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

 

 

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.

CONNECT
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

Enough of what you want

What’s the stuff that gets you through these cold, spare-feeling months after the holidays?

Here in Cincinnati, as I write, it’s late January, cold, with a dust of snow on the ground and spurts of gusty wind, so the reflective, winter hibernation feeling pervades. Even if it’s sunny and warm where you are, I’m sure you can relate.

Are you getting enough love, connection, warmth, belonging, appreciation? Maybe it’s respect, a commanding rhythm to your day and comfort you crave. Maybe you really want a solid plan for the new year and to feel grounded, certain, and safe.

What matters most?

For me, especially this time of year, it ends up being a sense of purpose. And you might guess my central purpose is all about helping people.

I want to help people have great relationships…with themselves first, then with their mates, children, friends, colleagues, and families. People make up communities that reflect the quality of those inner circles. It’s all very important. And it’s best to start from the inside out.

I also want to have the good stuff in my own life. For me, good relationships are good life. I’m not the only one who says so either. Check out this Ted Talk on Harvard’s study. It’s good for us to have healthy intimate relationships and resolved relationships with our children, our siblings, and within families.

It’s good stuff

Sometimes people think relationship work is “fluff” because it’s not tasking, or doing kind of movement.

We might think it’s not measurable.

But it is.

So much good, measurable research has been done for decades. Gottman, Sternberg, Adams, Tatkin, and so many others have amassed real measurable results to the question “how do healthy relationships work?”

Let that be a comfort to you. If it’s measurable and DO-able, then it’s also measurable and DO-able for YOU.

Anyone can learn to enjoy healthy, good, loving relationships.

How you’re made matters

It’s also important to know that our normal way of coming at life influences everything. We’re built a certain way, we’ve been influenced by our environments and experiences, and we move through the world in a particularly dominant pattern.

Maybe you’ve heard me talk about Whole Human Theory Therapy (TM). It draws on decades of research, brain science and methods testing to meet each individual person -and pairing when couples come to me- with an understanding of your current and dominant movement through the world

That’s just where we start. It’s not enough to recognize the way you’re made, the ways you’re different from others, or get a revelation that not everyone thinks the way you think. Then we get to use who you are essentially to do things that matter for you in getting the kind of growth that will allow better relationship.

In short, truly knowing yourself and then knowing how to use that is what will get you to enough…enough of what matters most to you.

Want to know more

about the way you’re made and how it affects everything you do…including the struggle in relationships you might be facing right now? Shoot me a message and let’s get together.

CONNECT

In the meantime, everyone can benefit from this reminder:

Be Gentle

I hope you’ve learned this sweet trick. It makes everything in life so much better. Everything goes easier and more smoothly.

Breathe deeply. Let go. Allow yourself to relax. Loving kindness. Let it be your intention.

And I mean be gentle with yourself first and then with others. Most people who are harsh with others are even harder on themselves.

You might know this is you. Still, it’s no comfort to those who might be withering from the weight of your words… or your silence and withdrawal. Speak to yourself -and others- in the kindest way you can.

Be gentle. Go gently.

If that’s difficult for you, it’s not surprising. Most of us believe that we have to be hard on ourselves (and others) in order to…get enough, have enough, be enough. But it’s not actually true.

Today, give gentle a try. See how it goes.

And let me know how it’s going.

CONNECT

Coming up…In the next days and weeks, I’m writing a post each about what it means to be #heartfirst, #brainfirst and #bodyfirst. This distinction leads us to a whole host of other insight. Stay tuned.

 

make the most of your holidays this year

Holidays…Again

Here we go. The holidays again. If you’re in a relationship, it can feel like major testing time.

And for those of you alone for the holidays, I know that’s its own separate challenge.  Don’t skip this article because if you have tension with ANYONE in your life over the holidays, the process I describe below will help!

(If you’re bumming about being alone, here’s some comfort: You can read another article here  and there’s a podcast episode or two on the topic as well.)

How are your holidays shaping up?

Maybe you’ve been on this ride so many times you almost sleep-walk through them. Or about mid-October you start dreading them and adopt “survival mode.” You want to hibernate and wake up after January 2nd.

Perhaps you just love this time of year and you’re consumed with projects and plans and parties and people. It’s all so yummy for you, it’s one big winter fun fest.

Of course, those are two extremes and you might fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever your take on this time of year, it’s a deal. And it affects everyone. For some relationships, (honestly, this can apply to a love relationship, a child, a sibling relationship) this is a prime time when the same conflicts come up again and again. You could almost script them verbatim.

People make meaning of Holidays

even if the holiday itself means nothing to them. They’re a hot-button of expectation and personal, historical significance. When you and your mate have a sizeable gap in your Bah-humbug score, holidays can feel like a landmine of disappointments and endless, fruitless negotiation and “compromise.”

Holiday conflicts

Do you and your mate have a long-standing seasonal conflict? What are your normal conflict conversations? Is there a recurrent fight? What bugs you about your partner that you just know is going to happen again this year?

And hey, if you’re in a new-ish relationship is there a conflict you’re hoping to AVOID as you head into the season?

Maybe someone else in the family is on your naughty list or you rarely see them and now you’re dreading having to deal with them. Grrrrrrr.

It might seem redundant or superfluous or just painful to actually think about the looming conflicts. But what if preparing for them could help you avoid them all together? Skeptical? Read on.

A new Holiday list

This year, instead of making a wish list or a gift list, indulge me and create a sh*t list. (I can’t think of a better thing to call it! Call it cr*p if you don’t like the word sh*t. Or if you think of something else, leave a comment and let me know!)

Yes, I mean, sit down and actually write the major areas of contention. What do you already know is likely to come up or happen?

Is it that you want him to go help pick out the tree and every year it’s like pulling teeth? Is it that she gets moody before going to spend time with your family? Is it that she zones out and whirls into DO mode while she harps on the kids to get everything in shipshape before guests arrive? Does he always shop at the last minute…like on Christmas Eve day and it just makes you frantic?

Does she expect you to be happy when you show up for yet another boring office party? Does he really expect you to talk to the ridiculous office mates you have nothing in common with? Do you set a budget for spending and then at the last minute, she goes over it or he pastes a hundred dollar bill in cards on the tree for EACH one of the kids?!

Write it all down

It might surprise you that you feel a little resistant to actually doing this. After all, if you write it down does that mean it’s more likely to happen?

Um, no. Writing it down gets it out of your head and out of worry zone where you can actually take a look at it and DO something constructive with it.

You write it down so you can acknowledge that you’re carrying worry and tension around inside you because of the impending doom associated with any areas of contention.

(And I know some of you have things to write down like “hibernate until January 2 while (s)he pressures me to do everything, eat too much, watch Uncle Harry drink like a fish, drop into my winter coma, put on ten pounds, get a cold I can’t shake, try desperately to avoid the same conversation with my mom about my life going nowhere and when am I ever going to…)

It’s not funny.

But when you write it all down and LOOK at it, you might think it’s a little funny, or pathetic, or absurd, or terrible. I don’t know what you’ll think of your own list. This much I do know: you will see patterns emerge.

I’m interested in those patterns. You can get interested in them too. Note them. Is there an underlying drive for control? Do you sincerely think everyone else should just stop their complaining and enjoy it. (“We’re having a family photo taken and you are going to like it!”)

What else do you notice? Are you trying to correct your holiday experience from childhood? Are you trying to recreate it? What else can you learn by seeing your pattern?

Then you can decide what to DO with each reality on the list. And those things are reality if they’ve happened…even once! But if they’ve happened several times, they are a pattern, not just for you but for the other people involved as well.

We’re secretly hoping something will be different this time around. We hope and hope and hope and then DO the same things in our approach and it never changes. Try something new this year.

Allow, Enjoy, Plan for the holidays

For each item on the list, make a decision about it. Your choices are to Allow, Enjoy, or Plan it.

Notice that your options are NOT Avoid, Fix, or Plot your new approach. (Allowing, Enjoying, and Planning for “that thing” to happen are your new approach, by the way.) Read through the examples below:

Allow the holidays

So let’s say your mate goes over budget every single year. Is it really the end of the world that he pastes hundreds into a card for each kid at the last minute? I mean it. Literally, has the world ended because of that? No. Allow it.

You know it’s going to happen again. You know the kids love it. You know it has nothing to do with you; it has to do with your mate. And the kids might also love that there is no tension and no daggers thrown because of something that’s pretty cool for them. This is a thing you can’t control anyway, and all your efforts to do so help you feel powerless, right? But allowing this thing to happen takes the power out of the thing (the area of contention) and it actually gives you power.

You are NOT at the mercy of someone else’s behavior even when it’s patterned behavior. It’s not your job to control it anyway, so you can just allow it or, maybe, sit back and…

Enjoy the holidays

Crazy as it may sound, enjoying Uncle Harry’s over-drinking is possible. I know for some of you that feels like a dangerous stretch for all kinds of reasons associated with substance abuse and expectations in those relationships. But expectations in relationship with Uncle Harry when you know he’s going to drink himself into a near-coma are, well, a waste of energy.

Honestly, I learned this one from my youngest son. He has an uncanny ability to enjoy whatever is happening. And if Uncle Harry is overdrinking, my son is able to sit back and find amusement in the sad, pathetic fact that this happens every year, Uncle Harry says stupid stuff to offend people every year, and Grandma predictably gets her feathers in a dither.

It may be an annual event fit for a sit com or movie, and if it is, I say, why not make plans to enjoy the show? Which brings me to the next option:

Plan the holidays

I don’t mean plan a way to avoid it or fix it or make something else happen. I mean plan for the thing that’s going to happen. Is it that you and your mate are going to bicker over whose fault it is that the gifts are not wrapped and it’s time to open them? Okay. Plan for it.

Is it that Christmas morning he is going to want to sleep in and the kids come to your side of the bed eager to wake you up and it spurs a battle that turns snippy all through your first cup of coffee and until the kids have opened their gifts and have the play Dough and remote control helicopter flying through the family room and then escalate into an argument over what time the car needs to get packed for Grandma’s in order to be there on time? Okay. Plan for it.

Planning for the unpleasant things takes the sting out of them. Then when they happen, you won’t be surprised. In fact, you’ll shift your expectation away from the thing that’s NOT happening. And it will put you in a lovely position to “allow” and ENJOY what does happen.

You might even be able to observe, with a sense of humor… “see, right on time. I knew that was coming.”

How will you Allow, Enjoy, and Plan for your Holidays this year?

Take a minute to comment here and let me know what you are doing to enter into the season? Anything about what I’ve said seem hard or particularly challenging? Leave a comment here or on Facebook and let me know.

I always want to hear how it’s going for you.

And if this was helpful in anyway to you, please share it with a friend…or all your friends. It feels really good to help! Let’s do it together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

understanding women podcast episode 3

3 For MEN only: keys to understanding women

Ever wish you could understand women?

Here are some of the secrets of the female psyche revealed! It’s all based on real research, so listen in, guys!

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By the time women are in midlife, sometimes the result can translate as women being closed off to you. Women can feel guarded or scared, or so accomplished and self-assured they don’t need you. They can also be complicated, sophisticated, and “evolved.”  Some are so horny you don’t know what to do with them!

Still feeling compelled to rescue a woman?

Maybe you do have that rescuer mentality still. Some men at this point are TIRED of having to be the pursuer it can be tough figuring out what to make of really aggressive women.

Good news:

There are still good women who do understand how you’re made and want to have great relationships with YOU and men like you!

Triangular Theory of Love

Robert Sternberg’s theory posits three elements of love: passion, intimacy, and commitment from which he defines all types of love. In the middle of this triangle, if everything is balanced, there’s consummate love.

Keys to Understanding Women:

  1. Every woman wants to be indispensible: she wants to occupy a place in your heart and mind and life that no other woman does or has or can…or ever will! She must be special. Essentially, she wants to be that consummate love!

2. Every woman asks these two related underlying questions. She carries them around inside her even when she doesn’t know it. (And she’d like to experience a yes about 80% of the time with you.)

  Do you care about how I feel? And are you willing to do something about it?

The key: be sure you know HOW to give her the YES she needs. This includes resisting the urge to “fix it!” SO:

3. Practice empathy even at the elementary level: correctly identify HER emotions.

4. Be willing to do the “something about it” in the way SHE understands.

Plus the BURNING QUESTION answered!

Notice you’re choosing the same type of woman over and over? Want help figuring out what to adjust in order to have truly happy relationship?

CALL ME. 513-818-2024. Let’s get to work putting your understanding of women into ACTION!

 

 

Your work in relationship

It can be really hard to do your work in relationship when you’re so bothered by someone else NOT doing theirs.

My mother used to say

“you are one hundred percent responsible for your actions and reactions.”

Gosh, I hated my mother sometimes. I rolled my eyes and knew she was right even as a young rascally little girl (with ten siblings!) intent on getting her own way at least some of the time.

It felt unjust to me. I got punished for “acting or reacting.” I got punished for “provoking.” The gist: I got punished.

The weight of being one hundred percent responsible as a child felt scary. Impossible. So burdensome. Too much.

And in fact, it is. There seemed no way to win except to somehow NOT FEEL.

I needed to know a healthy thing to do with my feelings.

Without acknowledgement for the very real thing I was experiencing (aka that feeling I didn’t like) I had no idea what to do with it except stuff it. We were told children should be seen and not heard, unless performing, which I was allowed to do for guests from time to time.

I needed someone in my life to reflect that the thing I was experiencing was real, valid, understandable, human. In short, I needed empathy. I didn’t need anyone to agree that I should feel that way or that I was right to feel that way or that my ensuing desire, hope, or fantasy about how someone else might fix my feeling was justified.

I needed to know I was not wrong or bad or crazy to feel the way I felt.

Instead I got the message not to feel.

It wasn’t common, respected, important, or expedient in my family to have feelings, much less act on them. It was okay to think stuff and do stuff, but talking about feelings… not so much. Displaying a feeling?! Good heavens! Moving an emotion from the rumble of our bodies to actually acting on it with movement or words?! Uh, that’s just not nice. That was punishable by OTHER activity (like running around the barn 20 times) or extra chores. From time to time, the assignment was to “go to your room and THINK about what you’ve done.”

So, we were allowed to “appropriately sublimate” our anger or rage or hurt.  We were allowed to think our feelings or run them out or work them out. And occasionally we were allowed to think our feelings.

Makes for some pretty intense resistance to being one hundred percent responsible…

for my own actions and reactions. I think this approach was very well-intended but what I learned was this: I should just get over it. And if that was hard for me I was being “too sensitive.”

Could have been part of the stoic German/Scandanavian culture and mindset so solidly part of my childhood. Could be that additional German/Protestant work ethic.

Of course, I would be doing my own work! Work is what we do.

And that meant all my own emotional and psychic work as well.

I’ve spent my life DOING just that very thing. And leading others into it as well. So, obviously, I agreed with and wrestled with this mandate in big ways.

Sometimes it meant I did TOO MUCH work in relationship.

I carried too much responsibility for the thing that needed fixing. I picked up other people’s work and tried to do their stuff too or, even better, I tried to do their work instead.

That’s a lovely recipe for disastrous results for everyone.

Maybe you can relate.

Now, I don’t know what are your cultural or family-of-origin contributions to this whole puzzle but they MATTER. They make a difference in how you approach this and how comfortable you are with “feeling your feelings, thinking your thoughts, and doing stuff” versus what you might do as a default: think your feelings, be your thoughts, and act out.

Those early influences also matter in relation to how well you can distinguish your real responsibilities for growth from someone else’s work in relationship.

You might have similar hurdles to mine. Maybe not.

What we know for sure:

We know relationships are healthiest when people are separate and whole individuals deliberately choosing connection.

We know each individual person has human challenges, pretty unique to the way (s)he is made. Lots of these challenges are made worse by the seemingly most-possibly-aggravating pairing of mates in love relationships.

And when that happens, it’s either an invitation to quit or a challenge to rise to the occasion.

Just be sure it’s the right occasion and not just a repeat of familiar, old patterns.

You can’t fix someone else.

And you can’t get someone else or a relationship to fix you. No one else can do your work for you.

Let me say one more thing about this. So often I see people trying to fill the void in their own lives with their primary love relationship. I see people going from relationship to relationship looking for the right person who is going to treat them the way they deserve.

This is a mighty tricky concept because there is a difference between having standards for healthy treatment within a relationship and having expectations that someone else will behave in a way that keeps you comfortable.

News flash: even among quite healthy individuals, you each have your own growth to attend to. You’re not going to get everything you want. And that other person is not going to make you happy, keep you happy, or secure your happiness once and for all.

Life is not a fairytale.

Life is good and love can be good. And you’ve heard me say before that love is not hard, it’s not a lot of work. And I stand by that. But there is no happily ever after. There’s just now.

Love is not a lot of work.

But doing your own work can feel mighty hard and it is still your responsibility. And sometimes doing that work is the most challenging piece of all. Most of us can’t do it all by ourselves. That’s partly because it’s tough to see our way around those common blind spots.

It’s also because it takes real courage to face ourselves, to be vulnerable, to tell the truth and see the truth and then do something truly constructive with the information.

Relationship is good.

We need it. Could be the best relationship you can have with anyone right now is the one with a therapist or coach who has been down the road ahead of you and knows how to gently illuminate the path for you to choose. One thing is sure: that relationship you have with yourself will be stronger for all the work you do that is truly your work to do.

I guarantee that.

And the relationships you have with others will get healthier and healthier the more you can see what is truly your work to do. Fun thing in the whole deal? You’ll be able to stop working so hard at the wrong things and get on with the work that actually makes life better.

It’s not so scary.

Give me a call if you want to talk about how I can support you in the work that matters.