I stub my toe I give a little yelp, or a big yelp depending on the stub. It’s my natural reaction and there’s not much space to reasoning about that. Or is there? In a lecture hall where a hundred attendees are listening to a speaker and I stub my toe, I’m probably not going to yelp! Somehow, the situation interrupts my natural reaction and I can choose a more appropriate response.
Many relationship interactions are the same. We react to discomfort and fail to censor our reactions. My husband tells me he doesn’t like my haircut and I snap at him followed up by the cold shoulder all because I can’t handle the discomfort his “criticism” caused me.
The problem with reactions is they rarely make a situation better and in most cases, really mess it up. It represents the paradox of emotions in that what we want, we make less likely because of how our emotions drive our behavior. It can be really worthwhile to spend some time in discomfort learning about yourself and responding in more effective ways.
Take my example: my husband says he doesn’t like my haircut. I feel upset, uncomfortable, but I catch myself and rather than reacting, I explore why I’m having such a strong feeling.
So, my thoughts might run like this: Who does he think he is? I like this haircut! His haircut really sucks. (You might agree, this isn’t helpful) You might employ the Five Whys here. Why am I feeling so upset? Because his comment feels like criticism. Why do I have a problem with his criticism? Because I want him to think I look nice. Why do I want him to think I look nice? Because I want him to love and accept me. Why do I want him to love and accept me? Because if he doesn’t, he might not want to stay together. That’s only four whys, but I’m starting to get a much clearer idea of why his comment bothers me. My insecurity is triggered a bit and that fear fuels my anger. Of course the rational part of my brain understands this is ridiculous. Armed with that understanding I can now respond very differently. This process requires spending a time in discomfort (that’s how growth occurs). How much discomfort is there when you snap and withdraw? I’m betting MORE than my way!
So Practice Time! Think about the last time you had a strong reaction to something. Can you allow yourself to sit with that memory and analyze where it came from? Spend some time with the Five Whys to lead you to a deeper sense of where your fear or pain lies. This is excellent material to share with your partner if you can.
Let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear from you. Comment or email me privately at Allison@allisonvelez.com
Q-I think of myself as an optimist, but my wife seems to be a pessimist. I love my wife, but it feels like she is always complaining about something, and it’s starting to bother me. In a way, I think she is trying to express her feelings. I want to support her, but I’m not sure how.
A-You’re right, she’s trying to express herself. John Gottman says a complaint is an unmet desire expressed.
That being said, complaining is a habitual behavior most of the time. Try having a compassionate, supportive conversation with her about how it bothers you. It probably bothers you because you want to help correct whatever’s going on. Don’t start off telling her how wrong she is to communicate in that way. Try to make her feel understood and she won’t be defensive.
She may also have realized this is a problem and be open to changing this about herself. If she isn’t, don’t waste your time coercing her. Don’t respond to the complaining behavior, but fully engage when she’s being positive.
I, too, sometimes complain, and my husband just abruptly changes the subject! I’ll be going on about something and he’ll say, “Man, look how pretty the sky is today!” It’s kind of a joke between us now and we’ll just both laugh.
I assume from your question that she is not complaining about YOU specifically. If she is, there’s an opportunity for you to decide if there’s something you need to work on. If not, approach this as a team in trying to reduce a bad habit.
f she is depressed, seek professional help.
Best of luck, hope this helps!
As a 20+ year veteran of marriage and family counseling, I have often been dumbfounded at how a previously loving couple will be cruel to each other. Often they will intentionally insult, disrespect, and otherwise belittle each other. Although we can assume that most relationships begin with a level of love, hope and commitment that convinces the couple that they want to be together for the forseeable
future, several years later they cannot carry on a civil conversation.
Often by the time a couple seeks counseling the relationship is doomed to fail. For this reason counseling couples is often frustrating and tedious work. I have often said I wish I could be with my patients all day to coach them through their interactions. Many of the things I coach people on are repetitive and need to be applied on a daily basis rather than one hour a week in my office.
Winning Your Relationship Game means you reach a level of happiness they’ve only dreamed of or haven’t felt in a long time. Let me begin by telling you what no one can help you do. No one can tell you how to convince your partner that they are wrong and you are right. No one will excuse your behavior because of what your partner is or isn’t doing. If you’re looking for a way to change others, good luck! Chances are very good that there are some things that you can change that will make a positive difference in your relationship anyway.
Relationships rest on 3 foundational pillars of Compassion, Communication and Commitment. You must have all 3 for your relationship to remain stable. A shaky relationship will have weaknesses in one or more areas. Development in all 3 areas will grow the closeness and happiness of the relationship. Your relationship will be a winning one.
My philosophy is also one of acknowledging the role of attachment. Insecure attachment fears seem to be at the bottom of every conflict within a relationship. If we can own that our responsibility is to make our partners feel securely attached, our relationships will be amazing!
Things that impact relationships are issues of addictions, mental illness, domestic violence, or infidelity. These introduce irrationality into any situation. It’s difficult to work with someone who does not think in a rational manner. Please get professional help if you need intervention which focuses specifically on those areas. If you’re in an unsafe situation, I urge you to get outside help immediately.
There are 3 areas of our reality that has to be examined. Those are areas of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. While thoughts and feelings are important, behaviors are what wins or loses in relationships. Sometimes, changing behaviors is dependent on addressing the thoughts and feelings behind them. Don’t be afraid, I think you’ll find this simple, but maybe not easy.
All things in life occur in cycles. Relationships are no different. Closeness occurs and distance occurs. There’s the falling in love part and then there’s the settling in part. Each change in stage represents a new set of rules for your relationship. Our actions during and reactions to these times create a stronger or weaker relationship. Sometimes we read difficult times as the end of a relationship, but it may just be a natural stage of moving closer.
I also see a relationship as a system. This system cannot change in one area and be unchanged in another. Therefore any change you make will impact the relationship. So, CAN you change your relationship? Yes. And you should if you’re not happy with it now.
Love and Be Lovely!
This seems to be especially true with many women who have suffered emotional wounds in childhood or in other relationships. They carry with them the belief they must perform, interact, or behave in a way that pleases their partner in a relationship. Certainly, this happens for men as well.
When we sacrifice our own needs in order to gain approval or acceptance, we cannot become our true self. Sometimes, this can be effective for a while, but eventually leads to burnout in the relationship.
If you do not love and care for yourself, no one on earth will ever be able to love you enough to fill that void. Eventually that inner being yearning to get their needs met, will let itself be heard. Its voice is often manifested in destructive behaviors. These can be directed towards the relationship or the self.
Reflect upon how you treat and speak to yourself. Great spiritual guidance states, “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” Would your neighbors be happy if you treated them like you treat yourself?
Start to recognize the words you speak to yourself. Are they words you’d speak to a friend? What was the last special thing you did for yourself? Make a commitment now to treat yourself well once per day. Your relationship will benefit; you will benefit.
This special thing can be simple, cheap and easy. One thing I do between every session, is rub a nice, organic lotion on my hands. It’s a ritual that reminds me to care for myself and prepares me for the work I do with couples every day.
I love this great quote by Siddhartha Gautama, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” A version is even on the back of my business card:
This site is a collection of articles designed to help you and your partner build a more fulfilling relationship. If you like what you read here and would like to go deeper, there's more resources here. Please email me if you have questions. I'll send you my 5 favorite relationship tips, just sign up here. Go over to the forum and start a conversation.
If you practice continuous improvement (and I think you should!), then you have the ability to turn this around slowly but surely. If the truth is-I'm a size 14, or I'm so unhappy I could cry, or I'm so angry, I could scream-then doesn't it serve your relationship with yourself best to be honest about how you feel?
In the quest for personal improvement, you can shift to a statement that is still true, but less emotionally charged. So instead of I'm a size 14, you say, "Right now, I'm a size 14 and I'm making healthy choices (if you are!) to change that."
Instead of I'm so unhappy I could cry, try "I'm very unhappy at this moment and I'll try to smile instead of cry."
Instead of I'm so angry I could scream, try "I'm very upset right now and another feeling will be along soon."
Each of these corrections subtly changes the energy of the statement. It doesn't make it any less true, just less harsh.
Play around with this. Employ that deep, inner knowing we all have. If you go too far with your correction, your gut will tell you so. It won't feel right. When you have it just right, you will know.
Let me explain further: Instead of saying I'm so unhappy I could cry, you might start with the opposite-I'm so happy I could dance and sing. Right away, you know this isn't right. Bring it down a bit: I'm so happy I could just smile. Yes? No? Try, I'm unhappy and I'll laugh anyway. Closer? Try this: I'm unhappy and I'll smile instead of cry. This might finally feel "right" or "true". Less emotional charge, so small improvement.
Practice truth telling with yourself. The more honest you can be, the better trust and confidence you'll have in YOU! That works better than any positive affirmation in the world!
If you have questions, I want to help. Email me, post in the forum, or check out my packages. I'll send you my five favorite relationship tips if you go here.
Most relationships begin with a high level of love, hope and commitment, a promise of joys to come. Convinced they will spend the rest of their lives together; several years later a civil conversation does not exist.
Why? What happens to erode the dreams after a few years? Relationships occur in cycles as everything in nature. Periods of closeness alternate with periods of distance. Growth is an expanding process, painful by its very nature. Research confirms that fighting is a sign of health in relationships. The process of fighting is the part that is detrimental or constructive.
Positive communication can improve a relationship and even breathe new life into a relationship that is considered beyond repair. Learning to communicate in a way that is direct, honest and non-judgmental will make even a break up more bearable!
I know your partner definitely needs to learn this! BUT the only person in the world you truly control is yourself. If you truly deal with your own behavior, I’m sure you will be kept busy! A commitment to change takes effort, introspection and willingness. The reward can be a level of intimacy only previously dreamed of.
This site is a collection of articles designed to help you and your partner build a more fulfilling relationship. If you like what you read here and would like to go deeper, try a package. Email me a question or connect over at the forum. Connect to the relationship of your dreams.
John Gottman is the nation’s leading relationship researcher, spending the past 40 years intimately studying couples, their interactions and the long term success of their relationships. The great thing about this type of science is we can use it to guide beahviors and replicate the results of the studies.
The ratio of 5:1 was identified spontaneously through Gottman’s research and it can help you improve your own relationship quite easily. This may seem a little daunting at first.....and it can be quite daunting.
Do you notice a significant number of negative interactions in your relationship? Then I urge you to play this little game right away.
This is a competition with yourself. Don't focus on what your partner does or doesn't do. I know they all need to change. You've got enough to keep up with yourself though, I promise you! So, if you're up for it, this is how you play:
When you say something mean to your partner, say 5 nice things [one negative=5 positives]. If you leave your socks on the floor, do 5 tasks that your partner usually does. Some suggestions for positive actions are listed below.
Once you know, you can't un-know.
Notice when the negative interactions happen. It doesn't matter if they deserved it. It doesn't matter if they did something to you first. If you recognize there is a repair to be made for each of your negative interactions, you'll be less prone to act or speak without thinking.
Play of the Day: Use the magic ratio for one day. This one 'play' is a game changer! Let's talk about the differences it makes for you. Come on over to the forum and chat it up.
If you want more, sign up for free updates and my favorite relationship tips. You can find more articles about compassion over here. If you need more personal coaching, I've got packages for you here. You can always email me, ask a question and I'll answer it on the forum.
Suggestions for positive interactions:
1. Do a load of laundry if you're not the one who usually does it.
2. Tell your partner something you're proud of about them.
3. Vacuum the carpet if you're not the one who usually does it.
4. Walk by your partner and give them a quick hug around the shoulders.
5. Pick up your partner's favorite candy bar and bring it home.
6. Take the kids to the park if you're not the primary caregiver.
7. Clean the toilet if you're not the one that usually does it.
8. Bring your partner a cup of coffee/beer/glass of wine.
9. Text your partner just to say I love you.
10. Plan a dinner or movie date and let your partner know.
11. Tell your partner something you appreciate about them.
12. Have sex when your partner wants to.
13. Make your partner's favorite dish.
14. Bring your partner a flower out of the garden (or the neighbor's).
15. Tell your partner what made you fall in love with them.
16. Compliment one of your partner's special abilities.
17. Tell 5 of your friends something you think is special about your partner.
18. Write a sweet or funny note to your partner and hide it somewhere they will find it.
19. If you have children, tell them something you like about your partner.
20. Give your partner a 6 second kiss.
21. Hold your partner's hand while they are talking to you.
22. Stop your partner and look into their eyes for 5 seconds.
23. Stop what you're doing and just listen to your partner attentively.
24. Give your partner oral sex.
25. Take your partner's car to be detailed.
26. Ask your partner to take a walk with you after dinner.
27. Offer to help with the dishes if you don't usually do them.
28. Ask your partner an intimacy building question and then shut up.
29. Plant a tree in your partner's honor.
30. Ask your partner if there's anything you can do for them.
31. Weed the garden if you don't usually do it.
32. Watch your spouse's favorite TV show with them.
33. Give your spouse a shoulder/foot/hand massage.
34. When you or your spouse come home, go right away to your partner and give them a hug and a kiss.
35. Do a radio dedication during a time your partner will be listening.
36. Gas your partner's car up.
37. Buy them an Amazon (or other store) gift card.
Enjoy being positive with each other!
Usually that drive tells us that we are gaining much of our self worth by being a “good boy or girl”. This is not an objectionable goal, but when we allow our boundaries to be violated to serve others, we’re doing the whole world a disservice.
If you’re doing things for other people that make you feel resentful, reconsider how you could handle it. For instance, if you always wake your teenager up in the morning and it turns into an argument every day, you’re probably not feeling very thrilled about that. Stop doing it. Buy the kid a clock.
Make sure they know it’s their responsibility from now on. Let it go. Doesn’t that feel good?
If you can’t start there, start with something smaller. Anything that you are doing strictly for someone else, ask yourself, do I find joy in doing this? If the answer is no, then look for an alternative. Disappoint them. Let them know you won’t be doing that anymore. Let me know how it goes over in the forum.
This site is a collection of articles designed to help you and your partner build a more fulfilling relationship. If you don't find what you need, email me. If you want five of my favorite relationship tips, sign up here. There's also some more in depth resources here.
Hope that helps,