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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relationship patterns that need busting might mean learning to walk down a different sidewalk

Relationship Patterns Busted

We all establish relationship patterns, sometimes without realizing it. Even when you’re aware you’re doing the same dance (or experiencing the same frustrations) it can be hard to see things clearly from the inside.

Maybe one day you suddenly realize you’re doing all the reaching out. You text and call. You initiate contact. You come up with fun ideas for what to do together. It’s never the other person.

Or you realize you just can’t seem to get what you need no matter what you’ve done to make those needs known. It’s almost like you’re speaking a foreign language. If only you could feel heard. You try harder and get even less!

It could be you’ve loaned more money or paid for an outing or bent over backwards to help and had the same person fade or withdraw over and over. In your frustration, you realize they only surface when they need something. Next time they appear, you appreciate feeling needed, (and you’ve missed them) so once again you give, only to have them do the same thing when they get what they came for.

Your pattern might be something different entirely. Like the more you want connection and ask for it, the more she withdraws. Maybe the more you treat him like a child, the more irresponsible he becomes.

It can take time and insight to recognize relationship patterns.

It’s easy for other people to see what you’re doing. And not so easy to make sense of it or see it clearly when you are the one (or two) doing the dance.

Even if you recognize yourself in one of the above descriptions, (or any other recurrent pattern) it can be tough catching yourself in the middle of it. Besides that, from the inside of the dance you may think you look a whole lot different on the outside.

(Hint, hint, you probably DO look a whole lot crazier to other people, especially those who have witnessed the relationship pattern over and over and over. Remember, just because you look crazy doesn’t mean you ARE. You’re just stuck repeatedly doing something that’s not working.)

Avoiding your relationship patterns’ trap

Ever heard the sidewalk analogy? Your relationship pattern is like a hole in the sidewalk. At first, you just walk down the familiar sidewalk and fall right in.

You might wonder why it’s suddenly so dark and damp, pitiful, and well, kinda gross-smelling in there. But, it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. And the other person is down there in the muck with you. After slipping and sliding a bit, (or a lot) you each claw your way out of the hole, sometimes over the tops of each other.

Next time, you know the hole is there and MAYBE you find a way to go around it. But it’s like a magnetic vortex. You get scooped off your feet and fall down it again. Whoops!

Soon, however, you are recognizing the hole and you develop enough strength to resist its magnetic pull. You deliberately walk out and around it. (Cool!)

The real win comes when you recognize the sidewalk and find a different route entirely. Bonus: the alternate route not only avoids the slimy, slippery hole, it gets you where you really want to be a whole lot faster and without all the slime, stink, and muck of the hole, not to mention there’s zero clawing on the way out.

Shifting the pattern

Picking a different sidewalk requires some serious skill. Usually there are reasons that darn hole is magnetic. Most people need a map, a guide, or a coach watching from the outside who can help them see and understand the pattern, build the strength to resist its pull, and find a suitable alternate route.

Don’t do this alone. You already know falling into the hole is zero fun. There’s no need to spend extra time standing out there on the sidewalk arguing about which way to go.

I know it can be humbling to ask for directions. I know some of you even like your sidewalk. It’s familiar at least, maybe it’s comforting in some way, perhaps it pays off sometimes. (For example, when you beg for attention, sometimes you get it. When you chastise him, maybe he behaves for a bit.)

For some of you, admitting you need an outside perspective is the biggest hurdle. But you know the sidewalk you’re choosing does not lead where you want to be. You know you need directions.

Still, it can be a risk to trust someone else with your life and relationship patterns. You want your investment to pay off, not lead down another dead-end street. I get it.

You could ask any and every passer-by for directions, but a wiser approach is to get a good map. Better yet, hire a personal guide. Heck, you might even need a skilled coach to help you stay out of that hole.

I want to be that kind of effective help for you. Let’s talk and get you on a path that leads to the kind of life and relationship you really want.

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couple in a storm can this marriage be saved?

After Infidelity; sometimes long after

How do you survive after infidelity? Can relationships really be saved? Can they really come back better than ever? People present these questions to me all the time. Call me crazy, but

I love working with infidelity as a specialty.

I love it because it’s excruciatingly painful stuff, it’s devastating, it busts people and their lives wide open… but I know how to help individuals and couples heal after it. Seeing that healing happen and watching people enjoy greater health than they’ve ever known is beyond satisfying.

Let’s face it; infidelity is the worst.

Yet, we all know that infidelity happens.

A local training brochure that went out to psychotherapists here in Ohio claims 50% of committed relationships include infidelity. Yikes! I think that percentage has to be high. I just don’t want to believe that statistic. I bet you don’t either! Still, for some of us, knowing it’s a common issue can have the effect of making people who are experiencing it feel not so alone, not completely crazy, maybe even hopeful.

After all, if others live through it and heal after it, you can too, right?

We don’t lack science and research on infidelity.

People publish a ton of stuff on the reasons people cheat, the why behind it, the psychology of betrayal and studies on monogamy. Theories abound. Most can be twisted and contorted to support most any end-perspective.

Have you heard anyone say “we’re just not wired for monogamy” or “sure, that was easy back when life expectancy was 45?”

Some people believe “once a cheater, always a cheater.”

Others think “it always takes two.”

Still others think there is no more vile creature on the planet than “the adulterer.” Once marked, he or she is marked with the scarlet A forever.

What’s your perspective on infidelity?

Does it match one of the above? If it does, I’d venture to guess you’ve been wounded by it at some point. I’m also going to say that none of those perspectives are truly helpful.

Oh sure, those adages help us survive, to assimilate the knowledge of the betrayal, they help us “make sense” of a bewildering human phenomenon. But they don’t help us truly heal.

Sometimes we think healing after a broken heart just never really happens. We might think we’re wounded for life. Of perhaps maybe we think “time heals all wounds.” Actually, neither one of those extremes is very true.

Healing needs to be intentional. If it isn’t, time can pass without much real living taking place.You don’t have to sit in the wounding of betrayal for years, decades, the rest of life. You really don’t.

You don’t have to endlessly carry the weight of your infidelity either.

See what I suggested there? Infidelity is painful, painful, painful for both the betrayed and for the offender. If you could see what I see, you’d know the truth of this.

Infidelity changes people forever,

no matter what side of the equation they’re on. And many, many offenders avoid getting help from a professional because they sense they’ll be judged…by people who are supposed to be trained to actually help. The unfortunate thing is that often they are judged by those people. Or professionals are ill-equipped to address the complexity of the situation.

And that never truly helps. In fact, sometimes it can make things a whole lot worse. I don’t want that to happen to you. I’m on a mission to provide effective and easily accessible intervention for you… even when one or both of you are not “naturally inclined” toward therapy. Even if you’ve never sought help for anything before.

No matter how you’re made…

You deserve to thrive again after infidelity.

That’s exactly our aim when we work together. And it does not matter if you are coming in alone, as a couple, or if you are trying to resolve issues from an affair that’s current, newly terminated, or that happened a long time ago. It doesn’t even matter if no one else knows about it. If there’s healing needed, we’ll go after it for you- and in a way that makes sense to you.

Maybe you’re not ready to work with a therapist or coach one-on-one. That’s okay too.

Resources to serve you:

Check out the book: After the Affair: Healing for the Offender. If you’re the Betrayed or the Offender, this guidebook provides the truth behind why this thing happened and, even more importantly, gives you an effective guide through and beyond it. For some people, the book will be enough. For some, it’ll just be a start. It will be helpful for everyone involved.

Sign up for the FREE Coaching Club

To sign up, find the big, blue box and arrow top right or down below (depending on what device you’re on.) You’ll become part of a group of Friends I send Love Letters to about once a week. I’ll share things I don’t share anywhere else and I’ll reference helpful resources, give you inside tips, videos, and articles. Plus, you’ll be the first to know about events you can attend, groups and classes forming online and in person, and any new resources coming out. If there’s an extra-valuable added freebie, you’re one of the insiders and you get it first!

Free Reading and Listening

Keep reading the blog! Search topics for old articles too. And check out the podcast episodes. There’s one titled “After Infidelity” but even topics exploring the basics of attraction and how real love works are going to give you lots of great information too.

Keep in Touch

Let me know if I can help in any way. Call or email me. Let me know what’s up for you. Ask questions. Ask ALL your questions! No matter what you wonder, it’s very likely something that others are asking too. And who knows, it might spur a wider conversation here or in the Coaching Club and help tons of people.

No matter what side of infidelity you’re living on, we’ll make sense of this together, get the healing you need and want and get back to a life you recognize and love.

No one should go through life’s most painful things alone. You don’t have to. Let me know how I can help.