Security is a primal need that relationships fulfill....unless they don't!
Learn some ways to navigate these challenges.
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of times, I have people say, “I want us to get back to where we used to be.” Those are all pretty big goals.
What happens when a goal seems out of reach? When we look at it and it seems impossible. Fighting less might seem like a great goal, but what are the steps it takes to get there? Do you know the steps? If you knew and could do the steps, wouldn’t you have already done them?
When we start doing these little steps, we get frustrated because we feel we should be at the goal already. We feel shame and blame we’re not meeting what we see as our desired outcome. We also fail sometimes. I can’t tell you how many couples are making good progress and they slip and have a huge row and they feel like they’ve lost all the progress they’ve made. All that can make us give up and stop going for it. It seems like an exercise in futility, it’s too difficult, or we just aren’t capable of doing it.
Well, I’d like to reassure you. When the end game seems impossible, it’s time to focus on the process, not the outcome.
Using a football analogy here: If your desired outcome is to win the Super Bowl, but your team has not learned to run a play yet, you better focus on running the play! Not only do you need to learn to run the play but you need to become great at it! You are going to run that play over and over until it’s second nature. You’re going to know that play inside and out. At first, the play is going to be awkward. At first, the whole team isn’t going to be good at it. There’s going to be a lot of failures in making the play. But eventually, your team runs a great play! They win a game, then another and before you know it you’re a Super Bowl contender. That outcome that seemed so impossible is now within reach. But only after you’ve mastered the process.
There’ve been times in my relationship when I’ve felt happiness wasn’t possible. I didn’t think it’d ever happen again. That seemed like an outcome that was too much to hope for.
Turning that around took a focus on the process. The processes of a happy relationship, (I call the pillars) are compassion, communication and commitment. Making the little decisions every day that align with these qualities is what got me closer to the end goal. I had to be kind when I didn’t want to be. I had to decide to stay just one more day when it would have felt great to walk out. Talking about things that made me vulnerable created intimacy little by little. I focused on the process because I didn’t know how to get to the outcome I wanted. I was so far away from it, I needed a telescope.
By paying attention to the process, I moved closer and closer, with consistency and persistence, until I could see happiness on the horizon. I tried to stay focused on my own behaviors, not my partners. By continuing on, we’ve found our way to a place of happiness I don’t think we ever imagined. We’ve now passed our 20th anniversary and we enjoy each other more now than we ever did. Do we still disagree? Yes. Do we still annoy each other? Yes. We fail all the time. But we focus on the process.
Practice time: What is your desired outcome? What processes do you need to get there? It’s the little things you practice every day that lead you to winning. What is one process you can commit to today? Consistency and persistence are mandatory!
Let me know what you decided. Comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
Focusing on the process,
One of the shifts I like to facilitate with the couples I work with is recognizing how all of our behaviors have the intention of either expressing love or asking for love.If you can imagine this is true: all of our behaviors are either an expression of love or a cry for love. This is a concept presented by Marianne Williamson which is definitely a different way of looking at things. Try to allow the thought that even the most horrible things you can think of or a cray for love or in some way an expression of love. Shifting your perspective, just a bit, to consider another person’s motivation (even if you don’t understand it) can allow a space for empathy to grow. How is this person’s actions an act of love or a cry for love?
If my husband gets upset and yells at me for not doing the laundry…….Is that a cry for love I hear? He perceives my doing the laundry as an act of love. When I don’t do it, he perceives it as a lack of love. He starts to get concerned that he’s not loved by me. He starts asking for that love. In this scenario, he’s asking by getting angry and yelling. If my response is to yell back, I am also crying for love. My perception is when someone yells at you, they don’t love you, so it scares me when I hear him yell. I start to ask for love.
I’ll tell you a true story about myself and my husband. We’ve been married now for over 20 years and we usually get along very well now. It hasn’t always been the case, but now it’s good. A while back, I was visiting him at his job location. An argument came up because he had arranged for his employees to clean out a building that had been taken over by local people and it was used as a goat shed. So, imagine a building that has doubled as a goat shed for many years. Where there are goats, there is goat crap. His job was to have his guys clean this place out. Inadvertently, his boss came and gave his guys the day off after he had arranged for equipment and access to have the goat shed cleaned on this one specific day. Now his boss gave all his man-power the day off. He decided he was going to clean the goat poop out of the shed himself. I was very opposed to this. I didn’t think that he should be cleaning the goat crap out alone; I thought that he should rearrange the schedule. He had other things he was responsible for and cleaning a goat shed was not a priority for him. He became very stubborn and maintained that he would just do it himself. I was arguing with him that this was not a good use of his time, etcetera. Finally I said, ”You know what, you’re going to do what you want to do so go for it.” We just let it die between us. At some point later I was playing around with this idea of every action either being an expression of love or a cry for love. My mind went back to that conversation and I identified my behavior was expression of love ultimately. I was taking up for him and trying to help him see a different priority. So here he was, spending a whole day of his time doing something that his guys could have easily have done in a few hours and he was going to spend a whole day doing this alone. I brought it up to him that this was really an expression of my love for him. He was very surprised to think of it this way because he sure didn’t feel loved during that argument. He felt kind of beat up on actually.
Just like our partner’s expressions and cries for love sometimes don’t sound that way to us, ours lose their effect too. It’s our responsibility to make sure that our message gets across. We have to take a good look at our interactions and try to dig underneath to make them more authentically express what we’re really feeling on the inside.
Sometimes when our partners are kind of beating up on us a little bit, or fussing or complaining about something, they might also be expressing or asking for love. If we can we take a step back from what feels like a personal attack and explore what message of love is really there. It’s something to think about wrap your brain around. Analyze some of the past conflicts you’ve had with your partner. Can you decipher whether it’s a cry for love or an expression of love? This can go a long way to healing rifts in your relationship.
Can you more clearly ask for love or express it? If I get aggravated at my husband for working late all week, I can approach him in hurt anger. Or I can say I’m angry because I’m disappointed and I don’t feel very important to him. I can approach him and say, “I’ve really missed you this week, can we have a date night this weekend?” Which approach will get me what I really want? He’s going to respond much better to the latter approach isn’t he? My communication isn’t layered under insecurity.
Complaints you have with your partner (or that your partner has with you) are usually a cry for love in some way. This should help you look more closely and communicate more clearly. Being understood and understanding more is a winning behavior.
Practice time: Analyze some of your interactions. Can you link it back to a cry for love or an expression of love? If you can’t, send me the scenario and I bet I can help you see it.
Springtime: The early, falling in love part of a relationship correlates with spring. Everything is beautiful and full of promise and hope. There’s the promise of what’s yet to come, what’s going to grow there. It’s easy to be excited and happy in this stage.
Summer: After spring comes summer. That’s a glorious time of growth. That’s the season of a relationship when we commit fully to each other and start to build lives that are intertwined. This may be the season of having children, or career focus, but, the warmth of summer expands us and kind of opens us up to everything that life has to offer.
Fall: Then you move into fall. Fall is typically a time of harvest and gathering in. It can be a really beautiful time with the lovely colors that we enjoy so much about autumn. Underneath this lovely autumness, something is decaying. We don’t notice because we’re distracted by the loveliness that fall holds. The cooler temperatures in the fall also cause us to gather inside or layer up, becoming protective of ourselves. Conflict and stressors in our relationship tempt us into defending ourselves from each other as well. We close ourselves off and start to create coolness when we enter into the “fall” of a relationship. The aloofness inside our most important relationships can sometimes be a signal that something is changing there, dying maybe and we need to pay close attention to that.
Winter: When winter is upon us, the cold weather becomes nearly unbearable. If we’re going to venture out in winter then we really have to protect ourselves. Even in approaching our partner there may be hostilities that are at a crescendo. Maybe we’ve withdrawn so far we can’t even find our partner in the chill of winter. But, there’s another aspect of winter that we can call into play. It’s also a time of warming up by the fireplace or sipping hot cocoa snuggled up under a warm blanket with someone that you love. A season of winter can be a time of reconnection and we know it’s going to lead to a new spring.
Just like the seasons demonstrated by nature, our relationship is going to move through these cycles. If we recognize this, we can rest assured that winter leads to fall and it doesn’t necessarily signal the end of a relationship.
We often get into those fall and winter times when our relationship isn’t as close and we see it as the death of the relationship. Winter is when we leave relationships because we feel there’s nothing there, nothing green left there. In winter it’s all covered up with snow. If you didn’t know better when you looked around in winter, you’d think everything is dead. But, our life experiences now tell us if we wait it out, grass will start to come up again in the spring. So, the same thing can be true when we sow into or nurture our relationships. We can grow through those cold times.
Practice time: What season is your relationship in? Are you allowing the season to grow your relationship, or are you looking at it only from what it appears to be on the surface? Ask yourself honestly those questions and, how can you make the most of the season that you’re in? You know, there are seasons, there are tasks to do with every season in nature as well as in our relationships. There are seasons to sow into; seasons to defend, protect, go within, and turn towards each other. How can you make the most of the season that you’re in? If you’re willing to share, make a comment below and tell us what season your relationship seems to be in. Remember, every season has it’s own beauty because even conflict is an opportunity to grow. How are you going to make the most of this season?
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Our experience is made up of what we think, how we feel and how we behave. Learn how these facets impact each other and how to change them to improve your relationship.
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A Thai feast I shared with my family when we visited Thailand a few years ago.
A while back, I heard this phrase and it stuck with me. I can’t attribute it to its proper author, but I heard it from Brian Johnson over at Philosopher’s notes. If you haven’t heard of Brian, he has a YouTube channel where he summarizes all sorts of motivational and inspirational books from the very old to the very new. I really appreciated this one phrase and our relationships could benefit from this practice.
When things are going great, we just float along like there’s no effort to be done. But when things are going poorly, we pull out all the stops to turn it around. It would be great to shift this way of thinking. When things are going great, we need to drink it in, soak it up, and amplify it! Use the good times to solidify the foundation of our relationship, and that my friends will carry us through the bad times.
How exactly can we feast on success? I came up with a few ways:
1. Be present. When things are going well, stay in this moment. That doesn’t mean that you avoid issues because you don’t want to rock the boat. That means you don’t play the negative past over in your head or talk about history when you can’t change anything about it. Maybe you’ve even agreed to leave it in the past, yet still you live there! You can’t enjoy the present if you’re bound up in the past.
You also can’t enjoy the present if you’re worried about the future. There’s a lot of value in planning your future. In fact that can be great team building for you and your partner. But worrying about whether your partner will be there for you or how you’re going to handle your in laws next Christmas takes you away from the present.
2. Acknowledge it. Talk to your partner about it. Tell your partner how happy you are about how things are going at the moment. Sometimes you might have to just feast on a conversation that went on without an argument. What’s wrong with saying, “It makes me so happy when we can talk without getting into an argument. I look forward to many more times like that with you.” When you feel good about it and you make sure your partner knows it, it increases and amplifies the positive emotions.
We are geared to acknowledge the negative in our culture. It’s usually not our nature to go around recognizing the positive. Our brains are geared to solve problems which predisposes us to look for them. Changing the way you look at the world may take some effort and time on your part. But acknowledging more positive is only going to make you happier.
3. Reminisce. While it might seem beneficial to play over negative past situations, it’s really not that helpful. However, playing over some positive situations can be very helpful. Talking about good times or about troubles that you overcame as a couple can be reassuring to each other when the going is rough. Remembering times you acted as a team or truly enjoyed each other, brings up those feelings of support and bonding.
4. Focus on the Success. Immerse yourself (or feast) on success. Don’t let feelings of failure be your focus. If you see failure, take it as a successful learning lesson. Fill your thoughts up with success and let your behaviors reflect those of someone in a successful relationship.
Feast, or gorge, yourself on success. If you’re going to be successful, you have to think, feel and behave in successful ways.
Where in your relationship are you starving in the land of failure? Are you feasting on that? Can you see a way of turning that around? What behavior, thought or feeling needs to change for you?
If you’re in a good season in your relationship, how can you amp that up? How can you use some of these suggestions to further strengthen your relationship?
Practice time: pick something that you can feast on, acknowledge, reminisce about or focus on and do it today and every day.
Leave me a comment about what you’re willing to do to create a relationship you love. As always, email me if I can help. Nothing’s going to change unless it’s you!
Denial can be frustrating and wreck communication. Curb your denial related behaviors for a relationship boost.
Hope you gain some insight from this audio! As always email me if you have any questions!
It can be, but a divorce is more expensive.
Your provider may charge based on licensure level, demand, or average costs in your area. I charge $100 per session for on-going counseling. I can provide a cash discount if you aren’t using health insurance. Your provider should be able to provide you the cost per session or for a package of sessions. If you attend group therapy (with other couples) the cost should be less.
There my also be some nonprofit agencies in your area that offer couples therapy at a lower cost. A therapist should be able to offer suggestions and options. Use online information or programs if you feel that could be helpful to you also.
You do want to make a wise investment however. Unless it’s just impossible, go with a therapist that has experience and training in relationship work. You wouldn’t learn a language from someone who’s not learned to speak it themselves. Navigating relationships is like a language. It doesn’t pay to use someone who isn’t trained to help.
If you'd like to send me a question, I'd love to help if I can: Email me.
Hope that helps,
#1 Do not discuss relationship issues with anyone of the opposite sex. This is history’s best and longest slippery slope. When we are vulnerable with another person it brings up a wellspring of emotions. Many, many affairs start with enjoying being heard by another person. It’s not safe, don’t do it. Family is ok if they meet these other criteria.
#2 Do talk to someone who has what you want. The person who’s been divorced twice and is not in a relationship can tell you how to do that! She doesn’t know how to resolve relationship issues. Get advice from someone who’s worked through things themselves or talk to a professional that can give you an objective perspective.
#3 Do talk to someone who wants to support your goals. Sometimes family and friends might not be fans of your partner for some reason. They’ll be happy to join the bitchin’ stew, which just increases your discontent. Is that what you want, more discontent?
#4 Do talk to the person in the mirror. Remember you can only change you, so if you’re spending your time lamenting about things out of your control, look to your own boundaries. Are you thrashing about over things that you want your partner to change? Ask, but don’t demand or get into a power struggle over it unless it really is a non-negotiable.
So before you start to engage with someone about your relationship issues, set yourself some rules and choose the right person for the job.
We don't usually have a problem taking care of our physical health or encouraging our partner to manage an illness. If our partner has diabetes, we believe they should eat right and take medications as directed by a doctor because that results in a measurable improvement most of the time.
When the problem is a mental health issue however, we often don't give it the same consideration. Perhaps it's something to do with the disorders being "unseen". Maybe it's not understood and therefore scary. Maybe it's just plain old stigma, believing it's a weakness of character.
I must note that mental illness comes in many, many different forms. At this time, we have more than 200 different categorized forms of mental illness. They most common disorders that I've worked with are anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. Both can have a significant impact on functioning and when someone's functioning is impacted, their relationships will be too.
Many times, one person in a relationship is a "fixer". When something is wrong, they feel the need to fix it. When a fixer's partner is anxious or depressed, the solution is rarely easily found. This can be very frustrating for a fixer. They may be feeling helpless and scared. And remember scared often looks like anger!
The fixer may have no basis for understanding the problem or the solution. Both anxiety and depression affect how we think. when our thoughts become distorted they don't seem rational to other people. I don't know why my daughter is scared of spiders. Her anxiety takes over way out of proportion to the situation. People who are depressed won't do things that might help. But people with distorted thinking aren't logical! Trying to reason with them can be like arguing with a drunk person. It's futile.
Many times, we want our partners to not be anxious or depressed because WE are uncomfortable. The best thing we can do is simply acknowledge our partners feelings and their right to their feelings. Sometimes when we don't feel validated in our feelings, we cling harder to them.
So, if your partner has issues of anxiety or depression, you can help in the following ways:
1. Allow and acknowledge their feelings. Let them know their feelings are OK. We all want to feel accepted for who we are.
2. Encourage physical activity. Exercise has the ability to boost feel good hormones and discharge anxiety byproducts. if you participate with them, it improves connection! Just remember to gear the activity to your partner who is struggling. A nice, slow paced walk might be more doable than a jog.
3. Have a daily gratitude conversation. More and more research shows that gratitude is effective in counteracting depression. Help your partner verbalize things they're grateful for every day. Some days, I can only find gratitude for sunshine and cute flip flops! It still counts.
4. Help your partner balance their self care. All nature strives to find a balance. Some people need to incorporate focus on others. Most people I've worked with need to focus more care towards themselves. Both ends of this spectrum is unhealthy for most of us. Encourage more of what your partner needs.
5. Talk to your partner about getting help without judgement. If your partner can't move out of their situation, they may need to work with a counselor or consider medications. This is your partner's decision so be supportive!
6. Create a learning situation. Learning is a growth activity. It's hard to stay stuck when you're growing. Is there something your partner has always wanted to learn or been interested in? Might be ballroom dancing, might be a museum. Sign you both up for a class or plan an outing. Stand with them when their curiosity blooms.
While I hope these suggestions are helpful, also keep the following in mind. Don't belittle your partner for feeling the way they feel. If they knew how to change it, they probably already would have. Know what your limitations are. If your partner is unsafe in any way, take them to an emergency medical setting right away and get help.
Depression and anxiety are emotions that we all experience from time to time. Most of us bounce back from these emotions, but when they linger and mess with our functioning, we often need support to recover. Be part of that support system for your partner.
As always, hope this helped! Email with your specific question and I'll try my best to get back to you personally. email@example.com
Love and Be Lovely,