join us for an in depth journey of the entire book. Genesis-Revelation. Come explore the Big Picture of God’s word. The past, the present & what is to come!

Feel free to invite anyone you think would like to come. The more the merrier. Let’s pack that room!

The Big Picture- Bible Study
(A 4 week Overview of the Bible)
By Milan Yerkovich
Saddleback Church, Lake Forest
Plaza Room

Easter off

Can’t wait to see you all there!

Amy Thornton

Holding Time – Part 3

Holding Time for Vacillators

Since a vacillator longs for connection you might think they would be excited about holding time. Since Vacillators want connection without being vulnerable it can feel like a risky proposition. What if I like it and my spouse never offers again? What if I feel too exposed? Asking directly for what they want or need is very difficult for the Vacillator. Some Vacillators may be too mad at their spouse to offer or accept a holding time.

We find Vacillators often express anger and are unaware of the anxiety and more vulnerable feelings under the anger. Vacillators must learn to find soul words on the feelings words list and ask for a holding time before the anger erupts. Often the anxiety is about something the Vacillator is ruminating on so be aware of preoccupied states and ask for help with the anxiety. This is a key to the Vacillator’s growth.

Vacillators like to feel needed and if they are not angry at their spouse they can hold their spouse quite comfortably. The Vacillator’s tendency to be in an “all good” or “all bad” mood or state of mind can make the Vacillator unpredictable in their willingness to give to their spouse. Vacillators can find more middle ground if they are willing to give or receive a holding time, when they aren’t “in the mood”.

Holding time for Controllers and Victims

Chaotic attachment and childhood trauma go hand in hand. This group usually had lots of difficult experiences and little to no comfort when they were kids. Tenderness can bring buried pain to the surface so these folks may unconsciously avoid comfort. Gentle, empathetic touch and kindness may make the Controller or Victim very uncomfortable. Their tears are deeply buried and holding time can bring them to the surface. It’s difficult to look back at painful memories but buried trauma is carried in the body and it takes a lot of effort to hold inside. Grief and comfort help heal these painful memories and free the body to be fully alive and relaxed in the present moment.

For women or men who were trapped as kids or sexually abused, holding can sometimes be a trigger. It’s important to discuss any negative feelings that arise during a holding time as these reactions can be reminders of childhood trauma.

It takes a level of safety to engage in holding and if there is physical or emotional abuse in the current relationship, it isn’t safe. Holding is a vulnerable giving of oneself into the arms of another. In some cases the regulation of emotions and the ability to have a calm conversation needs to be the first goal.

In the next few weeks we will give you some specific ideas for holding times. Write to us and let us know if you try these exercises. We would love your feedback.

Special Announcement
We are pleased to announce that the audio version of the How We Love book is now available at christianaudio.com!

Holding Times – Part 2

Why Holding is Difficult for Avoiders and Pleasers?

Avoiders find holding time awkward as they most often grew up with parents who showed minimal to no affection and offered little comfort. If coached, they may be willing to try and hold their spouse, but certainly would not ask for a holding in return. One avoider husband I know held his wife as she shared some painful memories. She cried a lot and all those emotions were a bit overwhelming for him, but he is trying to grow and he did a good job. When she later asked to hold him he said, “I don’t dwell on pain, I just move on.” Now being an avoider myself, I understand this thinking. We worked hard to not feel pain, so why dig it up? There are three compelling reasons.

First, if we are going to be transformed into the image of Christ, we need to be able to feel. (See last week’s blog).
Second, holding gives an opportunity to receive what was missed as a kid. Nurture. Comfort. Being heard. Being known. Avoiders have no idea that nurturing can relieve stress. They have to experience comfort in order to value it. Third, avoiders end up resentful because they are always being asked to give something, but need little to nothing in return. I cannot tell you how often I hear from the spouses of avoiders, “He or she does not need me.” Avoiders need to learn to receive. There is no better way than to allow your spouse to hold you.

Holding Time for Pleasers:

Pleasers are givers not receivers. Of all the types, they have to give to soothe their own anxiety about others being unhappy or distressed. They are hyper attuned to the needs of others; a skill they learned in childhood. By the time marriage occurs, they have had years of practice in the giving, caretaking role. As a result, they never ask for much and are absolutely terrible receivers. They are so unaware of their own feelings and needs that it does not occur to them to ask for comfort when they are stressed.

Now most of you know that Milan is a pleaser and I am an avoider. So, how easy do you think it was for us to learn to do holding times? The answer should be obvious. It was difficult.
Neither of us wanted to be vulnerable, but we knew it was an important skill we were missing in our marriage and parenting.
So, we kept at it. Over time it got easier, safer and we felt more competent.

What did we do when strong emotions of grief emerged during a holding? We agreed that holding time was not a time to fix or problem solve. The goal was to learn to be together, listen, validate and comfort. If your spouse feels an emotion, say what you see. “I see this makes you tearful and sad.” “I see your eyes welling up with tears.” Give permission: “I’m glad you are sharing those feelings with me.” “This is a safe place for you to feel.” “It makes me feel needed and special when you are vulnerable with me.”

I wish we could describe the results and the blessings of giving one another comfort. It has been more than worth every awkward moment. As we get older, we find life brings more loss. We have a safe place to feel the sadness and process the grief. We have healed many of our childhood wounds as we have comforted one another through painful memories.

Next week we will look at Vacillators and Chaotic love styles and holding time. So, how’s it going for you? Have you tried it? Let us know how it goes. You have to make yourself uncomfortable in order to grow.


Holding Times – Part 1

Holding Times

This month we are talking about holding time. This is by far one of the most important skills we ever learned in our marriage. We always demonstrate a holding time in our workshops and the responses range from excitement to downright terror. We have had some interesting responses from our readers on this subject. Some describe that holding time is hard for men, especially when they are the receivers. Some men learned as children that it is weak to show emotions or ask for help. In addition, a lot of women give their man a double message. We want our husbands (or the men we are dating) to be close, vulnerable and willing to share their inner self. At the same time, we also want our men to be strong leaders, providers and care takers…… in other words, “don’t be weak.”

Let’s think about Jesus for a moment. He is strong and vulnerable. Jesus healed, provided, shared his thoughts and feelings and was definitely a leader. Even though he knew before hand that it was His purpose to come into the world and die for us on the cross, he struggled emotionally when the time came. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked for his three closest disciples to watch and pray with him. He told his friends he was distressed and in agony. He lay prostrate with his face to the ground and he wept with loud crying and tears. We know his friends fell asleep but even so, the God of the universe showed his inner turmoil and asked for help.

Men need encouragement to be like Jesus and ask for support. Women, tell your man that he can be both strong and weak. When you can see he is stressed, ask to nurture him. Ask him to lay his head in your lap and touch him tenderly and pray for him. If he is comfortable sharing verbally ask him about his top three stressors and how those situations make him feel. If he’s reluctant, just try to create some moments of safety, encouragement and comfort.

Next week we will talk about each of the love styles and why holding is difficult for each style.

Until then…. God Bless and keep growing.

Surviving the Holidays – Part 3

Here is point 3 about being an adult around your parents during the holidays.

3. You can set boundaries and say “No,” to your parents even if you get a poor response.

Let’s begin by reviewing what boundaries are all about. Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written extensively on the topic of boundaries. The following overview is taken from the book by Henry Cloud, Changes that Heal. He devotes a chapter to the subject of boundaries.


Setting boundaries requires the ability to maintain one’s own identity and selfhood while connecting with others. An intimate relationship needs vulnerability and closeness as well as the freedom to move apart and be separate. In a healthy relationship, each person is supportive and encourages the uniqueness and growth of the other. In other words, closeness does not equal sameness. Boundaries are not about telling other people what they can and cannot do. You cannot control anyone but yourself. Boundaries explain to others what your response will be to their attitudes, behaviors and actions. “Dad I want you to know if your language gets foul when we are visiting we will have to take the kids and leave. Our desire is to have a great visit and enjoy each other.”

Thinking about a relationship with no (or few) boundaries will help in understanding boundaries. An enmeshed or fused relationship is an unhealthy bond in which boundaries are violated and any individuality, separateness, or differences are viewed as a threat and are not easily tolerated. Dependence may be exaggerated and the ability to function independently is limited. Can your parents let you be different from them in your values, views, opinions or choices? Can you peacefully agree to disagree?


If you have difficulty setting boundaries with your parents (or in general), here are some feelings you may experience.

1. You may feel as if you are owned by others and cannot say “No,” to a request.

2. You will be confused over who’s responsible for what. You will assume responsibility for others feelings, attitudes, and behavior. You may also believe that others are responsible for how you feel and behave.

3. People who have problems with boundaries often feel they have the power to control the emotions of others. They think, “I can make everyone happy if I just try hard enough. If others aren’t happy it is my fault.” Are you overly responsible for your parent’s happiness?


Here are some symptoms you will notice as an adult if you did not learn to say, “No”, think for yourself, make decisions and develop your own understanding of who you are.

1. You may have a sense of confusion or disorientation toward life feeling scattered, double minded, and confused. You will allow others to be the master of your life.

2. You may feel trapped with few choices, often in a “no win” situation. If you think about it you are probably very afraid of rejection.

3. Over time your “over-giving” will cause anger, bitterness and resentment.
Sometimes, resentment may be manifested in health problems. While you are always doing for others, you receive little in return. As an adult, you are not good at knowing what you need or asking others to help you.

4. You may experience depression, panic, or become exhausted if you cannot set boundaries. A person without boundaries often does not confront problems or set limits on the bad behavior of others. Tolerating way to much from others can bring on negative emotions over time.


1. Fear of aloneness. Perhaps you may have experienced abandonment and will give up many parts of yourself to keep from feeling alone.

2. Idolatry. When another person becomes indispensable and rejection feels intolerable, something is wrong.

3. Guilt. Others may know how to manipulate you and withdraw love any time you move toward healthy separateness. If being independent in any way is tied to a loss of love and you are made to feel guilty when you try to be your own person.

4. You believe you love others when in fact you are enabling. Enabling is taking responsibility for another’s feelings, behaviors or choices that are rightfully theirs. You may enable another to be irresponsible by taking responsibility for their attitudes, feelings and actions. Giving to an abusive person who denies responsibility for their bad choices makes the problem worse. If you don’t set limits on bad, unhealthy or even evil behavior, it only gets greater.


1. Learn to choose non-controlling people to bond with. Have more than one supportive relationship so when you feel rejected for setting limits you will have other people who can support you through it. This is very important.

2. Learn to say no! Postpone an immediate yes. Rather say, “Let me give it some thought and I will get back to you with my answer.”

3. When you begin saying no, you will have an abundance of this strange new possession; time for yourself! Use this time to develop yourself, your interests and the talents God has given you.

4. Learn to tolerate the rejection or disapproval that may come with having your own voice.

Can you say, “No,” to your parents? Can you tolerate their disapproval if you make a choice they don’t agree with? Can you calmly hold to your opinion when your parents pressure you to think the same way you think? Can you stand up for your spouse if your parents are unkind to them? Can you tell your parents you are responsible for how you discipline your kids?

We are not saying our parents don’t have wise advice that we can benefit from at times. We are asking, can we be our own person, an adult with a voice around our parents? If not, predict one thing that will likely happen as you engage with your parents and practice how you would set a boundary. Role play before the event. Then when the opportunity arises, say it!


Surviving the Holidays – Part 2

December 10, 2015

We are discussing how adult or child-like we feel and act around our parents. Last week we discussed the roles we played in our families growing up and pondered if we are still playing that role as an adult. Here is our second point about being an adult around our parents.

Point #2. You can be honest with your parents about how your relationship could improve whether they choose to listen or not.

If we can be honest with our parents, we can probably be honest with anyone.
It takes a vulnerable and courageous person to speak the truth, in love, to one’s parents. I always advise clients not to do this unless they can tolerate the worst possible outcome. If you were honest with your parents in a loving way, what would happen? Most folks fear rejection, abandonment or anger would result from telling their parents the truth. Being an adult means you can stand on your own and tolerate your parents’ response, whatever it is. It’s always worth a try to ask for what you want. Even if you do not get a desired response it’s a step of growth for you to be honest.
What should you be honest about? The focus should be on one specific thing your parent(s) could change that would improve their relationship with you. Try and tell them something you appreciate before and after you make this request. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to “speak the truth in love.” Love is gentle and kind and rejoices in the truth. (I Corinthians 13).
Remember, Jesus fulfilled his destiny even though at one point his mother and brothers thought he was crazy. (Mark 3:21). Jesus suffers rejection and disapproval every day. Part of being an adult around your parents is to stand up for what is right, regardless of their response.
I have worked with many families whose parents had a lot of faults but did the best they could. I have worked with a few families where parents crossed the line from dysfunctional to evil. In these cases it may be necessary to cut off all contact. Jesus spoke harshly against evil and in Matthew 18:6 Jesus says;
“If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a large millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned at the bottom of the sea.”
Personally, it took me (Kay) two years to work up the courage to be honest and have an adult voice around my Dad. I was 34 at the time. It didn’t change our relationship, but it changed me.

Blessings to you!