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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1. It’s ALL about you!
Relationships are our biggest teachers. Often they are our first voluntary “belonging” type relationships. This makes them unequaled in highlighting our weaknesses. When our belonging gets shaken, a primal evolutionary fear emerges. It pushes us to action which our history tells us will solve the problem, soothe the fear. Often, this action brings us exactly the opposite of what we want.
We only have control over one person…..that’s ourselves. Focusing your energy and attention on what your partner needs to change is very inefficient. You’ve got to stay focused on the things you need to change. A relationship is a system and when you alter one part of a system, the whole thing changes. This is great news because that means you can create positive change in yourself and it will impact your relationship.
2. You will have to change.
That’s the sad truth. You can’t count on your partner changing. Nothing’s going to change unless you do. What do you want to change? Change behaviors that are not contributing to the health of your relationship. We all have them.
Changing means you’re going to have to behave in different ways than you currently do. Unfortunately, most of our behaviors are automatic. Just like changing any habit, you’ll have to put in effort to remember to change. The good news is, after you’ve established a new habit, it gets a lot easier.
3. You have to do it.
You’ll have to spend time learning and practicing new behaviors. That implies a time commitment as well as consistency and persistence. Penciling in some reading time on Tuesday afternoons won’t cut it. Daily practice, every day, even when you feel that it’s not working is the definition of consistency and persistence. Harsh reality is, change doesn’t happen without some effort. If you’re not willing to do that, you might not want to improve your relationship as much as you think you do.
Have you proclaimed, “I’m working so hard to make this work.” Or, “I’ll try anything to make this relationship better.” Then I don’t care if you think it’s silly or hard. You’ll do anything, right? If that’s true, then do it.
Practice Time: Are you willing to be the change agent in your relationship? Can you devote time and attention to identifying and changing your own behaviors? Are you willing to be consistent and persistent with that attention for at least 90 days before giving it up?
If so, you may well master your Relationship Game!
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A-This is a BIG topic! The best way is to manage them is together with agreement on how to do that. It rarely happens that way without some negotiation that can get heated.
I’ve seen couples work with every possible configuration: Money together/separate; Bill money split between; One person pays for mortgage, the other utilities; One person gives the other an allowance; etc. I bet every couple I’ve ever worked with does it uniquely!
In my experience, money represents different things to different people. To sort out how to handle money, you need to start there. For example, a wife gets anxious whenever the husband starts buying lots of stuff. She probably looks at money as safety and security. If her husband wants her to feel safe and secure, he needs to respect that.
By the same token, if a husband looks at money as a means to have fun and adventure and that’s an important value to him, a wife needs to also respect that.
Either of these attitudes can be taken to the extreme (as so many things in relationships can) a balance has to be created. Agreement on the low balance of the account, agreement on the amount to go in savings, agreement on entertainment budget. These can be hot button topics, but necessary conversations and negotiations.
I find that when one person handles all the financial matters, it allows the other person to be in a bit of denial about the reality of the situation. That’s not good. Both people need to be involved in at least KNOWING what the situation is and making decisions around.
Most importantly probably, in my opinion, is making an agreement in which both parties feel neither resentful nor taken advantage of. This is easier said than done.
Lastly, I’ll say that financial infidelity has been the end of many relationships. Don’t be dishonest when managing your relationship finances!
As always, start with your future vision and agree on the best means to accomplish in partnership. If you need help, get yourself a marriage therapist.
Best of luck, hope that helps!
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A-You have to decide to.
In every situation there is something you appreciate or be grateful for. For instance, if it's raining, you can be mesmerized by the drops hitting the puddles or be grateful that the plants will have what they need to grow.
Stress hijacks our attention and focuses us on survival. But most situations really aren't that important and we have to recognize that we don't have to allow our thoughts to run away from us, we can control them with some practice.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tells us events and feelings are separate entities. Our thoughts about events are what lead to our feelings about it.
For example, it’s raining. I think, “This sucks! There go my plans for today!” Then I end up feeling disappointed and bad.
I can choose to think different thoughts that lead to different feelings. For example, I can think, “This sucks, and I’m disappointed, but maybe I can find something interesting to do inside today. Yeah, I got that new puzzle! I’m going to work on that today!” I’ve got a whole new feeling coming out of the same situation just by altering my thoughts.
This can take some practice, but I’ve written lots of other articles addressing how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors impact each other. If you feel that you’re just depressed and can’t succeed in changing your thoughts, find a therapist that practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Best of luck,
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There’s a saying that if you don’t care where you’re going any road will take you there.
You want to be deliberate about the road you’re travelling. In order to make lasting change, you have to set a goal. Setting a goal will help you Win Your Relationship Game, but there’s some planning to do first.
Winning Your Relationship Game has a lot to do with habits and behavior change. Many of the lessons are based in research that’s proven to support positive relationships and behavior change. You aren’t going to rely on will power. Anyone who’s had to try to diet knows that will power is very unreliable. You’re going to set goals that allow you to capitalize on motivation.
Your initial goal, I like to call a personal motivation statement. This is where you’d ultimately like to end up. Take just a minute and focus on what change you’d like to see in your relationship. What is it you’re hoping to improve?
Now, go back and look at it again. Does it focus on changing something about your partner? You can’t change anyone’s behavior except your own, so if you thought about something your partner needs to change, think again!!
This is the beginning of your personal motivation statement.
Right now it can be fairly broad. As you go on, it will change, you’ll gain insight and tweak it to fit. Remember, this is the foundation for moving forward so it’s worth some thought.
Having a Personal Motivation Statement is good, but to really ramp up your motivation, you have to know why that Personal Motivation Statement is important. You might be able to tell that I like to play games whenever I can. It makes life more fun.
To clarify a Personal Motivation Statement I like to use a game called “The Five Whys”. The five whys are actually business concepts used to do what’s called root cause analysis. It’s also a really useful tool to help you dig deeper into your thoughts and feelings.
Refer back to your personal motivation statement. You’re going to ask yourself WHY it’s important to you. You’ll get your answer and then you’ll ask again WHY that is important to you. Then you’ll have another answer and you’ll ask WHY that is important? You’ll continue to do this for five cycles. Don’t rush through this. If you are persistent, it will lead to a very clear idea of the value of your personal motivation statement
To give an example:
My Personal Motivation Statement might be: I want to feel closer to my partner.
1. Why is it important to feel closer to my partner? Because closeness feels good.
2. Why is it important to have the good feeling of being close? Because I feel more secure when I’m feeling close.
3. Why is it important to feel more secure? Because feeling more secure reduces my anxiety about belonging in my relationship.
4. Why is it important to have reduced anxiety about belonging? Because then I can be relaxed and really be myself.
5. Why is it important to feel more relaxed and be myself? Because then I feel have a stable foundation for all the other areas of my life.
Just walking through this exercise reveals something deeper about of what is important to me. I know exactly why it’s important for me to be closer to my partner. It’s going to put me on the road of changing the right behaviors creating more closeness with my partner.
That’s the basics of setting a Personal Motivation Statement about your relationship. Having a Personal Motivation Statement to focus on is a habit you can start today. It can be revised as needed, but every day, you want that statement front and center in your awareness. I want you to find such value in focusing on that statement so that by this by the time this program is over, you’ll continue to use it to motivate you to your goals.
Practice time: Take all the time you need to work through this. It should take you a while and it might be frustrating. Don’t rush it.
If you have an answer that just doesn’t seem right, sit with it. Trust yourself. We all have a deep inner knowing, so when it’s your truth, you’ll know.
If you get stuck, send me an email at email@example.com . I would love to hear from you!
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I did a little camping last month and it gave me time to think about all kinds of things and observe nature up close and personal.
I love to take lessons from nature and so this post is going to be about one of the lessons that I took from my time in the woods.
Did you ever notice that nature produces nothing that’s perfect? Everything in nature has some sort of imperfection in its formation or it gets impacted and changed by something that’s in the environment around it. When you look at a forest landscape, it can look so perfect. The leaves are green; there are different textures. And, it looks perfect from a distance. But, when you get up close, you see there are millions of imperfections in the shape of the leaf or the colors of the leaves. They’re usually mottled or maybe even yellowed, and just imperfect in their own perfect way. So, the lesson I take from this is that we can’t expect perfection in anything or anyone for that matter.
We want our relationships to be a reflection of nature. Nature is fluid, changing, growing all the time. Translate this to relationships. We really can’t expect perfection from other people or from ourselves. But, do we really expect that? Don’t we get upset when our partner doesn’t meet our expectations? When we first start to get to know our partner, we notice the beautiful things in them. We notice the things we see as perfection. We notice the color or the motion, the essence of their being. Just like the forest’s perfection from a distance. But, once we get a little closer, we see things a little closer, get to know them a little better, we start to see the flaws. Those flaws inevitably draw our attention away from what we might see as perfect. We might feel like we’ve been betrayed or duped or that we’ve been sold a flawed product when we got together with this person.
There comes a time we just have to back up and pay attention to the imperfect perfection that is everyone and everything in nature. Your perspective really is important isn’t it? Do you think that you’re perfect? Of course you don’t, at least I hope you don’t. Do you think that your partner focuses on your flaws? Do they notice your perfections or imperfections more? If you’re lucky enough to have a partner that doesn’t pay much attention to your flaws, is it possible that somewhere along the line they made a decision about what to pay attention to? If I had a choice, I’d certainly want my partner to focus on my positive qualities vs. my imperfections.
Another element of this perfection versus imperfection dance is how we practice self-compassion. Do you let yourself notice the glorious perfection that you are or do you spend a lot of time focusing on what you see as your imperfections? So, this is a lesson we can take into our self-compassion as well as into our compassion for our partners. We have a choice about where we place our attention, and like all habits, it’s something that has to be developed. That takes motivation and intention to do that. I hope that your motivation is to win in your relationship!
If you remember back to that time when all you saw was the perfection, when you committed to your partner, wasn’t it your intention to honor them? Both their perfections and their imperfections, that is. And, shouldn’t we have the same commitment to ourselves? So, focusing on the areas of perfection versus the imperfection is one of those winning behaviors. And, it’s what you’d like from your partner, too.
So, have you been focusing on the imperfections in your partner? Or in yourself? If you need to do self-work then take this opportunity to look at that. How can you shift that perspective and take in the perfection that is all of us?
Practice Time: Spend just a few minutes jotting down the things that are perfect about your relationship, your partner, or yourself. Get a list of eight or ten things that you love about your relationship, partner or yourself. Now you’re going to leave those notes around somewhere where you’ll come across them several times a day. Maybe on the bathroom counter or in your purse would be a good place. When I want to look at something several times a day, I put it in my appointment book. A lot of people set up reminders on their phone, which is great if you’re into technology. Take a few seconds every time that comes into your awareness and just hold that thought of perfection. For a moment or two, really feel and appreciate that thought fully. A few moments and a few times a day can really help you in this journey you’re on. It can help shift your perspective back to the view that looks perfect rather than the close-up view that shows you all of the imperfections.
And remember, nobody is perfect; nothing in nature is perfect, relationships aren’t supposed to be perfect.
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A-Feelings are just feelings and they're not good or bad, right or wrong. You can feel attracted to someone and not have to have a relationship with them. The same way I can really like chocolate cake, but not have it for dinner every night.
Behaviors do not HAVE to follow feelings, although we usually treat them as one and the same.
If there's a good reason not to be with him, then don't. If he's just different from your normal "type", why not give it a chance? The world is full of unlikely love stories.
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