I’ve gotten quite a few questions over the past couple of weeks and I’ve tried to answer some of them individually, but I’m going to answer some of the questions generally and hopefully help as many people as possible.
I get this question in similar format all the time. Many times, the person asking the question has been in a relationship for quite some time. They believe things are alright and suddenly their partner leaves or kicks them out.
I understand this can be devastating, especially if you didn't think things were THAT bad. Now usually the person writing the question wants to know how they can get their partner back.
Sometimes the person writing the question can look back and realize this partner had never been who they needed in their life. They may even feel their partner really wasn’t capable of the depth of relationship they wanted. But sometimes, they still want them back.
I'm sorry to disappoint, but I've never said I can make someone come back to a relationship! I’ve never been able to force another person to do anything. The only control any of us have is over ourselves. So, if your partner is done with the relationship, I can't tell you how to force them back. If you think there’s still hope and there’s some communication with your partner, there might be room for something to change.
The first thing I advise if you’re in the wanting them back camp: Ask yourself, do I really? Do I really want them back? People will say their partner was emotionally abusive, cheating, lying, emotionally distanced, etc. …..WHAT is it you want to continue?
Why do you want this to continue? Are you afraid of failure? Do you still have some love in your heart for this person? At some point, you have to accept that your partner isn’t going to be what or who you want them to be and that’s ok. Most of our angst in the world is because we want something to be different than it is. There've been times in my relationship when I thought I couldn’t take how it was. I felt miserable, unseen and unheard.
What kept me here? When I rationally looked at my relationship, it wasn’t that my husband was mean or intentionally neglectful, I just wasn’t happy about what I was getting. I decided to more clearly communicate those things and guess what, things got better. If you’re anything like me, the tiniest bit of effort keeps me engaged. So, it was enough for it to make sense for me to stay. And I’m glad I did.
Now if he'd been a liar or cruel, etc....I’d probably have made a different decision.
We all have to decide these things for ourselves, but it’s really more about YOU. If you’re being treated disrespectfully, why do you subject yourself to this?
Likewise, if your partner has left you, have you treated them disrespectfully? Did they get to the point, they could not tolerate it? I’m not saying this is the case and I’m not trying to kick you when you’re down, but if a relationship has failed, it’s part of our self-growth to learn what we can from it.
So more rarely, someone reports their relationship ended, they thought they were both totally committed and suddenly, their partner ended it. Most of the time, there were signs if you look back.
If your partner brings up reasons for their ending the relationship, you have to honest with yourself. Did they bring these issues up with you? Did you not take them seriously? Did you not realize how important it was to them? Maybe you can take some responsibility for that.
I believe it’s all our responsibility though to communicate our wants/needs/desires to our partners in the best way we can and to make sure they understand how important these things are to us. The kicker to this is: Your partner has the right to respond or not to these requests. You cannot force your partner to do what you want them to or to not do what you don’t want them to do.
Now you would hope your partner wants to contribute to your happiness (at least I do!) so they would be willing to change things within reason.
Recently, I was walking around the house in my slippers. They were floppy slippers and when I walked around the house in them, they made a fwap, fwap, fwap noise on the floor. My husband said, "Those slippers are driving me crazy. Would you please get rid of them?" I said, "Of course." I threw them away and went to Wal Mart for a new and different pair. It was one small way that I could meet a need. Now that wasn't earth shattering, but how many times has your partner made a request and you resisted just to "fight for your right"? I could have told him, "No, get over it. You don't like them that's your problem. I want to keep my slippers." And I can tell you, at some time in my life, I might have reacted that way. His happiness was worth more than my slippers.
Now if he had asked me to throw out my yoga pants, it probably would have been a different story!
Your responsibility in the situation is to decide for yourself if you can live with it. As an example, if I had a partner who spent money irresponsibly, I would ask him to get it under control. I’d try to get his buy in to a budget, cut up credit cards, whatever I thought might help.
If he refused, I’d have to determine how important it was to me. If he’s going to continue to spend recklessly, it could very negatively impact me. Now if that’s not so bad to me, I might just continue to be annoyed at his behavior and move one. If that’s unacceptable to me, I have some decisions to make.
Can I separate my financial wellbeing from his? I need to find out if I’m liable for his overspending. If so, I might take measures to protect myself. I might even have to leave the relationship.
You see all those responses are up to me. I don’t have to make him change to protect myself. My responsibility is to clearly articulate what I want/need or desire and how important it is to me. It’s up to him to change if he sees fit.
I know that can be hard to accept just allowing them to continue to do behavior you consider harmful. The truth is though we’re all people of free will and we are not truly capable of changing another person.
Usually when you get to this stage of giving ultimatums, there’s a fair amount of pain and anger involved. When we’re in those painful emotional places, it drives us to act in desperate manners. We may be making our requests by screaming, crying and berating. This behavior on our parts does not improve our communication. It actually makes it harder for our partner to listen to our actual concerns. When we let our negative emotions drive our actions, we actually get more of what we don’t want. So, pulling back on our instinctual reactions can help us be more understood.
I understand how difficult this is and at times, relationships are too far entrenched in this negative behavior cycle and it’s impossible to get it out. In those cases, a relationship may end.
Another situation that occurs pretty frequently is a partner is having an affair and believes they are in love with the affair partner. There is a biological basis for this so those feelings may be real. I’ve talked about that a lot so I’m not going into it here.
Affairs are secretive by nature, forbidden fruit so to speak. They may see in the affair partner things they don’t see in you or things they used to see in you. The problem with this is, bringing an affair into the light, shows some of the flaws as well. It’s entirely possible the affair will be over as soon as this happens. You staying present and open to that possibility could save your relationship in the end.
The more you show yourself to be clingy/a bitch/nagging/controlling whatever description they have of you, the more you reinforce their skewed view of reality. If you really want your relationship to survive this, you must keep the walls down.
It’s perfectly acceptable for you not to remain open to continue the relationship as well. No one would blame you, it’s easy to leave, it’s much more difficult to stay and stick with the feelings that are going to come up. If you’re trying to rebuild after an affair, it really does pay to get professional help.
It is always your responsibility to communicate what you don’t like (and what you do like) clearly and if it’s a deal breaker, communicate that too!
Any situations you don’t like, you have a responsibility in them. You can accept or not accept the situation and probably a whole slew of other options as well. We very well may not like the options, but that’s trying to make reality different than it is isn’t it?
So, in summary,
1. Stop trying to control partner
2. Take responsibility for your part in the situation
3. Decide if it’s worth it, or are you wanting it to be different than it is?
4. Don’t let your feelings run the show.
If you need some help in improving your communication, check out my new course here.
As always, hope this helps and let me know how it’s going!
While you may believe you’re doing something to attract the wrong guy, that may not be the biggest part of the equation. Do you do different behaviors when you attract a good guy vs. when you attract a bad guy? Probably not. You’re probably presenting yourself in as attractive a manner as you see fit and then attraction happens.
What I mean is, attraction is an emotional response. I don’t believe we can control our emotions, but we can take 100% responsibility for what we do with those emotions. Just because I want a brownie, doesn’t mean I have to eat the brownie! That brownie might look good, smell good and promise to taste good, but I can still choose to walk away.
So my question back to this person is why are you giving the wrong guy a chance to date you? There are certain characteristics that may indicate “wrong guy” status. Too often, we’re swept up in that attraction and those warning signs aren’t strong enough to get our attention. Think about the last “wrong guy”. What was the first sign you were in a relationship with the wrong person? Be honest. It was likely a long time before the last straw showed up.
Why did you continue to remain in the relationship? You ought to answer this question before you take another step towards getting into a relationship again. Do you just want to be with someone so badly you tolerate things that might not contribute to your happiness in the long term?
Learning your own insecurity that caused you to stay with a bad partner is imperative to making a better decision next time. Choosing a partner is definitely a choice! Do you have any idea how many people you’ll be attracted to in your lifetime? You can’t possibly be in a relationship with all of them!
What’s your criteria for a “good guy”? If you’re always attracted to a pretty face, how’s that working for you? Maybe you need to know what deeper characteristics you want and look for those.
Everyone has the potential to be with “good” or “bad” partners. The difference is when we’re clear about what we won’t tolerate, we don’t stay with the bad partners for long. We don’t give them chances over and over. We acknowledge what they show us and we CHOOSE to move on.
We all teach people how to treat us, so when you tolerate treatment that you don’t like, you’re teaching your partner that it’s ok. Now you may complain about it or beg them to change, but bottom line, you’re allowing it. You have to set a firm boundary and then your partner can decide if they want to operate within that boundary or not. They have 100% ownership of that decision. The decision you have 100% ownership of is are you going to stay and tolerate it?
Seeing warning signs and ignoring them in hopes that he’ll change, is you fooling yourself. Learn to trust yourself, see the red flags and then CHOOSE.
There’s plenty of people who are good people with some really crappy flaws. The law of attraction states that we find what we’re looking for even though we might not always see it right away. Start looking for the things you DO want in a partner. You’ll find that too!
Loving and respecting yourself means you live in integrity with your wants, needs and desires. Putting your attention on this will ensure that you only stick with a partner who values you as well. Sure, ending a relationship can be painful. But compromising yourself is more painful.
If you want to increase your self awareness, check out my self coaching course here. It will help you get in touch with what you really want out of a relationship and create a relationship you love!
Only good for you!
The question I want you to consider today is how good are you at listening? Do you really hear your partner? Most of us are pretty good at listening until we hear something we don’t like. Then we stop listening and begin to mentally draft our response. Learning to listen well is a terrific Winning behavior in a relationship. I’m going to walk through a process with you for speaking and listening and hopefully, you’ll give it a try with your partner.
In every communication, there’re two roles to play. One person is the speaker and one (or more) person is the listener. We communicate in multiple ways, with words, gestures, tone and body language. In fact, all behavior is communication. There is no NOT communicating. It’s impossible not to communicate something to the person we’re with.
Unfortunately, often the message received is not the message sent! If the first thing out of your mouth makes your partner defensive, your communication has failed. If the goal is for your partner to hear what you’re saying, you’ve got to be more aware of your own communicating behaviors. Remember that you can only control your behaviors, so presenting information in a way that it will be received is YOUR responsibility.
Now I always think it’s best to have a plan when you’re not sure about something. It’s also great to give yourself structure when there’s something that’s emotionally charged. You don’t want all those feels to take over your communication. My favorite structure for communication is from Imago Therapy.
Structure can feel awkward at first. But believe me, it helps you take that necessary pause to consider your communication. If it helps, isn’t it worth feeling a bit awkward? So this is how it goes:
The speaker’s responsibility is first to “make an appointment”. This isn’t necessarily a formal appointment. It could be just asking, “Is this a good time to talk to you?” How many conversations have gone down the tubes because one of the parties was tired or hungry or in the middle of their favorite TV show? So step 1 of successful communication is ensuring it’s a good time to talk. This may seem silly, but isn’t that the ultimate in respect?
What do you do if your partner says, “No?” This is a request, not a demand (ever notice most of us don’t do so well with demands?). A request can be declined without consequence. So a “no” doesn’t mean you stomp off and slam the bedroom door. It doesn’t mean you take it as a rejection and blow up. It also doesn’t mean your partner can avoid the conversation forever. If there is a no, ask when there might be a better time. Set an appointment.
Step 2 for the speaker is to state what you want to talk about using nonviolent language. Focus on your feelings and don’t tell your partner’s story. Things to stay away from are “you never”, “you always” and anything insulting. Generally it’s a good idea to stay away from the word “you” altogether. Remember writing things out is a great way to practice! I always suggest my couples do this at least a few times to get a feel for it. You will catch on much quicker than you think.
Step 3 for the speaker is to not trigger your partner’s defenses. This means your words cannot be critical or accusatory. Your words should not be sarcastic, or delivered with a contemptuous tone. You will have to carefully select your words. It’s a good idea to practice the delivery looking at yourself in a mirror. You can see so much in your expression that you’re mostly unaware of when you look in a mirror.
Remember this is growth, so expect pain!
Step 4 for the speaker is to stay on topic. You can’t solve every issue with one conversation. Your partner also doesn’t need a full accounting of every ill you feel they’ve done you. If you tend to be a kitchen sinker, time for a behavior change! Learn how to be really effective at this and you can resolve issues, but only one at a time. As your confidence builds you’ll have success, and you’ll be more relaxed with each other. Then you’ll find this much easier!
Step 5 for the speaker is to maximize agreement. Every few sentences, you want to gain agreement from your partner. Make sure they are comprehending what you said by having them mirror it back to you. This helps catch misunderstandings early on. Remember most of us listen until we hear something we don’t like, then the listening stops. Frequent checking in keeps both of you in the moment and focusing on the message being delivered.
The last step for the speaker is to thank your partner for listening.
OK, did you think that was challenging? You might not think so, but it really is. If you think that was tough, read on for the rules for the listener.
Rule number 1: Listen only. No speaking except to mirror agreement/understanding. Don’t interrupt. If you feel something rising up in you that wants to retort, focus on the words your partner is saying. Listening without reacting doesn’t mean you agree or give up your right to respond.
Do you ever watch Judge Judy? Sometimes they have a case there between people who were in a relationship that’s now gone bad. One person starts talking and the other cannot control themselves, they speak out and interrupt. Judge Judy jumps in and says, “Be quiet or you’ll be out of my courtroom”. You can laugh about that and shake your head, but how often do we do the same thing to our partner? The only problem is we don’t have Judge Judy to intervene, so our partner has to fight for their right to be heard. Pretend you have Judge Judy sitting in front of you.
The second rule for the listener is to mirror back what was heard. You do this by saying, “What I heard you say was…..” You can repeat exactly what your partner said or you can paraphrase, but don’t add your own spin to it. You’re not allowed to introduce your own thoughts to the discussion. You’re only allowed to ask two questions, one is, “Did I get that right?”
The other question is the third rule for listeners. The question here is “Is there more?” You then allow your partner to say more about the issue if they have more.
You repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 for as long as your partner needs to speak. If they are sticking to the one topic rule, then it shouldn’t take more than one or two times asking that question to get to the end. The speaker and the listener should agree that they are both understanding (doesn’t mean agreeing necessarily) the issue from the speaker’s perspective at this point.
When the speaker is done rule 4 is to summarize. After summarizing, make sure you got it all, by asking, did I get it all? If not, go back in for some clarification. The speaker and the listener should again agree that they both understand.
The fifth rule for the listener is to validate with empathy. Validation does not equate to agreement. Validation means if you really heard your partner, you can begin to see their perspective. It might be different from yours. You might demonstrate this by saying, “I can see why you’d feel that way because…..”; Or, “I can see why you’d react in that way........” Developing empathy and validating your partner shows respect for their feelings. It doesn’t mean you think they are right or wrong.
And the last rule for the listener is to thank their partner for sharing.
Are you wondering how you can use this if you’re playing alone? The same way it’s outlined here. If you approach or respond to your partner in this way, do you think your discussions are going to go better? I’m betting they will. Remember, behind every complaint is a deep personal need. That goes for both you and your partner.
Let me show you this in action.
Speaker(S): Is this a good time to talk?
S: I’d like to share my feelings about our laundry challenges, OK?
S: I believe I work hard, just like you, and we should both share household chores. You know what I mean?
L: You and I both work hard and you want us both to work together at home too. Did I get that right?
L: Is there more?
S: Yes. I’d like for us to come to an agreement on how we get our laundry chores completed. It seems that it never gets DONE. You know what I mean?
L: You’d like for us to agree on some sort of end point for getting the laundry done. Did I get that right?
L: Is there more?
S: Yes, I know it never really gets done, but I really get frustrated when I gather everything up and get it washed and then laundry comes from somewhere and needs to be done urgently. You know what I mean?
L: You are bothered when you think the job is done and then find it’s not. Did I get that right?
L: Is there more?
S: Yes. I think the problem is having more than one place where dirty laundry is held. I’d like to suggest we establish a formal place, or two, that is where dirty laundry stays until wash time. Then I can get it all done and not have to worry about being pressured to get that urgent thing washed. You understand what I’m saying?
L: I think so. You’d like to have a couple of laundry holding areas so you can always locate the clothes that need to be done. Then you aren’t stressed out because there’s that one more load that you didn’t know about. Did I get that right?
L: Is there more?
S: Just that I’d like to agree on those holding areas now and agree to use them exclusively. I can get a hamper for the spare room where you change if you’ll agree to put your uniforms in there every day. Does that make sense?
L: Yes. You want all the laundry in that hamper or in the bathroom hamper and you’d like me to ensure my uniforms go in one of those places. Did I get that right?
L: Is there more?
S: Yes. But first, is that agreeable?
L: Yes, I have no problem with that.
S: OK. It seems that I’m taking on the responsibility of getting the urgent laundry done now. I don’t think that’s how it should be. If the hamper idea doesn’t work, I’m relinquishing responsibility of washing suddenly located uniforms. You know what I mean?
L: You feel like you shouldn’t have to scramble to do my uniform if I don’t get it into the hamper. Did I get that right?
S: Not exactly. I’m saying, you have to own that.
L: OK, so you’d like for me to do my own urgent laundry rather than you doing it. Did I get that right?
L: Is there more?
S: No, that’s it. I’d just like to know if you’re in agreement or do we need to make another plan?
L: No, I’m really fine with that. It stresses me out to when I find my dirty uniform so if it relieves both of us of that, I can be diligent about putting it in the hamper.
S: Thanks for listening.
L: Thanks for sharing.
OK, that’s a lot isn’t it? But how many silly arguments have been born out of a similar issue???? Many, many, many, at least in my house!
Are you resisting the formal structure of this script? Remember, your best attempts at communication have gotten you where you are. It’s time to look at some more productive behaviors. Having a structure for communication makes it a safe place for both you and your partner. I promise you, if your relationship is going to change, you’re going to have change. Adopt winning behaviors, your relationship will improve.
Practice Time: Make a commitment to speak or listen according to this script for the next two weeks. Use the script for either every day for the next two weeks. Follow the script even if your partner isn’t playing with you. Feast on your success and I’m confident you’ll see some change in your relationship.
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I'm listening ;-),
Some qualities of relationships which often are present when affairs occur are high conflict, low emotional warmth, neglect of pleasure, and discomfort with emotional closeness by one partner.
How can you use this information to strengthen your relationship? Building and reinforcing the qualities indicated above can be a great starting point. Using the embedded worksheet, you can identify areas where attention is needed.
The lowest numbers indicated by either partner will direct your focus. For instance, if engagement is low for one partner, it may be helpful to learn some healthier means of addressing conflict. If excitement is low for the other spouse, perhaps they need to take some risks.
Next: How do you know what to do about it? Agree on some concrete actions to work on. In our above example of engagement, determine what each partner pictures as “engagement”. Maybe one sees that as taking long walks holding hands and discussing issues. Maybe the other partner sees that as giving each other a kiss good bye every time they part. Everyone gets to have their own definition which means they are all valid!!
Here’s the kicker……trade rating scales with each other. After all, the goal is each partner’s ratings will move higher and higher. What can each improve on that will lead to higher relationship satisfaction for their partner? Even small changes can lead to relationship improvements. (You do get credit for effort when you’re working on your relationship.)
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Q-Can you fall for someone without actually meeting them face to face?
A-Absolutely! All you have to do is ask 5 of the couples you know and I bet at least one will have met online. People who meet this way often have the luxury of being themselves without the normal awkwardness that comes with getting to know someone in person. That depends on the people involved really being themselves though!
There's also always the possibility that there won't actually be chemistry when you meet in person so I would hesitate before too much commitment.
Becoming emotionally intimate with the right someone is very rewarding! Sometimes that can be easier online or indirectly than in person. Go for it!
Best of Luck!
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We are biologically designed to seek belonging, both to communities and to other people. The stronger and more secure that sense of belonging, the more confident we are taking other risks in life.
From our early years, we learn to behave so we’re accepted by our peers and families. Anyone who’s experienced the pain of being bullied or ostracized from their peers knows that it can shake your confidence.
One benefit of being in a committed relationship is the feeling of a solid foundation with our partner. From this foundation, we can face greater risks of “not belonging” out in the world.
Our level of self-doubt is based on this feeling of belonging. As children, the more our families created that attachment, the more confidence we tapped into. Research shows our level of self confidence increases as our sense of belonging with our partner increases. This promotes greater personal and family functioning as the basic anxiety of belonging moves out of the forefront.
Attachment security sets us up to take risks in other areas of our lives. We see things more rationally, aren’t as needy of approval. For example: That old saying, “behind every successful man is a good woman” illustrates this for us. Feeling that belonging at home allows work life to be more effective. When we KNOW we belong, it’s easier to risk rejection from other arenas.
Exploring our self-doubt both individually and with our partner helps us learn. We begin to recognize how self-doubt causes us to behave in less than productive ways. Our partner begins to understand how to nurture our sense of belonging. And, if you’re lucky, vice versa.
Is there an area of self-doubt that you struggle with? Can you make the link to your sense of belonging? Take time to work this out by asking a series of 5 Why questions. (Search this site if you don’t know what that is.)
Share any insight below in the comments.
Together with you,
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