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!
Children naturally and unashamedly want what they want. And they usually want it when they want it! Most of us got the message along the way, wanting is not good. We should be satisfied with what we have. We shouldn't be selfish. Good girls and boys don't ask for things.
As adults, we have difficulty tapping back into that wanting. So many conflicting messages.
As adults, we know, a rubber toy isn't going to do it. Material things might give us a fleeting moment. We can milk experiences a bit more because they give us memories. But as adults, we want more intangible things.
We want to feel free of pain, physical and emotional. We want to feel close to our partner. We want to time travel backwards and change that last bad decision we made. We want to be free from those panic attacks.
Yes, we still want things. I wish i could drive to Mobile and get these things for these lovely souls I work with. They all deserve it, they've been so good.
Wanting it all,
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A-God, I hope so! Have your parents ever annoyed you? Have you ever annoyed them? Yet you most probably love each other.
Loving someone doesn't mean you never feel other emotions towards them. In fact, loving someone often makes those emotions much more intense.
Try a few things.
Focus on yourself. How can you be more happy and fulfilled within yourself? Do that.
Focus on the things you love and appreciate about your girlfriend. You can never count on another person changing, so see the positives much larger than the negatives.
Evaluate whether you're spending too much time together. We all need a balance of together, others and personal time. Sometimes a relationship can feel exciting and obsessive at first, you set up these patterns of spending all your time together and it isn't sustainable.
Think of the adage, Man cannot live by bread alone. Too much of only one thing, or person, isn't good for us.
Embrace the paradox, Be separately together!
People who start to use alcohol or other substances don’t start out with the plan of becoming addicted. Most people feel that they can handle their level of planned use. Many times, maintaining this level of use is possible.
About 10% of all people who use will become addicted. No one can tell why or when this will occur. Addiction is considered using a disease model most of the time. Once someone crosses the line to addiction, this is a point of no return. Usually treatment is the most useful course of action at this time.
As reviewed in the first part of this article, substance use generally starts as experimentation due to curiosity and usually in a social situation. Tobacco and alcohol are considered “gateway drugs” and if use continues, is usually followed by marijuana use. When substance use first starts, it may be inconsistent, based on social situations usually. If drug use continues, usually with other inhaled or ingested drugs, but can run the spectrum to intravenous drug use among other methods.
The physiological effects of substances are based in the body chemistry. Substances will act on receptors in the brain which control basic functions of the body. These substances create a pleasurable feeling or even a euphoria. This results in an attraction to use of the substance again in search of that same satisfying feeling. This attraction and euphoria pattern repeats itself again and again as the cycle of addiction proceeds.
The next stage of the addiction process is problematic use. This stage is characterized by increased amount and frequency of use. Intoxication is actively sought. The waves of euphoria are followed by intensifying periods of discomfort. During this stage of the addiction process, the individual may begin to experience problems which are related to use. Problems may be in work, school, family, or financial areas of one’s life.
If the consequences of use are not enough to interrupt the cycle of use, it may continue to the dependency stage. When someone has a physical or psychological dependence, they will experience distress when they are unable to use or attempt to discontinue use. Symptoms of dependence include compulsive use, impaired control over the amount or frequency of use, a preoccupation with the rituals of use and/or continued use in spite of adverse consequences.
Early addiction stages may be referenced as a period of “romance” with the substance. Like a special romantic interest, the person may find themselves daydreaming of upcoming planned use of the substance.
Physical dependence usually results as this stage progresses. At this point, euphoria is no longer experienced and use is required for the person to feel normal.
Repercussions of use will continue in the social areas of the user’s life. Within the addictions process, individuals may move from problematic use to abstinence and back over time. Once someone has reached the dependence stage, it is commonly believed that they can never be cured and must maintain abstinence or return to problematic use.
Most professionals feel that once the dependence state is reached, the person will not be able to return to unproblematic use. While many theories of the etiology of addiction exist, we do not know why or how people will become addicted. Most likely, there are multiple factors that contribute to this outcome. These factors include psychological stressors, environmental status, or physiological states.
Again, if you or someone you love is struggling with problematic substance use, reach out for help. Find a local resource or check the SAMHSA website at: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-treatment
Concerned about porn use by you or your partner? This video discusses why porn might be detrimental to your relationship.
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Now, recall the last time you got angry at your partner about something. Was it over the dirty laundry left in the bathroom floor? Now, in the grand scheme of things, that dirty laundry really isn’t’ that big a deal is it? Get curious about what’s really going on. What’s really got you going is the meaning you’ve placed on that situation. So does dirty laundry on the floor even though you’ve asked a million times mean that you’re not being heard? Does it mean that your partner doesn’t care about what’s important to you? Does it mean you feel disrespected? Apply some curiosity and you’ll find a deeper meaning.
Pretty soon you’ll understand why you’re so riled up. The dirty clothes serve as evidence for something that’s meaningful to you.
The ability to communicate in deeper terms allows you to more truly express yourself to your partner and it allows them to know you more and more. Our intimacy grows when we can share our inner selves more with our partners.
Maybe even more important is recognizing that the same way you get wrapped up in something insignificant, applying deeper meaning to it, is your ability to recognize the same thing happens to your partner!
This is where curiosity helps again. When your partner is angry at you, can you get curious about the deeper meaning? What’s on the surface is only minimally related to the deeper attachment need, our need to belong. If you can tease out the deeper meaning for your partner, you can help to soothe the part of them that’s feeling a bit shaky. What a wonderful thing to be able to do for each other.
Practice time: OK, cast your mind back to the last time you got irritated or flat out mad with your partner. What was the surface issue? Did it really mean that much? Or was there a more significant, deeper, truer meaning? What was it? Can you initiate a conversation with your partner and let them know what was actually happening for you? This isn’t to resolve it, it’s just to let your partner know you better.
If you want bonus points, think about the last time your partner got angry with you. Look beyond the surface issue and get curious about the deeper meaning. Can you initiate a conversation about that with your partner? You might just end up knowing them better too!
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it saves relationships!
Stay Curious Lovelies,
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All Couples are going to disagree. Usually, we have not had training in how to fight fairly and so, fighting becomes a free for all to see who can hurt the other’s feelings the most. If we can adhere to the rules of fair fighting, our arguments can be much more productive experiences.
Rules for Fair Fighting
1. Identify the problem. If you can’t identify the problem, is there really anything to fight about? Is one of the participants simply irritable? Once you have isolated what the issue is, follow the rest of the rules and avoid the fouls!
2. Attack the problem, not the person. If an argument gets personal, it’s an indication that you’ve lost sight of rule #1. Attacking the other participant is a sure way NOT to gain agreement.
3. Listen to each other. Adults listen to views that are different than their own. Listening is a sign of respect, not submission. Take turns with a timer on if you need to.
4. Take care of each other’s feelings. Assume that you are each responsible for the other’s feelings and ensure that you do and say nothing that is damaging to the other person’s feelings.
5. Take responsibility for what you say and do. If you do lose control and say something “foul”, then own your behavior; apologize sincerely and do an act of kindness to make amends.
Each of the behaviors below is considered fouls. These behaviors indicate fighting behavior that is damaging to the relationship.
Chances are you’ve been in relationships where the fouls above have been part of the fighting. While you can only be responsible for your actions, you also owe it to yourself to set limits when others use these fouls with you.
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If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, I feel for you. I had many alcoholic family members including my father. That baggage led me to marry an alcoholic the first time. Extricating or dealing with a relationship with an addict is a challenge. This article discusses some aspects of addiction.
The most commonly used substance in the United States is alcohol. While alcohol is a legal psychoactive substance, it can be addicting. Many people from every social spectrum consume alcohol in many settings and never have long term adverse effects.
In addition to alcohol, many mood altering substances are highly addictive and impair physical, social, and psychological functioning of persons who use them.
As of this date, the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health report is from 2016 and was published in 2017. You can view a copy of this report at this web address: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.pdf
The report provides the following facts:
While this report does reflect some positive trends, the problem of addiction takes a great toll on our culture. Especially disturbing is the growing evidence of the danger of opiods or herion.
Generally addiction progresses through a fairly predictable cycle: experimentation, social use, dependency, addiction and hopefully, recovery. I illustrate these stages with alcohol use below:
Experimentation: I have tasted alcohol and had some experience in drinking alcohol as a teenager and young adult. Alcohol has never really caused me too many problems. It has been limited due to availability and other barriers.
Social use: Now, as an adult, I go to a restaurant on Friday nights with my girlfriends and co-workers. Alcohol becomes part of a relaxation ritual for me. Still my once a week drink is not creating any problems for me.
Dependency: I start to view alcohol as an aid for relaxation. While going through a stressful time at work, I start to drink a glass of wine every night when I fix dinner for my family. My relaxation begins to become dependent on that glass of wine. Being a “drinker” starts to become integrated in my identity. I am a “drinker”.
Note: Dependency has both a psychological and a physical component. Both are problematic.
Addiction: I begin to develop a tolerance for alcohol, requiring me to use increasing amounts in order to feel the effects. Soon, I’m drinking a bottle of wine every night and it is causing great problems in my family, causing me to miss work, neglect my home, etc. I have crossed the line into addiction which will become a physical dependence if I continue.
Recovery: Something occurs that prompts me to seek treatment and I discontinue my alcohol use, engage with a support system and begin to re-establish my life without substance use.
Unfortunately, many times recovery is characterized by relapse. Hallmarks of successful recovery are sobriety, abstinence, social support, and active relapse prevention.
How can you tell if someone will become addicted? There is currently no way to know this. Some people may use substances many times without having a problem and then at another point in their life, use and become immediately addicted.
Infrequent use in small amounts generally will not require treatment. The person who uses in this manner will likely be able to stop use when they decide to. Often, legal, social, family or other types of sanctions will be enough of a threat to convince them to stop using substances.
Treatment may be required for people who cannot stop substance use on their own. Without outside intervention, it is rare for an addicted person to be able to discontinue use for an extended period of time. Despite consequences, often extreme consequences, the addiction overpowers their will. The desire for use outweighs any of the external results.
Treatment can decrease the economic and social costs of addiction. Additionally, there is much evidence that treatment is far less expensive than the real costs to our society. Multiple reports on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) support this. You can review these articles at their site: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications
More on this topic later. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, find help through local resources or SAMHSA's website. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-treatment
In the meantime, stay lovely!
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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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