Getting through the Holidays

Just “getting through the holidays” is a guiding mantra for some people. I’m here to help you do that, not try to convince you to do something more.

After all, there’s a reason you’ve taken that stance. So I won’t waste our time or energy arguing with you about it. If you ever want to talk, let me know, we can process together. And you can read about having good boundaries and stressing less if you missed those posts. They should help.

The following can help with getting through the holidays so read on.

In practical things,

Take care of yourself

Now is no time to neglect yourself. This is the time to step up your self-care efforts, not let them slide. That means, keep that appointment with your therapist, the doctor, the nail guy, your hairdresser… and do it for you, not because you HAVE TO in order to look good or prep for the party or keep from going crazy.

Do it for you. Because you know it’s good for you. And you’re worth it.

Schedule, yes, schedule time for exercise and activity.

This is the number one thing you can do to lift your mood. It’s an ongoing thing, but especially important when you’re feeling less than thrilled about life, or the holidays, or obligations etc.

It does not matter what you do. Just get moving. If you can do it outside, that’s even better. You need some vitamin D this time of year and you can’t get that sitting inside at your computer. But if you can’t get outside, just get moving. Even two 10 minute breaks for stretching and movement makes a huge difference.

Sleep

It’s the number one most rejuvenative action you can give your mind, body, and emotions. You need your sleep in order to process all the rest of what’s going on in your world. It’s good for all systems, physical, nervous, and emotional.

“To sleep, perchance to dream…”

Yep, that’s the aim! Dreams help sort things out in your subconscious. They shake things loose, makes sense of things and often happen nearest the end of your sleep session, most vividly during REM sleep. I know you might not remember them, but they’re still at work, shaking it all loose.

If you can remember them and you want help making sense of them, I love helping people with that. Give me a call.

Just do get your rest. Seven to nine hours is optimum for adults. More on sleep at the podcast here. Let me know if I can help you make adjustments there as well.

Plan distracting fun

Who says you have to just do the regular plotting of this holiday function, then that one, this obligation and the next. Plan something that matters to you and stick to the plan.

Maybe it’s going to hear a favorite local band and dancing. Maybe there’s an antiques show you’ve been meaning to hit. Could be you have a hankering for a good old-fashioned outta-the-way cafe pie. Go find it. And enjoy it.

No one says you have to do everything the same year after year from November to mid-January.

Respect your limits

Don’t ask yourself to DO TOO MUCH. Do you normally NOT DO social engagements every single weekend? Then make sure you don’t do them just because it’s the holidays.

Tired of eating the family meal on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, AND Boxing Day? Opt out of one of them. You can do it. No one will wilt.

And if you do enjoy those gatherings, well, enjoy them.

Respect other people’s limits too

Maybe put less pressure on all the people around you to have the exact relationship with the events. You are you. They are separate human beings with a will, intrinsic value, and worthy of respect. They’re not on the planet to give you what you need and want.

Let them do what they want to do as well. I mean this especially if they are adults. I’m not saying you should let your children run the show over the holidays and dictate where you go and what all you do.

But if they are also overwhelmed, it might be great to listen to what’s going on with them and make an adjustment. Do less, not more.

Find Meaning Elsewhere

Often people struggle with the holiday season because it brings up other painful memories. Coupled with the emphasis on family, couple-hood, peace, bliss, joy, and Norman Rockwell togetherness, it can be a time to starkly realize what’s missing versus what one does have. It can bring up lack instead of inspiring gratitude and joyous thanksgiving.

That’s okay.

Intentionally focus meaning elsewhere. Decide what might help. Are you working extra hard on that January project coming up at work? Is it the year to win the volleyball tournament? Want to focus on that novel you’ve been meaning to write or the art you want to get back to?

Do it. Make it your priority during this time and let all the hullaballoo over the holidays melt away.

Make the most of the time

After all, time is the one thing none of us will get back. So do make the most of each single day in its own right. Measure the success of your day one day at a time. Do your thing, feel your feels, engage your mind just for today. And make today the best single day it can be.

And do this ON the holiday(s) too, even if you end up spending them alone or almost alone, even if you spend them doing something you don’t like doing, even if you can think of a million places you’d rather be. Just one day at a time, show up for THAT day and see how well you can stay present during it.

Even distasteful things might not be as distasteful if you engage your five senses, pay attention, and stay present for them.

Especially regular holidays where you’re doing the same thing every year will explode into new experiences if you pay attention to them on the senses level. What do you smell, see, taste, hear, and feel?

You might surprise yourself.

Time does fly. Before you know it, you will have gotten through another round of holidays. Just maybe this year, you’ll realize you’ve done a bit of good living right through the middle of them.

Can I help in any way? Give me a call or send a message.

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boundaries between people

Good Boundaries – at holiday time and always

When facing time with family, good boundaries will serve you well.

But first, let’s be clear: good boundaries are not “I just can’t take it ANY.MORE!” limits. They’re not demands you hope others will fulfill. They are not cold, hard brick walls.

Good boundaries are more like standards you have that keep YOU peaceful, safe, and at least relatively content.

Good Boundaries in action

Here’s an example: I have a standard that I don’t get yelled at. If, at any time, someone were to start yelling AT me, I would remove myself. Right away.

I don’t yell back and usually I don’t reiterate my standard unless I do it with super-low, measured energy. I just go away from it. Or get off the phone. I leave the room or ask the other person to leave- in that same measured, low-level energy.

I don’t do yelling matches. Period. About anything. Ever.

Those days are gone.

Because I now have standards about what I will and will not have in my life. And yelling AT me is one thing I will not have in my life.

Here’s a thing to remember:

You set a boundary, you get to keep it

Having a boundary and setting it is NOT about the other person, it’s about you. If you set a boundary, then it’s yours. You are the one who gets to tend and maintain the boundary.

You only get to control yourself.

Don’t try to use “boundaries” to control other people. That will never work. Those are actually demands. Those types of boundaries can be manipulative, plus they’re kind of screechy, shrill, and above all, ineffective. (More about this everywhere I’ve written about communication: HERE and HERE. You can check out the podcast episode HERE or search for episode 7 of Midlife Love Bytes anywhere you find your podcasts.)

Don’t be surprised when others push them or cross your good boundary.

They’re new. Like a dog and an electric fence, people need to discover and learn from the boundary. Of course they’re going to get tested.

Don’t get upset when YOUR boundary gets tested.

There’s no need to go to war over them. If the boundary or standard is not negotiable (that is the nature of real boundaries and standards- they are not negotiable) then don’t stand there and negotiate the boundary.

Yes, you can explain your boundary

But do this at a time when it’s not being tested, pushed, or crossed. You can say something like “hey, just so you know, I don’t stay engaged when people yell at me. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t like it. I feel bad and I just don’t tolerate it.”

End of talking. You don’t have to defend the boundary. Or unearth it’s family of origin or ex-spouse origin. If it’s a boundary and it’s your boundary and you mean to live by it, then you don’t really need to explain it or justify it or talk it to death.

That someone understands where the boundary comes from or how it came to be a boundary for you is way less important that YOU having it, being clear on it, and knowing that it’s YOUR boundary.

Assertiveness is different than aggression

Assertiveness comes from a place of strength; aggression comes from an attempt to get more of it. In other words, aggression is a reaction because of lack while assertiveness is just an assertion of that strength.

Assertiveness does not lord it over someone else or tell them what to do. Assertiveness puts the truth out there and then follows up when necessary.

Apply your good standards and boundaries

Heading into the holidays, identify a thing you know you won’t tolerate. Then make a plan for how you will respond to it. Then do it.

That’s all there is to it.

Don’t want to be around your drunk uncle? Make a plan to leave when that threshold gets crossed.

Don’t want to be compared to your brother? Leave the conversation if that happens. Go to a different room.

Tired of the girls doing all the work while the guys watch football? Ask for help. Use Clean, Non-Blaming Communication (TM) or (CNBC). “I feel frustrated. I don’t want to do all the work and clean-up. Can you help with that?” Or assert it as a standard: “I feel miffed. I want to watch football and take a nap.” Then go do it. 😉

Hard to imagine the last scenario?

It could be that’s not an area for a boundary.

Sure, it’s something you feel piqued about and you’ve grown bitter about over years and years and years.

Could be, asserting a boundary about that one is really about changing things up way ahead of the game, or just getting over your irritation.

You gotta pick your battles.

If you’re having trouble identifying what might be true boundaries, (think standard) versus demands or attempts to control, I can help. I can see what might be a blind spot for you. It’s what I do.

Maybe you don’t have any experience asserting a boundary and they come out being pretty aggressive expressions. I know how to help with that too. I love supporting people as they grow stronger.

You could be super frustrated around your previously thwarted attempts with good boundaries. I can help with that.

Let’s get you prepped and set for more peaceful, happier holidays (and life) this year.

Get in here and let’s get started. Give me a call.

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expert relationship help yields a useful harvest

Expert Relationship Help for the Win

Some clients come to me for expert relationship help feeling already defeated, sensing this is their last-ditch effort.

They’ve tried everything else.

That puzzles me sometimes. Why did they wait so long? How did they let it get this bad?

And yet, I get it. I spent years and years trying real hard, endeavoring to figure it out. Every single book – ALL THE BOOKS- I read them ALL. I was going to fix it: fix myself, fix him, fix the dynamic, fix the family. I could figure this out.

Smart People are the worst for this.

I’m a smartie.

I know you’re a smartie.

And successful. You more-than-survived. You have arrived! You’ve worked real hard. You’ve amassed wealth, achieved a lot, navigated incredible challenges.

Besides that, you take care of business on the regular. You juggle life expertly. And here you are with a very fine resume behind your name. You are smart, dang it, and you. can. figure. this. out.

So you try harder. And most times, the harder you try, the more trouble you get into. (Like quick sand!) Pretty soon there’s so much anger and tension in the relationship on a daily basis, you relent, cry “uncle,” cave, and, feeling defeated, decide to reach out for help.

Or worse, sometimes you determine it’s HIS problem or HER fault, so you send him (or her) in for me to “fix” that problem. (That’s rarely accurate, by the way, never the whole picture, and while individual therapy IS appropriate, helpful, and CAN shift a relationship, it happens best and proves more lasting when two get involved voluntarily.)

Asking for Expert Relationship Help is a WIN

I know I won’t instantly convince you. But it IS a win. It’s what smart people do. They enlist the help of experts to show them what they need to know.

Even in an area they know LOTS about.

You might like investing, but you trust your wealth to experts, right?

You might like numbers and accounting, but you don’t do your own taxes, do you?

(I don’t know, maybe you do. I did mine every year from 1986 up until last year when all the rules and forms started looking insane and complicated. See, I can be stubborn and have trouble trusting too.)

I know excellent athletes who pay a trainer. Why do they do that when they know a lot about their sport?

Because they’re smart, that’s why! They know how to really win!

I thought I was a relationship expert before

After all, I’m made for relationship. I am a woman. I am naturally #heartfirst. (If you don’t know what that means, I write about it in my books, described HERE.) I love and value people and relationship and always have. I’ve been studying and observing and reading, reading, reading for decades.

I wanted credit for all my effort. I also wanted some good results. Yet, there were some things I just could not see or reach on my own.

Finally, exhausted and feeling quite defeated, I enlisted the help of an expert.

Now I know I truly am an expert

And yes, I paid for some of that in my own blood, with pain, sweat, tears, and unnecessary suffering. It was over two decades of “walking heartache.” Talk about learning the hard way!

Then I got real expert help and paid for it in the right kind of blood, sweat, and tears: I extended trust and did what was helpful and quit doing what was biting me in the ass.

Before too long, I went to school and got a couple degrees and started actually helping people. (I continue to learn and grow and develop all the time. That’s why they call this business a practice.)

Do I regret my stubbornness, distrust, and pride?

Oh yeah, baby.

I also love, understand, and forgive myself (which took a while in and of itself) and I’m so grateful to the people who showed me grace and extended their patience along the way.

But it cost us all a whole lot more than it needed to. I DO wish I had spent my time, energy, and money more productively way back when.

I’m just a human, a fellow traveler

Yet this is my thing now for real. It’s my area of expertise. I’ve been in the trenches. I’ve been in the crazy and distress of a painful relationship and I found my way out. But I did not do it all on my own. Not by a long shot.

You don’t have to trust me. You don’t have to let anyone else take a look and tell you what they see.

By golly, you never have to listen to a relationship expert about how you’re contributing, prolonging, and ensuring your very own suffering. But if you’re smart, you just might want to.

There are known and traveled pathways to healing, healthy relationship, and happiness. I’m not the only one who knows them, but I do know them and I’ll help you each step of the way… if you let me.

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losers fight make love not war

Losers Fight

Losers fight and fighters always lose.

When it comes to intimate partnership, fighting means you both lose. There’s no losing the battle but winning the war. If there’s a war, you lose, my friend. Period.

Fighting achieves exactly nothing.

Did you know research clearly shows that debate is not effective in changing others’ perspectives, convincing them to think differently, or persuade them to a different view? It’s super-not-effective at getting people to do something against their nature or opposed to their self-interests.

(Other methods of rhetorical persuasion and manipulation are effective, hence the posturing and ninja-skills of politicians and the like.)

But in intimate relationships, fighting is REALLY NOT effective in providing connection or allowing either person to feel heard and understood.

So why do people fight?

I’ve come to believe it’s just one thing really. Not a bunch of different things and not even the combination of this person plus this person equals conflict.

It’s an individual thing. An inside job. A very human, universal, and understandable failing each of us carry with us. (Me included.)

Call it your Should Monster.

The Should Monster shoulds all over.

All over you. All over other people. In your home. At work. On the highway. About the government. On the other.

This gigantic beast makes quite a mess!

Another word for this is expectation.

Losers fight because of expectations.

I’m NOT saying have no expectation in order to avoid disappointment. That’s hogwash as well.

“Expectation” is NOT the same as having a “standard.”

We have standards for how we will and will not be treated, what we accept and do not accept in relationship. It’s healthy to have standards.

Kindness is a standard. Accountability is a standard. Honesty is a standard.

But expectation is a demand, a requirement, and it usually comes with an inherent (and harsh) ultimatum.

I have standards.

Because they are healthy. Not because I’m trying to get my needs met and that is a HUGE distinction. I have standards because they are helpful.

For example, one of my standards is that couples do not fight in my office. You don’t need to pay me to watch you do that. Trust me, I already know how it goes.

(Also, don’t pay to argue with me, either. It’s all counterproductive. And frankly, you can’t pay me enough to make it worth my exhaustion. But we might explore what’s going on with you that you feel the need to do stuff like that!)

Most importantly, it’s not healthy for you to do more fighting, perspective arguing, or score-keeping. It won’t solve anything, and it’s a waste of our time, energy, and your money.

So, it’s a standard. There is no fighting in my office.

I wish I could magically transfer that standard to all my clients’ living rooms and bedrooms, automobiles, and lives!

Let’s get to the heart of solving this.

Despite my knowledge that fighting is counter productive and that debate is ineffective as a means to sway anyone (and especially an intimate partner) I still get tripped up by my own Should Monster. Like anyone, I can catch myself imposing a should on someone else: you should do more of the driving, you should share your feelings more, you should do half the work in relationship, you should be more empathetic, you should spend more time with me.

All those things are NICE and I might want them and LIKE the idea of them. And, in fact, I can be perfectly RIGHT about them. But the Should Monster spurs the fight and the fight gets us nowhere.

Slay the Should Monster first.

How do you do that?

It’s easy.

1. Put it in it’s place.

Say something like this to that bad boy: Quiet down, Should-Dude. Take a chill pill. Go sit in the corner. You are in time-out.

I’m serious about speaking directly to it and putting your Should Monster in the corner. That is right where it belongs while the grown-ups sort things out and take care of real business.

2. Step back and take a breath.

Let’s face it ONCE AND FOR ALL: human beings deserve respect. We’re infinitely valuable. That said, humans are sentient beings with incredible will and a whole host of feelings, thoughts, longings, and needs. Every.single.human. (Including your partner..or that person you’re fighting.)

Just take a breath. Your agenda for that other person is really quite inappropriate. Let it go while you exhale.

3. Focus on what is going on with you.

What is behind the drive to get the thing or the behavior or the response you “should” get and the other “should” understand? Do you know why you’re actually expecting them to DO or BE or give that?

After all, your expectations are really about you, your values, beliefs, and rules that YOU live by…and some of them might not actually be very kind…to yourself or to other people.

(I know. It can be hard to figure what’s going on with you all by yourself sometimes. We don’t always see ourselves -or others- clearly, which is why a good therapist can be so helpful. Here’s help finding a good fit.)

4. Let it go.

In the meantime, acknowledge the drive or desire and let go of the tension, demand, and drive behind it. Especially once you realize the expectation is coming from somewhere deeper than that other person, it gets easier to stop demanding in the present moment.

5. Get help if you need it.

Some of you will turn this around on your own. You’ll stop fighting. You already know the fight is a lose/lose strategy. You’ll pause, examine your expectations, realize they are harsh, maybe immature, or come from a history that the other person has nothing to do with.

For those of you who continue to struggle or resist the logic of stopping the fight, give me a call. There is definitely a very good reason you’re having trouble with that part of it. I’d love to help.

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couple in a storm can this marriage be saved?

Can this Marriage be Saved?

People often ask “can this marriage be saved?” They want to know if their situation is SO bad there’s NO hope. Did they marry the WRONG person? Have they totally screwed things up? Are they in all this pain now simply because they got married for all the WRONG reasons?

Yup. Yup, that’s it. There is no hope.

Do I say that?

Um, NOOOOOO, I don’t. But you probably already knew that, right?

Answering “It depends” is a cop out.

Do I say that? Sometimes. Because really, it does depend. But not on the things above. In order to know if this marriage can be saved, we must know what “it depends” means.

First, it doesn’t depend on marrying for the right reasons or the right person. It doesn’t matter how much crud has happened. Solution doesn’t even depend on whether “he’s a narcissist” or “she’s bipolar” or any of the other things people complain about regarding their high-conflict spouse.

Now, maybe you’re not high conflict. Maybe you’ve just “grown apart” or you feel so very blah. Perhaps you’ve found passion and spark with someone else at a time when the marriage seems “long over.” Or your spouse has cheated and one or both of you just wants out.

No matter what the situation, there’s often a big pause before one or the other pulls the plug entirely. You might both have the question, “Hey, wait. Can this marriage be saved?”

Thankfully, it does not depend on anything out of your control, except that you can’t actually FORCE someone else to hang in there and try harder and love you.

You can make it a helluva lot more inviting to hang in there, try harder, and yes, they might have a chance of loving you again. But not by doing the same things you’ve been doing.

Most often I say this TRUTH:

No matter how you each are made, what has happened, and what is the pattern of your relationship, you CAN get to a place of health where your marriage works for both of you.

Your marriage can be safe, connected, and nourishing for both of you.

That would be cool, right?

The relationship of your dreams CAN be yours… if you both want it… and you are willing to do the work to get there.

Now, look, that does not mean that both of you know you want it and know you’re willing to do the work to get there. I am realistic. I know that ambivalence is part of the reason you’re in pain right now. Blasting past the reasons without processing that ambivalence does neither of you any good.

So if one or both of you are ambivalent, we’ll explore that first.

There has to be a reason to put in the work.

Because the work itself, is, sorry to say, not the most fun you can have on a weekday between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm.

It’s true, in my office we engage humor on purpose, knowing that none of us benefit from MAJOR, SUSTAINED INTENSITY. Besides, you don’t want to spend time in the same pattern of communication, defensiveness, bad feelings, and utter yuck that brought us all together in the first place.

You won’t be doing any of that yuck in my office, by the way.

We will be doing some of the scary stuff you’ve been avoiding. But not before offering you some hope and underscoring the reasons you personally have for getting better at relationship, even at this very relationship.

If there’s a good reason, most every marriage can be saved.

Big talk, right?

But it’s true.

If there are children you want to raise together, that can be the motivator. If you want to look into the eyes of those same children and one day say, “Mom and Dad figured it out, weathered the storm, and took responsibility,” that’s a good motivator.

Maybe you’re tired of failing at relationship and you just want to get it right. That’s a good motivator.

Maybe you believe divorce is for wimps and the faint of heart looking for a loop-hole and that’s not you. Well, that’s a good motivator.

If, in the end, you just want to say you gave it your very best effort, that’s a good motivator.

You are gonna have to find your reason.

If you don’t already know, a good couples counselor will help you. She’ll listen well, identify your values and concerns accurately, and help you clarify just why you’re making the investment. She’ll explore the motives for each of you.

If one of you wants to stay and one of you wants to go

Keep this in mind: using convincing tactics to persuade a skeptical partner is, not just ineffective, but, ewww, gross, it’s so very unattractive.

Also, it NEVER works.

So, if you are the one who would like to preserve the relationship and your spouse is ready to move on double-quick, get yourselves to a proper, trained therapist who knows how to help you stop doing what’s not working and start doing what will actually help.

Of course, I can be that therapist for the two of you. You might want to give marriage counseling a fighting chance.

If your patience, time, and energy are limited, look into doing a Couple’s Intensive to answer in two days’ time whether it’s time to call it quits or if you have a reason to hang in there and make things work.

Contact me and let me know what’s going on and which option for help you’d like to explore.

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communication is key

Communication is key

You need a communication key. It’s true. And so many people say it when they come to me for help.

But lots of people think communication means more words. And usually it means exactly the opposite.

Use fewer words; say more.

Here’s how this works.

Listen, you already know the words you say are a small percentage of what you communicate (no matter the context of relationship. This goes for that texting conversation too.)

Energy, body language, tone, timing. It all matters. Plus, it communicates so much… way more than the actual words you choose.

It allows and invites and incites inference. (You’re smart, so you already know this.)

It’s how you interpret what the other is going to say next and how conversations become a patterned dance you repeat over and over and over and over.

Stop talking.

I’ve invited many of you to do this. Okay, for some of you , I’ve invited you to stop talking so much. You’re wearing your partner out and giving them WAY too many rabbit trails to follow on your “verbal processing fest.” Honestly, there’s just too much for one person to track sometimes when you’re going at it like that.

One thing at a time, grasshopper.

Ever heard of single-tasking? It actually takes more concentration than multi-tasking. It requires focus, showing up and paying attention. The speaker must practice conscious presence.

This is a GOOD THING.

Doing a verbal dump on your partner (or anyone else for that matter) is a little disrespectful anyway and a lot self-serving. So, literally, stop talking.

It’s hard, right?

Good. It should be a little hard. You’re doing something different than you’re used to. And now that you’ve closed your mouth, go the next step and really listen.

Get curious about what the other person is saying. Not like “why are you saying that?” or “why does he think like that?!” but curious like, literally, “hmmmmmm, that’s interesting.” And then think about it instead of plan the response.  That kind of curious.

Become a quiet observer.

Sometimes what you’re observing is what’s going on with you. Notice this. (You are super interesting.)

Are you feeling defensive? Is something else rising up in you? Are you noticing you want to argue? Do you want to show what you know?

Just notice that. And let it be. Go back to listening.

I know you have a point to make.

And I know you think it’s super important and it’s THE THING that is going to make the difference and that THIS TIME the other person HAS TO HEAR what you are saying and UNDERSTAND you for once.

But they aren’t going to. So get over that. Breathe. Go back to listening.

Someone wise once said

“I never learn anything new by hearing myself talk.”

After all, it’s stuff you already know. So, take a weird risk and actually get quiet. See what happens.

Yes. People worry all the time about talking about those super important issues. There ARE really important topics and hard conversations to have sometimes. Don’t worry.

You will talk about the important stuff.

Most of you don’t have the skill to handle that right now. You’re too entrenched in your usual patterned dance, your regular, tired way of seeing things.

Listen, you’re stubborn for very good reason.

It makes PERFECT sense to you. And it’s very logical for the way you’re made, the way you think, and the way you move through the world.

AND…

you think some things that aren’t exactly true or at least something that isn’t exactly serving you right now. Maybe it’s not healthy…and it’s certainly not HELPFUL.

Those beliefs (we call them limiting beliefs) are not easy for you to spot all by yourself. You might want the help of a qualified and trained specialist. (I’m one, in case you forgot… and there are others too. You might like to spend more time with one of us.)

Find someone who can help you clarify your message.

You want minimum verbage, and maximum inpact. Low potential for arguing or for “trigger language,” for escalating conflict, for taking the conversation out of productive zone and into the fight zone.

You also want to say the very important thing. This includes telling the truth, your truth. Laying it on the line. Really revealing yourself. Getting open and vulnerable.

No one likes that, right?

It feels risky.

You might feel exposed when you actually tell the truth. There’s no telling how the other person will respond, right?

That is the nature or risk, by the way. You step out. You do your thing. No telling what will happen next.

That’s good. It’s a start.

I have couples (in particular) all the time who want to talk through the hard stuff but they have proven that they have no skill, no means, no history of success talking through the hard stuff. But they insist on doing it. If not in my office, then definitely away from my office.

And they usually have “some productive conversation” and very little real movement.

They have just enough “productive” in the conversation to keep them coming back to do the same old dance. Don’t keep doing that.

Tell the truth.

See if you can boil your point down to the very gist of it, the core, the most important and central, integral, bottom-line expression. See if it can be ONE thing that fits this format:

1. I feel… (and ONE emotion word.)

2. I want (or I don’t want) in ONE sentence. Form it without using the word “you” and let it be about what you want or don’t want in your own life and experience.

Get to the bottom line. Go to the heart of every matter.

And make it actually TRUE.

Here are some true and hard things people are actually dying to say to one another:

I feel scared. I don’t want to lose relationship.

I feel anxious. I want to please my mate. I don’t want to feel rejected or disappointing.

I feel overwhelmed. I don’t want to get 10 years down the road and regret staying together.

I feel petrified. I don’t want to have to forgive something I thought I’d never face.

I feel ashamed. I don’t want to live with the weight of what I’ve done.

There’s a lot of power in telling the truth.

Most of us want to fix it. But don’t. For now. Just let the truth (your truth) be the thing. And listen while the other tries to express theirs. See if you can hear the feeling and the want or don’t want in all the words they’re using.

It’s a start. It’s not the only thing, but it’s the first thing.

And let me know how it’s going.

REPORT

You can read more about communication here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day

therapeutic relationship, therapy, in a boat together

Therapy relationship working?

How’s the therapy relationship treating you these days? Maybe you’ve been seeing your therapist for a while now, and lately you’re wondering if you should scale back or if it’s time to say goodbye for good. How do you know?

She’s probably “really nice”  so breaking up can be hard to do. There’s a good time to move on and there’s a good time to hang in there and really get to the next level. But how can you tell the difference?

There are several legit reasons for scaling back or even ending a relationship with a therapist. You might be thinking about the money. Or you’ve met your goals. You might think you’ve done as much as you can with this particular person. Maybe there’s an actual conflict: in interest, approach, or opinion. Maybe you realize you go away feeling worse than when you came in with no good tools to approach things differently. (Yuk!)

Before you ghost your therapist, and before you go in even one more time, do yourself a HUGE FAVOR and get some things hammered out.

Guide to evaluating the therapy relationship:

1. Clearly define your reason

Check in with yourself and write down what first comes to mind. Why did you first begin this therapy relationship? What brought you in to start? Now that you’re considering possibly leaving, define that as well, then take it a little further by examining it.

For example:

You might be thinking, “okay, this is getting expensive.” Go further. Is it really getting too expensive or is it that you don’t detect progress?

When we make the decision to trust someone with our tender parts in hopes they can help alleviate our pain, we do so because it’s worth it. We value it. We are willing to make the investment of time, energy, and money.

When we stop being willing to invest (in any of those ways) it’s usually because we don’t see the benefit or payoff.

Is it really finances? If you’ve had a financial down-turn, tell your therapist. There might be a cheaper alternative, or a lower rate for a specified time. Maybe there are other options like a group that will help you achieve your ultimate goals or yes, maybe dropping back to twice a month or even once a month really is a good option.

But be clear (at least to yourself) about what is the real reason.

2. Examine your Original Goals

Maybe you’re past the crisis, that acute, intense sense of distress. Yay! You made it!  It’s totally fair if that’s the only reason you enlisted a therapy relationship to begin with. You may indeed be done; ultimately, you get to decide.

Often, if you ask her, you can find out with your therapist if there is more to do than just get past the crisis. Even if you decide not to proceed, at least you’ll have an idea the kind of growth that might be possible for you. You may as well make use of her expert perspective. At the very least, you can park it as a goal for “next time.”

Maybe this therapist is an expert at this area of your life but another area would be better served by a different kind of specialist. In that case, ask for a referral. A good therapist will make a great referral to another specialist when that’s appropriate.

Need to revisit your goals? Maybe it feels like your progress lacks structure. Did you write those puppies down somewhere? If you didn’t and/or you can’t remember them, check in with your therapist. Actually say, “I want to revisit my original goals today and see where I am with them.”

Every therapist worth her salt will be glad to go over them, refine them, and help you see clearly what you’ve achieved and decide how far you really want to go. Not there yet and feeling frustrated about progress? Say so and ask for specific ways to get where you want to go.

3. Identify the Conflicts

Here’s an inside tip: as therapists, we are always trying to balance support and challenge. Too much of one or the other and our clients just won’t grow. There will be some conflict (and maybe at several particular spots) along the way. Growth can be frustrating. Some of this is just part of the growth process. But some of it might be the frustration of not getting what you need from a therapist. Figure out which it is.

Does something get under your skin? Is a recurrent event or a particular response setting you off? Is your therapist reminding you of someone in your life? You can use that as an opportunity to experience something different in the safe environment of the therapy office.

A really good therapist is going to be savvy about sensing if there’s tension and she might be the one to say something about it in the moment. She could also be waiting for you to say something.

Therapists are human with their own personalities and foibles and sometimes they actually miss something that feels really obvious to you.

We can read people, but we can’t always read minds. 😉 So, to get the most from your time with your therapist, no matter how big or small that “irritation” is, say something about it. Here are examples:

  • “I don’t like it when you say that. I feel bad.”
  • “Can you tell me more about what I need to do? I need a tool to use in my real life.”
  • “Today I really need to talk this all the way through before you give me feedback.”
  • Or it can be as simple as “I’m getting really irritated. Can you help me figure this out?”
  • “When you said I’m being demanding what did you mean by that? Isn’t it good for me to have standards? I’m confused.”

Ask questions. Talk to the therapist about the relationship. Take the risk, even if it’s the first time in your life you’ve done this kind of confrontation.

4. Consider the Response

A relationship with a therapist is, above all, a relationship. In that way, everything you are learning to do in relationship with your therapist is a skill you probably need to hone in the rest of your life. It might be standing up for yourself. Maybe being honest isn’t easy for you. It might be finding a kind way to approach something. It might be being brave enough to broach a tough topic.

Sometimes you do have to find someone else, someone you click with more, someone who gives you more of what you need, someone who actually CAN help you meet your needs.  Let that final decision also be based on your therapist’s response to your expressed need.

Worth the time and consideration

You owe it to yourself to be sure you’re getting the best you can from the therapy relationship before you move on. You’ve invested time, energy, and money, right? Walking away prematurely might undercut all the good you’ve done so far.

On top of that, using relationship with your therapist to practice relating, take risks, and do things differently might be just what you need to grow.

Are you satisfied you’ve achieved your original goals? It’s okay to step back to a less frequent time-frame or even consider that you’re done with this therapist for now. Maybe you’re ready to do more, set new goals and keep moving forward. Could be, you legitimately need a rest.

When you leave in the right way, you can always come back for a tune-up whenever the need arises.

But if the relationship is really not working for you- and you’ve clarified your reason and goals, then you bring it up and you get dismissed or feel worse than before- move on with confidence.

Looking for a new therapy relationship…to attain that next goal, get a better connection, or just to come at things from a different angle?  You know I’m here for you. Let’s connect.

CONNECT