working from home challenges answered

Working from Home in a time of quarantine

Maybe you’re working from home and it’s all new. On top of it, you’re either alone more than usual or you’re trying to work from home with other people also home…maybe your kids or mate..or both. It can get a little nuts.

Even for those of us who are used to working from home, this pressured time brings with it extra challenges. Here are some guidelines ALL of us can remember in order to stay sane, stimulated, and productive.

Tips for Working from Home

1. Do your work in the same place. Those of you home with others probably have this one figured out already. You know you can’t be all that productive with everyone else swarming around so you’re off in a designated room, maybe quite obviously, an office or study. (That might have required some furniture moving and cleaning.)

For some of you monitoring small children simultaneously, being in a central location and available might be crucial. Still, same thing: set up and “go to work” in a designated zone. Teach children that when you’re in that zone, you’re at work. Do be “interruptible” for very young children. Thirty seconds of focused attention when they really need it helps kids feel secure and we all know that minimizes chaos in the house.

I know this takes patience. If you manage 30 seconds of focused attention calmly, kindly, and completely… (and obviously without blowing your stack,) kids can quickly get a sense that there is still structure and safety in their day. You may need to educate them (calmly and kindly of course) about the differences between need and want. Remember, connection, safety, and security are needs. Plus, getting outside and taking a walk can be just as important for children as it is for dogs.

2. Go to work at the same time. Even if your company does not require it, you’ll be more productive. Announce to those you live with that you’ll be at work from X-X and taking your breaks at specific times. Then do it. On top of making you more productive, you’ll experience your work day having a beginning and an end. And it should have an end.

Especially when we’re available at home, everyone else can start to think we’re available 24/7. I have an assistant doing all her work for me remotely, and as a boss, I’m careful about when I send her an assignment and my expectations regarding how long I hope it will take…i.e. when her part is “due.” Not all bosses are going to think about that. But YOU can, especially when you’re NOT the boss. You have nothing to fear by communicating a boundary around this. You’re soon going to be a frazzled mess if you don’t.

Sometimes communicating that boundary is about your behavior. As in, DON’T answer the email at 9 pm. Answering is on you.

And if you ARE the boss (and I’m reminding myself here,) stop work communications at your own designated hour. You need time away from work. We ALL do. Time to work, time to play, time for domestics, time to connect (in relationship- with those is proximity and those at a physical distance) and absolute, do-nothing down time.

A note: Some of you are doing your essential work in finance or medical supplies or innovative restructuring and I know you have a sense of urgency for the work. You still need a break. And regular food and sleep, and some movement. You might need a hug or several. You need more than a few deep, relaxing breaths…and a shower. Which leads me to:

3. Get dressed. You don’t have to wear the same clothing you’d wear to the office, but groom yourself. Make yourself presentable. Shower. Wash your face, do your hair, and brush your teeth. Wear something you’d be happy to have everyone at work see you in…on “Casual Friday” sure.

If you’re meeting clients online, it IS okay for it to be business up top, party on the bottom…as long as no one sees your bottom. πŸ˜‰ Me, I’m definitely ditching my dress pants and heels for the home duration. Look, I’m not suggesting ridiculousness here. You should be comfortable but definitely groomed and dressed.

Because YOU know the difference.

In addition, this actually signals to those you live with that you are working. Then when you change into cozy lounge wear, it signals that you’ve left work. It might sound silly, but it matters! This is especially helpful for young children. Guess, what? Your mate will appreciate the distinction too.

General Comments on Working from Home

You are going to be subjected to more distractions: neighbor noise, other people’s pets, your pets, the dishes, a television, social media threads, and an onslaught of additional email. Who else here is suddenly buried in assurances and descriptions from every business they’ve ever frequented… in response to the coronavirus? (I know I might be one; I’m hopeful you’re finding it helpful and truly comforting. That’s what I’m here for, after all.) The three point structure above can help minimize the impact of those distractions.

Some of you are already better than others at compartmentalizing. Now is the time to do it. And don’t get mad at your mate for engaging this skill right now. He or she might be super good at it and now’s the time to engage it. Besides, all of us benefit from leaving work at work. Remember: work time, play time, domestics, connecting time, and down time.

Other tips for Productivity

These tips are good no matter whether you’re working from home or not and if you make them a practice now, they’ll increase your productivity exponentially for the long term.

Get up and move around every fifty to fifty five minutes. Even if you’ve fashioned a standing desk at home, move around. Get some blood flowing. Check on the kids. They’ll be glad you did and will feel simultaneously more connected and more willing to “allow” you to get back to work. Give someone a hug for more than 20 seconds. It releases oxytocin and that always helps lower cortisol, the stress hormone. And, it’s soothing.

Maybe take a cold shower in the morning. I can’t bring myself to do this quite yet. I enjoy the hot ones for their steaming and comforting qualities right now. But science indicates a cold shower wakes up the neurotransmitters, increases resilience, helps manage stress, and seems to have a strong correlation with creativity and motivation.

Do everything else you know to do to take care of your stress level. You might know from our work together whether you are heartfirst, brainfirst, or bodyfirst. If you ever answered the question from me about what you do when you enter a party, you also might know if your instinctual stack is first one-on-one, social, or self-preservation. It all makes a difference in the things that work best for YOU and addressing your stress.

More on that in a future blog.

A final note:

For now, (and always) be kind and gentle…with yourself and with others. Keep those things structured that can be. Rest when you’re tired. And create your own center of safety, whether it is your routine, inside your heart and mind, or inside your home.

Of course, if I can help with any of that, let me know. Let’s connect.

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Coming soon, ways to cope if you are alone in your house- with or without furry, breathing friends. And what to do is you want to KEEP DATING during COVID-19.

 

parenting

Parenting during Coronavirus

Parenting during coronavirus (stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, quarantine, lockdown…whatever you are calling it) is going to be challenging if it hasn’t been already.

These times will absolutely accentuate the positive and the negative of your existing family system and structure, no matter what age are your children.

Some of you are home with wee ones. Some have school-agers. Maybe you have a wrangle of multiple ages with bigger children capable of giving a hand. Still others of you are home with moody teens or young adults wrestling their own disappointments: social opportunities shut down, dating relationships challenged, questions about their future looming.

No matter what, it’s a challenge.

On top of it, you know parenting is one of the BIG THREE that affects marriages, right? Mishandling differences in parenting style, money management, and the sexual relationship can ring the death knoll for any marriage. Notice I said mishandling differences. Having differences is not the problem. Many of us need help figuring out how to handle the differences.

No matter what your parenting styles, even when they differ greatly, here are guiding principles you can each use and adapt for good (not perfect) parenting right now.

Parenting during Quarantine

It’s Parenting 101 all over again.

Some of you have heard me use the model that good parenting consists of nurture, guidance, and limits… in physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and sexual realms. All that nurture, guidance, and limiting is age-appropriate, of course. Not very many of us GOT that growing up but we CAN intentionally offer it to our children…at any and every age.

How are you doing with that matrix?

And if it’s just complete pandamonium and you’re thinking, “Yeah, right, Beth. Nurture, guidance, and limits!? I’m just trying to survive over here” skip down to the numbered points below. πŸ˜‰ Those should help.

No worries. You’re human. And you already have a family system in place and working or not working so well, in which case, use this time to revisit your family norms, structure, operation, and health level.

I’m not saying start from scratch and drum up All the Good Stuff right this minute under pressure. I’m saying you can use the matrix to continue to shore up your parenting even now. Use it to spend some brain space envisioning what you can do to be a better parent.

And pay attention to and emphasize all the great things that actually work. Then remind children of their positive family identity. “We prize family and togetherness. We’ll get through this together. ” Or maybe you can say “We always get through hard things. This is no different.” It is true that “this will definitely be a time to remember.” You ARE creating family memories…even now.

Above all, and in all, be kind and gentle with yourself and others. Just as much as you are able. And get some help if you’re having a hard time with that.

Parenting in Quarantine can be pure chaos

…if you let it. You are in charge of the kids, not the other way around. Even though you’re exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived while relationships may be strained, you really are in charge. I know your brain might be in fight, flight, or freeze mode and if you identify with that, let me know. I’ve got specific tools to help get you to a more regulated state. And don’t worry, I’ve been helping people with that and more…not just the last three weeks, but for years.

Here are parenting principles to help:

1. Know that your kids are individuals who will have varied and unique responses to stress. Respect that. Honor it. In fact, acknowledge it out loud in a sentence or two even if your audience is likely to respond with an eye roll. Even teens need to feel seen and respected by their parents.

2. Everyone wants to hear things are going to be okay. (They ARE going to be okay. If you don’t know that, let’s chat.) There’s no need to overemphasize this or to fake it. Be genuine. Your kids always want to know that you have got this. You are the adult in their world. They do take their cues from you. It’s okay not to know everything and have all the answers. You can admit you feel scared sometimes too. But it’s not okay to make your kids take care of you right now.

3. Don’t neglect yourself. If you’re freaked out about something, tend to your own freak out. Call your therapist. Lots of us are doing video telehealth now and it is super helpful and safe. There are concrete skills a good therapist knows and can teach you to help address your issues and get you solidly feeling so much better. Then you’ll be ready to jump back in and be a great parent. (Of course, call me. I’m here for you.)

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Plus these important parenting tips:

4. Do provide structure. The creation of predictability and certainty in uncertain times is soothing to EVERYONE, including you, whether you realize this or not. Create structure. Order play times, designate time for work (homework, chores,) time for taking care of business, (when Mommy or Daddy need to be alone for a limited amount of time) and times AWAY from the parenting task…even if it is just for a long, luxurious shower. Or, if they are the correct ages, do get some away time when they are in bed for the night.

5. Rest. Literally, like all of us were told when our babies were born, rest when they rest. Do that now if you can. Don’t expect yourself to go, go, go…even though most of us are doing this within our own homes now. These ARE stressful times. Give yourself and your kids a break. (And remember, a break implies that they were previously on-task or hard at work. πŸ˜‰ But I mean this figuratively as well. Leave room for human responses. Keep your discipline and consequences within reason. If you’re having trouble staying reasonable because you’re just overwhelmed, call a friend, take a break, and of course, get some professional help if you need it.

A few final tips for parenting now

6. Play. No matter what age your children -and I mean grown ones too- play together. On purpose or spontaneously, do something FUN. Board Games, competitive ones, made-up ones, goofy ones, whatever. But PLAY together. It’s a great way to experience JOY.

7. Be grateful out loud. Make lists of good things. Count blessings. Say a prayer before meals. Whatever fits you. But do it and let your kids see and hear you as well as contribute their own ideas. You might not force surly teens to add to the list, but let them hear you doing this.

8. Enjoy this time. It IS unprecedented and that means there will never be another time like it. It’s new and different, which means your brain is on high-alert recording memories and experiences. Make some good ones for your kids.

In addition, Psychology Today has published the first of a series dealing with parenting during crisis. Read it right here. You’ve got resources to make the most of your quarantine.

If you’re having a hard time with any of this, related to parenting or just related to you, reach out. I am here for you.

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love during Corona

Love during Corona

Love during corona is your relationship under pressure. Lots of it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but wait two weeks.

Hopefully by then, you’ll have seen your therapist (virtually) a time or two AND you will read and DO the stuff that’s actually helpful in order to maintain a healthy, loving connection… or adjust a strained, tense one. (More on that below.)

Maybe you already saw the video on Facebook (follow me there if you don’t already) from last Friday talking about how this time has people responding differently because of the way they’re made and the way they process and move through the world, AND because of their unique core issues.

Stressful times can trigger those core issues very differently for members of a couple. Those responses can highlight differences in a way that doesn’t always feel so great when there’s a very real looming threat like coronavirus. Just when you need one another, tension in relationship can increase. Nothing like a pandemic to tax the strength of any relationship! And if you’ve already got issues, well then, here’s help:

How to Tend to Love during Corona.

1. Make an appointment with a skilled professional.

A skilled relationship expert can help you clarify, communicate, and manage whatever is going on for you…and between the two of you. She knows how each of you is made, how you process, and what tools will work best for you individually and as a couple for facing your exact challenges, especially under pressure.

We got you. We are trained for this. It’s what we do all the time. Call your therapist.

AND if I’m your therapist or you want to see if I will be yours, call ME.

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Secondly, your relationship, even now, needs some space. You’re gonna need some clear communication, some real intimacy, some teamwork, and some space.

2. Plan some alone time.

Don’t wait until one of you is brimming over with irritation or feeling stuffy, smothered, and claustrophobic trapped in your house. We don’t want there to be any “finally erupting in anger.” Don’t wait. Know that you are going to naturally need a break from interaction and intensity and that it’s a good thing.

Also, don’t let those daily irritations pile up. Those sighing expressions, eye rolls, facial masks, and body language all communicate something even if you’re “holding your tongue” so to speak. Be sure ALL your communication is something helpful, kind, and true. (Not just one of those things, either: all three.)

That can be hard when things are getting TRIGGERED for you individually. That brings me to…

3. Tend to your personal issues.

They’re yours. Some of you know really well how to take responsibility for them, to address them, and take care of yourself in a way that helps (and does not hurt) yourself or the relationship.

Some of you need a counselor to help with that. Or you’re currently working with one. Get in for an individual session. In the meantime, do everything you already know to manage your own issues, your own stress, and your own triggers

Is it take a walk? Take three deep breaths? Do some tapping and releasing? Do you need to journal it out? Meditate? Call a friend? Send a letter or email? Work out? Stay in touch with a support group?

Do it.

And if COVID-19 circumstances are challenging, get creative. Of course, reach out virtually. Host an online party. There are lots of online platforms available for that as well.

Don’t have the right workout equipment at home? Lots of workouts available online will have you using alternate equipment for weights, blocks, straps, and other stuff. Improvise. You have amazing flexibility, adaptability, and creativity. Now’s the time to use it.

Got an old addiction, habit, or tendency? I’m not saying this is the time to quit smoking or stop drinking entirely…but it might be. For anyone else tempted to mitigate your stress with alcohol, food, or some other unhealthy obsession, do everything you need to do to stay focused on your overall health. It’s that Gentle, Benevolent Observer part of you getting some exercise and growing bigger even now, in fact, especially now.

4. Make a Schedule

Some routine and structure is good for all of us. If you’re home with kids, they need this. If you’re suddenly working from home, you gotta set some limits on how much you work. More details on upcoming blogs discussing Parenting in the time of Corona and Suddenly Working from Home in the next days.

Especially with your relationship during quarantine, maintain some structure.

Is Wednesday night date night? Keep it. Dream up ways to make it special. Even if you have kids at home, structure this around their sleep, or if they are old enough (and game) let them be your servers at the home restaurant, or let them enjoy their own treat-time downstairs while Mom and Dad are alone together in the dining room, dancing in the living room, or settling in with a movie. (By that time, maybe the young ones can join for the movie…or maybe it’s bedtime for them!)

Is Saturday hiking time? Do it, even if you have to walk closer to home. The two of you can hold hands, you just have to stay 6 feet away from everyone else you meet (or not in your household.)

Let your days be structured. And stick to it.

Don’t let Quarantine disrupt your relationship

You don’t have to let love go sour during Corona. No matter how you do it, don’t waste your quarantine. The two of you are made, move through the world, and process differently. You are each going to face this challenge a little differently.

It really can be a time of greater intimacy, connection, and learning in your relationship. Or it can add to the aggravation, irritation, and ultimately cement a super-unhappy memory.

You got this.

And when you don’t, call. I’m here for you. I’m meeting online with couples and individuals virtually everywhere.

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peace comes from faith not fear. learn to handle fear

Handle Fear Itself

The way you handle fear just might be your biggest challenge in life. Not just right now, but in absolutely everything at all times. In fact, it might be the only challenge that really matters. (Well, that and managing shame, the other troubling emotion but even shame does not paralyze in quite the same way as fear. It’s not as contagious, for starters. More on that in a later blog post.)

When Franklin D. Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” he knew what he was talking about. It applies today. And yes, it does apply to fear around our money as FDR meant when he said it in his first inaugural address.

Now is a great time for people NOT to panic about the economy and about their money. History bears this out time and again: those who resist the panic and keep their wits about them are the ones who get the real pay off in the end. Especially when it comes to economic things.

No matter what you apply it to: health, relationship, wealth…everything we do is either in faith or in fear.

I mean it. Every single step, every move you make, every vow you take (sorry, I distract myself with song lyrics.) But it’s still true; it’s ALL fear or faith.

Every single thing you confront today is either done in faith or fear. You are moving through life in faith or in fear. Going to work, driving your car, flying on a plane, submitting that work proposal, trying to improve your health, talking about that thing with your boss, your mate, your sister, or your dad.

I guess you can be doing something in a trance as well, unconsciously. Yet underneath it, even your subconscious is in faith or fear.

It matters.

Facing Fear

When handling fear, you don’t need to shout it down or summon angels for help or start a war. That really just makes it worse. It’s like struggling in quick sand. Exactly the opposite of what helps.

Fear is just fear. It’s an emotion. It’s just like every other emotion. And that means you can notice it, say to yourself, “hmmm, that’s interesting” and allow it. Breathe. Let it go.

Just like every other emotion, fear gets more powerful and bigger the more space you give it. What you focus on amplifies. Every troubling nuance, when given attention, becomes something bigger and more troubling.

Good news: when you focus on all the good stuff, that grows too. Including faith. And faith is NOT just an emotion. πŸ˜‰

Faith is actually a bit meatier. Now, I’m not meaning this in any kind of religious or spiritual sense. I don’t have to be talking from that perspective for this to be real because this is a truth that exists in the secular, human psychology perspective as well. It’s just true. (But if you have a religious or spiritual relationship with faith and perspective, you might already know what I’m talking about. And go ahead, draw on that as you reflect on this if it helps.)

Faith is more powerful than fear. You just need a tiny little bit of the stuff for it to grow. More than an emotion, faith is the expectation of things hoped for. In fact, one text calls it “the evidence of things not seen.” Did you hear that? Faith itself is the evidence of things not seen. Because the faith exists, (the positive belief, shall we say) the unseen thing actually IS. More than an emotion, faith is a state of being.

You’re either stuck in the emotion of fear or you’re in a state of faith.

Managing Fear with Faith

Making this distinction takes power from fear and gives it to faith. Think of fear simply as an emotion and faith as your chosen state of being and you are well on your way to complete freedom from the paralyzing effects of fear, my friend.

It’s that simple.

You know how to manage your emotions.

They’re just feelings you HAVE, and just like any other feeling you have, they will change. So you can tolerate the not-so-fun ones in the moment. They will change. Even the really hard ones based on real crappy things…like learning a mate cheated, or getting dumped, or losing a job, or having a loved one die… I mean those things truly hurt, AND those painful emotions do not stay as intense forever without your help.

Some of you know how to tolerate your pain, not just manage your emotions and that is a very necessary skill. Especially when the thing you feel is pretty unpleasant. And let’s face it, sometimes fear can be pretty intense and grab hold of you. It can seem once you’re in its grip, you’re trapped. But that’s not true.

Handle Fear Intentionally

Concentrate on the good. Count blessings. Garner joy. Repeat the positive. Avoid negatives and catastrophizing. In like fashion, avoid mockery and derision, conspiracy, and complaint. These are all quite a waste of your time and bring fighting energy to a thing that really doesn’t need to be a struggle.

Choose faith. On purpose. Adopt a few soothing mantras if you need them. “Everything’s gonna be all right.” I believe in goodness. “Good things will come of this.” All shall be well.

No matter what phrase or phrases you choose, keep them around and bring them out as a habit, not just when things look dark or threatening. Notice the difference they make.

One woman I see often in the shared lavatory of my office building obviously experiences a lot of fear. She’s always worried about something: the weather, the roads, the soap dispenser, the flu. Her constant mantras are definitely affecting her overall mood, health, movement, and experience in life.

Adopt some positive ones and make them a habit. You’ll reap the benefit of those as well.

Handle Fear with Your Brain

It’s amazing how research and clear thought can keep gnarly emotions at bay. Some of you #brainfirst people already know that. (The downside we talk about sometimes in therapy is too much intellectualizing, too much “thinking your feelings” when those puppies were meant to be felt, enjoyed, and even shared, producing connection, intimacy, and interdependence.)

But at times when the fear factor threatens to overwhelm, there’s nothing like good rationale and clear thinking for truly clearing the clutter and helping one breathe and get back to balance. Take, for example, this Washington Post article explaining why it’s so crucial to slow our movement at times when a virus is on the loose. Good research, informed thought, and measured response help all of us make good decisions and formulate a plan.

And when you’re feeling fearful, having a plan is comforting.

Handle Fear with Movement

That’s right. Move your body. (And if you’re slowing your movement to help slow the spread of coronavirus, move your body within those parameters. I’m heading to pick-up that Kroger order later, for example. I’m not going into the store…because I don’t need to. )

So, if you are slowing your movement, working from home, suddenly with kids home from school, think about your movement and making it intentional. Plan to exercise in the house. Or go out for a walk or run and don’t stop for a chat with the neighbor. Wave. Smile. These are good.

Clean, de-clutter, and organize some more. Knock yourself out and disinfect. Again. Physical movement like this can increases hopefulness, add to lightness of being, keep you from getting cabin fever, and underscore a sense of control.

Just check with yourself to be sure the ways you are moving within your own parameters really ARE serving you, helping keep you measured and well, and feeding your faith, not the fear. There’s no need to be frantic in these movements either.

There you have it. Go with faith, my friend. As much as you are able. And then the rest of the way, when you’re having a hard time with faith, be comforted. You’re not alone. We are in this together. (And that goes for ALL of life, not just virus-time.)

As always, let me know if I can help. I’m here for you. And because I truly believe it is the most responsible and community-minded action, I’ll be seeing you in my virtual office for now. Don’t worry; you’re going to like it too. Plus, I’m here at the blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram…and just a phone call or email away.

Keep the faith. Chin up. Rely on your brain. Move intentionally. You got this.

heartache loneliness grief

How do you Decide?

Remember back when George W took flack for saying “I’m the Decider! I decide what’s best.”

Well, no matter what your political leanings, it’s actually true. I mean, he wasn’t the Decider of the entire free world as a stand-alone be-all dictator (thankfully!) but he was the President of the United States and he was The Boss in charge of keeping or not keeping Donald Rumsfeld as Speaker of the House. It just sounds funny! (You might not recall the context, so I supplied it for you.)

Well, he was the Decider.

More importantly,YOU actually are the Decider. You are the Lead, the Star, the Romantic Hero in the story which is your life. Also, guess what?! You are the creator, writer, and director as well!

It doesn’t need to get any bigger than that. You shape your own life. Period.

You get to Decide

After all, you are a grown up and you get to do what you want. It’s one of the things that separates children from adults.

So why do some of you have such a hard time actually DOING this?

Could be you’re scared you’ll choose wrongly. Maybe every option includes pain and treading water seems more manageable than venturing through shark-infested waters.

It might be more comfortable blaming other people: your parents, society, your mate, your lousy luck! Realizing that it’s up to you can be terrifying at first… and ultimately liberating. Once you realize this, next comes agency and POWER.

(I help people with this whole process all the time, so don’t fear if you need help with it. I’ve got you covered.)

Keep this in mind:

Not deciding is a decision.

You’re choosing limbo. More treading. Using energy just to stay afloat. And, I mean, that’s fine as long as you realize you are choosing not to choose and it is costing you time, energy, and (often it’s also costing lots of ) moola.

Of those three, time is the one that actually does not regenerate (so far anyway.) It’s your time. I think it’s time for the next step…but untimately, YOU get to decide when to move.

Make it Easier to Decide

I promised three steps to making it easier. I already outlined the first two. πŸ˜‰

1. Accept that YOU are in charge.

2. Acknowledge that not-deciding might be painful and costly itself.

3. Make a Change Benefits Matrix.

I use this with clients all the time. It can be helpful to have an “objective someone” identify what you emphasize as you talk, reflect back to you, help you organize your thoughts, and listen for how you actually weight components of the activity. (Good therapists are not just staying quiet and nodding their heads. We do more.)

And the Change Benefits Matrix is also something you can do at home.

Make a double pros and cons list which has two headings. At the top write down your contemplated change. Underneath you’ll list the pros and cons. On the second long horizontal line is NOT the change.Β  Don’t write what is the opposite or a different solution or two opposing options. You’re considering ONE CHANGE at a time. It looks like this:

For example, maybe you’re contemplating the change of “Buy a gym membership.” The Not is “Don’t buy a gym membership.” The second line is not something like, Join a Hiking group or Start running on your own. In other words, it’s not an alternate solution.

So it’s not even something like “break-up” and “stay together.” It is directly not that change. It matters. So, it would be “break up” and “don’t break up.”

In this way you’ll be thinking precisely and only about the pros and cons of making or not making the change and avoid confusing the issue with other possible solutions.

A couple more hints for using this to decide

  • Yes, some of the pros above will be related to the cons below, but you’ll also find they have their unique flavor and weight. Go ahead and complete a whole square or jump around the matrix filling it up.
  • When you’re done, what stands out most notably? Is something weightier than all the rest? Pay attention to that.

Some purveyors of the Change Benefits Matrix will have you assigning percentages to weight your pros and cons. Knock yourself out if you think the math will tell you what’s most important.

I don’t do that. For most people, you won’t need numbers to make the decision.

You’ll discover what matters most to you. It will unfold as you spell it out. You might suddenly know the thing holding you back. Or you identify the hurdle you want to address. Maybe it’s the thing that makes you decide this contemplated change is not for you. Could be now is not the time for the change.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll see that you really are motivated to get moving and make the change.

After all, you get to decide.

This is gonna help many of you. And it might bring up some sticky spots for some of you. Let me know if I can help. Send a message and I’ll let you know how we get started.

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Got New Year’s goals coming up? This is a great thing to use getting prepped for transformation and growth big and small.

 

 

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.

CONNECT

 

 

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”Β  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!Β  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. πŸ˜‰ 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.Β  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?Β  You know I’m here for you. Let’s connect.

CONNECT