How Do I Ask My Partner to Attend a Coaching Session with Me?

Do you feel that your long-term relationship could benefit from couples coaching but you are concerned that your partner is not open to the idea of seeing a coach? I am often asked, “how do I get my partner to come with me to do couples work”?

In my workshops and one-on-one sessions, I teach individuals and couples how to express their feelings and needs using the non-violent communication model by Marshall Rosenberg. The four step process ends with making a request—not a demand—to have your need met.

Couple’s therapist Ellyn Bader also has an interesting perspective on expressing needs to our partner. She points out that a lot depends on the wording we use. To translate that into NVC wording, we can express our need for something, but the request has to be a true request, not “I want you to”, not “I need you to”, and certainly not “You need to”.

Bader feels that saying “I need you to go to couples coaching with me”, will most likely result in your partner feeling he or she has no choice. They might feel cornered, resistant and get defensive, as there is no room to move. Fears or shame can be triggered for them around seeing a coach or sharing your private conflicts and challenges. They might not even feel they can express their feelings when approached this way. The more autocratic we show up when we express a need, the less likely it is that our partner will want to be open and cooperative.

Here is a better way of approaching the topic. “I really want to go to coaching. I hope you will join me. Here is why I want to go: I realize when you and I get into conflict I don’t handle it the best way possible. I want to learn to understand you better so we can create a better relationship. I want to become a better version of myself and connect at a deeper level with you.”

Notice that all of these are I-statements. You avoid blame or finger pointing. You simply take responsibility for yourself and the change you want to make. You give your partner a free choice to change or stay the same. Ellyn Bader even advises not to use the word “need” at all. Approaching your partner from a softer place allows them to give generously from an open heart and to express their own concerns or hesitations.

It can also help if you highlight the personal gain for your partner when going to couples coaching. You probably have specific topics you want to work on. Let your partner know that you are willing to also work on what they want to change in your partnership. For example, you want your partner to acknowledge your feelings more, and your partner wants to improve your sex life. Knowing they have a potential gain by agreeing to sessions gives them a motivation to come other than the fact that you want them to.

If despite making a request rather than a demand, your partner is not willing to come for sessions, you have the choice to make an appointment for an individual session to do your own relationship work. Even when only one person changes, the relationship itself changes. All relationships are a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves. Others reflect to us what we believe, think and how much we love ourselves. Our partner always reflects our core wounds from childhood.

Some potential questions to examine in individual sessions could be:

– How has my partner disappointed or hurt me in ways similar to how I was disappointed or hurt as a child?

e.g. My father discounted my feelings and fears and my partner does the same.

– How might I have disappointed or hurt my partner in ways similar to how he or she was disappointed or hurt as a child?

e.g. My partner had a mother who was controlling and demanding. Each time I become controlling or demanding, I remind him of his mother. As a child he felt not good enough and guilty. When I let him know that he is not acknowledging my feelings, he is triggered into not being good enough again. He feels guilty.

– How do I let myself down in ways that are similar to how I feel let down by my partner?

e.g. I don’t take good care of my own feelings.

– Where am I expecting my partner to take care of me in ways I am refusing to take care of myself?

e.g. I expect him to acknowledge my feelings when I am not willing to sit and work through my own feelings.

– What am I making these disappointments mean?

e.g. My feelings, needs and fears don’t matter and will never be acknowledged in a relationship.

– What am I making our challenges mean about the possibilities I have for happiness in romantic partnerships?

e.g. I can’t be myself in a romantic partnership. I have to suppress my feelings and fears. I will never feel safe or accepted to be me.

– What is my limiting story around love and relationships based on my childhood wounds?

e.g. Men are not capable of acknowledging feelings and fears. Women need to make sure they don’t show up as “too needy”, or they lose their partner.

– How do I set my partner up to respond in a way that perpetuates my childhood experience?

e.g. I don’t express my feelings and fears calmly, and instead, I get very stressed and anxious. I express myself loudly and anxiously, using control to manage the anxiety. That triggers my partner into feeling the same way he felt when he was a boy.

 

Contact me for a free phone consultation on either individual sessions or couple’s coaching. I also offer packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you reading my blog. If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Getting to the Complaint Underneath the Criticism

A couple of weeks ago a client was coming in for his session and he wanted to talk about our coach-client relationship. He needed me to listen to a complaint he had. He felt I was being unfair by putting all the responsibility for his relationships with his family members onto him. After all, the other family members should be given half of the responsibility. Part of me wanted to say “But that’s not what I meant…” and jump into an explanation and justification. I had to tell myself to breathe and to really be present with his words.

I needed to listen carefully to hear that he was feeling unsupported by me as his coach. I had to ask myself if there was a shadow showing up for me with this particular client. Was there an energy mirrored back to me by him that I wasn’t comfortable with and was I therefore rushing him to shift out of it? Was I pushing him too hard because I experienced him as a conscious man and had higher expectations of him than of an average client? Or was the approach and tools not the right ones for him? How was I being unfair to him and unsupportive?

I am very grateful to this client for speaking up and making me aware that there was a shadow projection going on. It would have been easier for him to just not return for the next session because it requires courage to speak up. He had the courage to bring it up and I was able to realize that I perceived him as not taking enough responsibility for his part in most of his relationships because he reminded me of somebody I know. So I was focusing on what he could do better instead of focusing on his progress.

Whether with a client, or in any of our other relationships, it is not always easy to respond to criticism without defensiveness and to stay open to hearing the complaint underneath. As mammals, we are hardwired to want to feel good in comparison to others and to not be rejected by others, so that we are not abandoned by our tribe, who we need for survival. So we have an inbuilt physiological response to being criticized. Stephen Porges speaks about how our body tenses up and how being criticized can shift our autonomic nervous system into defense mode as if we are being attacked. We experience a physical and emotional constriction.

Gottman highlights the importance for the speaking partner to make productive complaints rather than being critical and for the listening partner not to get defensive. Criticism and defensiveness are two of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” who slowly erode our relationships.

The person who has a complaint needs to remember to deliver their complaint without blame or anger and as diplomatically and gently as they possibly can. But what about the person who is at the receiving end? Sadly, in our human interactions, it is unusual for the person who is being criticized to respond with curiosity and wanting to understand, rather than defensiveness. So, what can you do when your partner or somebody else criticizes you?

I find it helps to remember to breathe and self-regulate, so that we can truly listen and get to the complaint underneath the criticism. Dr. Kelly McGonigal recommends to “breathe with all your senses”. She reminds herself to “breathe with her ears”. You can feel how your body feels and strive to have a posture of openness. Drop your shoulders, come into your body and notice your breathing. “Lean in” as much as possible instead of shrinking away and protecting yourself. Leaning in translates into your body language and fascial expression and shows the other person that you are willing to listen and take their feelings and thoughts seriously.

Dr Rick Hansen talks about tracking moment to moment that your body is still okay and that you are not in mortal danger, you are not dying, even though our primitive brain might be under the impression that we are in danger. Dr Joan Borysenko even suggests to use a mantra like “All is well” to calm ourselves down when we feel attacked by criticism.

Instead of going on the defence due to our own feelings of inadequacy, which tend to get triggered, we need to just be quiet and listen properly. We need to be curious about what the other person has to teach us or needs from us. It can help to be honest and say, “I feel defensive right now but I don’t think this will help you or me so I am trying to stay open to what you are saying.” The admission of your own defensiveness, allows the speaker to feel heard and to explain a bit more how you can meet their needs.

Have the attitude to turn criticism that is usually hurtful into something actionable. Remember that underneath a criticism is a longing. Here are some examples:

Complaint: You never hold hands with me anymore.

Longing: I need some affection and holding hands makes me feel loved and connected.

Complaint: Why is it so hard for you to say thank you?

Longing: I feel unappreciated and would really love if you told me more often that you are grateful for what I do.

Complaint: You always overreact when I tell you bad news.

Longing: It would be much easier for me to tell you bad news if you stayed calm. Can you please take some deep breaths and not respond right away.

Complaint: You don’t know at all what I like!

Longing: I wish you would listen more when I express my likes and dislikes and show that you care what I like.

For more examples click here.

Next time your partner criticizes you, take some deep breaths, let them know you are doing your best not to get defensive, so that they know what you are struggling with and perhaps they can reassure you that they love you. Then listen very carefully for the longing. Be curious what you can learn.

Contact me for more information on either couple’s coaching or individual sessions to help you deal with criticism and defensiveness.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

You can also join me for this meditation to practice staying open instead of getting defensive

Why Won’t You Apologize?

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

Sue is at the stove making dinner. As she turns to tell her children to get ready, she sees six-year-old Adam ripping a Barbie doll’s head off while his four-year-old sister stares at him with fear in her eyes. Adam is watching his sister and seems to take pleasure in her response. Sue is shocked and disgusted. Before she is aware of how she feels and why she was triggered into those feelings, she says to Adam. “You are horrible! That was just mean and malicious! How can you do such an awful thing? Don’t you care about your sister’s feelings at all? You need to apologize to your sister right now!” Adam feels deeply ashamed. He hears that there is something inherently wrong with him.

Twenty years later, Adam and his girlfriend Sarah are having a fight. Her choir had their first performance and he forgot. He stayed late at the office to work overtime and went out for a drink with his colleagues afterwards. His seat in the theatre stayed empty. Sarah is upset. “How could you forget? Don’t you care about my life and my feelings at all? You are horrible!” Adam’s shame is triggered again. He doesn’t say anything. When his girlfriend says, “you should apologize, but clearly you don’t care!” Adam gets defensive. What he doesn’t do is take responsibility for his mistake and apologize.

Apologies are almost impossible when we are stuck in a place of shame. Being able to say, “I am sorry” requires a solid foundation of self-worth. We need to feel that we are fundamentally lovable even if our behaviour in a situation has caused somebody else pain. Adam has learned that he is fundamentally flawed. Criticism and the anger of a loved one trigger self-loathing in him. He feels like he is six years again, being told that he is horrible. Only when we have a solid basis of self-esteem can we take responsibility for a mistake and for the effects our words or actions had on another person.

Sarah is hurt and continues to be upset. Adam feels not good enough and, in an attempt to stop the uncomfortable confrontation, he says, “I am sorry” in an irritated voice. His apology comes with the meta message that Sarah’s feelings are silly and annoying. He adds, “You could have reminded me again yesterday that the performance was tonight” and essentially blames her. A little later in the conversation he says, “I am sorry but you are overreacting. It’s not as if you had a solo performance!” Because of the deep shame he feels, he is unable to validate her feelings and take responsibility for his absence with an authentic and heart-felt apology.

What constitutes an effective and honest apology?

  1. It is never too late to apologize. If we apologize within the first minutes after an event, the repair is easier. As Stan Tatkin points out, when we can repair very quickly, the experience does not pass from short term memory into long term memory. On the other hand, if the repair does not occur quickly, the behaviour is regarded by the injured party as a “trait” and will be encoded in their memory as such.

However, Adam can still apologize when he has calmed down and has taken a moment to put himself in Sarah’s shoes. Going back to the conversation at a later point means a double apology is required; a heart-felt “I am really sorry, I wasn’t at your choir performance as I had promised” followed by, “I am sorry I felt too ashamed to apologize properly right away.”

  1. Apologizing requires listening and understanding. The willingness to sit with Sarah’s disappointment and validate her feelings is required from Adam. “You must have been so disappointed”, “I understand why you felt like I didn’t care”, “I am sorry you felt abandoned” and so on.

  1. Apologizing means taking responsibility for one’s part in a situation. Adam needs to look into Sarah’s eyes and show her through his body language, his tone and his words, that he is sorry for forgetting. An authentic “I know I really screwed up!” or something similar shows that he is not trying to pass the blame.
  2. The word “but” negates an apology. A true apology only focuses on our behaviour, without making excuses. Harriet Lerner in her book “Why Won’t You Apologize” reminds us to keep “but” and “if” out of our apologies. “I am sorry if I offended you” is for example also a non-apology, as it questions the validity of the other person’s feelings.

Just as there is an art to apologizing, there is also an art to receiving an apology. In accepting the apology, there is also no place for a “but” or a lecture. Sarah needs to receive Adam’s heart-felt apology with grace and openness. She needs to simply thank him for apologizing and save any further discussion, for example about Adam having been forgetful lately, for another time.

As parents, grandparents, and educators, who want to raise children who are ready to say sorry, we have to keep in mind that saying less is more. If a child apologizes, we need to accept the apology with a simple thank you instead of following with a whole lecture. We need to give them credit for being mature and responsible enough to offer a true apology. Making statements about the child’s character instead of their behaviour and lecturing them only causes further shame instead of a positive experience. A true heartfelt apology is not just a gift to the person we are apologizing to but it is also a gift to ourselves as it raises our self-worth when we are able to take responsibility and act in integrity. Let’s remember to make apologizing an experience of personal growth and increased self-esteem for the next generation.

 

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

Angelika

Relationship Coaching

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Affairs and Attractions

Hal and Sidra Stone are consciousness teachers who have really applied their teachings to their own relationship, respectively have arrived at what they teach about relationships through their own relationship work. An area which we are most vulnerable in when we are in a relationship is monogamy versus having affairs. We can get very hurt when we are not aware of the dynamics. Hal and Sidra are providing us with another perspective of infidelity.

Hal & Sidra 2

Usually, the perception is that one person is just too immature or undisciplined or immoral to be loyal and honest. The topic is much more complex than that.

There are two very opposite voices in ALL of us. We all have a monogamous voice which wants the safety and depth which comes with monogamy but we ALL also have a non-monogamous voice, a part which is still attracted to others, even if we are in a committed relationship. When we commit to a relationship the expectation—or choice—usually is to be monogamous, however, that non-monogamous energy in us still exists and goes underground. If we ignore that energy and pretend it does not exist, we are more likely to have an affair.

What are the dynamics of that? Let’s take an example. Cybil is only in touch with her monogamous energy, Bill is only in touch with his non-monogamous energy. After they get married, Cybil becomes the victim. She feels she is the only one who wants to be and is monogamous. She is the one fearing infidelity and is the one trying to make things safe and hold both of them together. She might find herself feeling jealous and insecure. The jealous part of her might accuse Bill of wanting to sleep with another woman or having slept with another person. The little child inside might start to be clingy. The controlling part in her might start to check up on him and try to control how he spends his time.

If the non-monogamous energy is not honestly acknowledged, what is called a child-parent bonding pattern occurs. Bill would become the power parent and sit in judgement over Cybil’s weakness and need for commitment and her dependency. Cybil on the other side would judge Bill for being unstable, immature and a liar or cheater.

If Cybil was in touch with her non-monogamous voice and really knew that she also has both sides, that the potential for infidelity is inside her as well, she would not judge him but be able to address the situation openly. From the place of judgement, anger and resentment grows, which can come out as just suddenly ending the relationship in an explosive way. And Bill might even convince himself that he is glad this happened as he has felt controlled, restricted and deprived of any privacy or alone time.

If he is in touch with both energies in himself he would have to speak up clearly, asking for privacy and explaining to Cybil that he chooses monogamy but still has other impulses. If he feels he can share with her honestly when he feels attracted to another woman, they can find a way to work this out together. He would, however, need to be prepared to initially be met with anger, or irritation, or hurt. Sharing this sort of attraction can activate the insecurities and wounds in our partner. We need to trust that the relationship is strong enough to survive that hurt. We also need to realize that speaking up openly is better than having a secret affair and the betrayal coming out at one point in the future and really hurting our partner.

When Bill speaks up, Cybil would have to understand that the fact that he is attracted to somebody else has absolutely nothing to do with her personally. It is NOT that she is not giving Bill what he needs. It is NOT that she is not attractive anymore. It is NOT that she is lacking in any way. Instead the “other woman” Bill might find himself attracted to represents an energy which is missing in their relationship.

Hal & Sidra 3

Hal and Sidra have managed to handle this part in us which is attracted to others with consciousness. They have chosen to have a monogamous relationship which they have been able to keep up because the non-monogamous energy is being acknowledged and addressed. They have expressed to each other when they were attracted to somebody else. Sidra, for example, was attracted to a man who was adventurous and travelled the world a lot. Once she shared this with Hal, he was able to embrace his own adventurous nature more. They brought that energy more into their own relationship, travelled more and enjoyed adventures together. Sidra’s attraction to the other man vanished.

What we are attracted to, is not so much the person themselves, but the energy the other person represents. They mirror to us what energy our partner is not in touch with and has disowned. If our partner is more practical and worldly and less spiritual, we might be attracted to somebody spiritual; it means we need to embrace spirituality in our relationship more. If our partner is very responsible, we might be attracted to somebody who is a free spirit; it signifies that we need to bring that energy more into our relationship. If our partner is quite focused on finances, we might be attracted to somebody who cares little about money; it means we might need to bring other values into our relationship. What attracts us to a partner is what they mirror for us.

Sometimes it is not just one partner who has disowned that energy but both of us in our relationship have, for example, disowned the spiritual part, or the free spirited energy, or the voice which does not care much about material things. Each attraction of one or both partners to an energy outside themselves is a gift to find out what is missing in the relationship and what can be brought in.

This is not just about the relationship itself, but it is also a gift for each partner to claim a part of themselves they have so far disowned. It does not mean something is wrong with one partner. It just means there is more in this world that we can try out and embrace.

If Sarah is attracted to an assertive and strong male energy in another man, it is an opportunity for her partner to step more into his own assertive and strong male energy. If David is attracted to a woman who is playful, silly and loves to laugh, it is an incentive for his partner to be more playful and enjoy life more. If Frank is attracted to a woman who is sexual and sensual and his wife is the personified asexual mother type, she can embrace sensuality more and experience it. If Howard is attracted to women who are helpless damsels in distress, his self-sufficient wife might need to realize that self-sufficiency is good but that we all have needs and that she can allow Howard to fulfil her needs. If Elena is drawn to a passionate romantic man, her controlled, rational and down to earth partner can claim his romantic and passionate self.

It requires courage to speak up about our attractions. Why is it worth speaking up?

Having an affair, and that includes an actual physical affair but also confiding in another person of the opposite sex behind the back of our partner and complaining about our marriage or relationship, is greatly damaging. It is not the actual physical act which is the betrayal but the emotional intimacy, coupled with the secrecy. Who gets hurt is the little child inside. In our example, Cybil’s little girl inside would go into hiding if Bill had a physical and/or emotional affair. She would not be able to trust and feel safe right after finding out. That vulnerable trusting child energy, however, is what we need in a relationship to connect deeply with each other. Without our inner children, we cannot experience true intimacy. We have signed the death verdict for the relationship if we do not address the feelings of the inner child and truly heal them.

Affairs can of course be forgiven, and the inner child can learn to trust again, but that requires deep inner work and not everybody finds it easy to rebuild the foundation of trust. It therefore pays to be honest and address the issue consciously rather than responding from an unconscious place and having an affair.

 

Hal & Sidra 4

A great recording to listen to is “Affairs and Attractions” by Hall and Sidra Stone

http://voicedialogueinternational.com/store/aaa.php

The Five Love Languages

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

In my blog on June 28, 2013, I elaborated on how powerful words are and how they can have a strong vibration of manifestation in a negative sense. Today, almost a year later, I would like to focus on how the same concept works in the opposite way. Words of Love and Affirmation have a strong powerful vibration that deepens our love.

Personally, I feel seen, heard, appreciated and most safe with a partner who is able and willing to express his love and appreciation through words. That means expressing his feelings, affirming my actions and accomplishments, or complimenting me in some way. Words are the surest way to connect with me. My primary love language is words of affirmation. And I am not the only one who feels a strong connection and heart opening when hearing kind and loving words. When I feel disconnected, it always is because my partner and I had no opportunity to speak. However, that feeling of disconnect is remedied very quickly with a loving text, a phone call, or some time set aside to speak.

Gottman has shown the destructiveness of negative interactions in his research. He points out that it takes five positives comments to negate one negative. On the other hand, regular loving and understanding verbal interactions create something like an account of affection that we can draw on in challenging or stressful times.

Another love language is physical touch. If that is your primary love language you might reach out to your partner to touch, to hug or to hold hands. And it makes you feel safe, perhaps calms you down, to be touched. Without touch you tend to feel unappreciated, unloved or disconnected from your partner.

Most of us are multilingual when it comes to expressing affection. We might speak two or three love languages quite well but we usually have a primary one that we will need to receive, or that we default to in terms of expressing our affection.

A third love language is the one of giving love through acts of service. You or your partner might cook fabulously, keep everything need and tidy, run the kids around whenever they need a ride, repair things around the house and so on. In my experience, this is a love language we tend to overlook and take for granted. When have you last told your spouse how grateful you are for something they do for you or for the family? Or if their love language is not words of affirmation, can you express your appreciation for their acts of service in their way? Touch? A gift? Another service?

Or perhaps you primarily experience being loved when spending quality time with your partner, a fourth love language. Engaging in cultural or recreational activities together on a regular basis is an important way of staying connected. The saying “couples who play together, stay together” is a testament to this. Even when we are parents with young children and our priority is to spend family time together, we also need to make time for a “date night” or other one-on-one interaction with our partner.

The fifth love language is giving or receiving gifts. That was my mom’s love language when she wanted to show her affection. I always knew that a gift meant, “I am thinking of you, that’s why I bought you something”.  When working with clients I have occasionally come across the other person looking down onto the love language of gifts. They will say something like,  “I don’t want him to buy me something, I want ____”. And they fill in the blank with their love language which they perceive as “more meaningful”.

I often summarize the book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman for my clients, in particular when someone sits in front of me who is deeply convinced their partner/parent/child does not love them, “not really in the way that they should.” The truth is that there is no right way to express love. However, there are these five love languages we all speak, some with more skill and enjoyment, others with less.

We have to keep in mind that everybody automatically expresses their affection in which ever way they have learned to and are most comfortable with. However, we can learn our partner’s love language and strive to speak it more, even if it does not come naturally to us. Since we are just dealing with different languages in this matter, we can make an effort to speak the other person’s language and we can appreciate the way in which they are expressing their affection.

It helps to figure out what your primary love language(s) is and which one(s) your partner uses. Compare them. Is it really true that they do not show you their love? Or are they just speaking a different love language?

I have had partners throughout my life who were not comfortable expressing emotions and were suspicious of hearing affirmations or compliments. Instead they had another primary language like Acts of Service or Giving Gifts. They would, for example, do something practical as their only expression of love, or they would buy me a gift. Sometimes it was hard for me to understand that their language was simply different. What if we could graciously accept a different love language while having an open conversation with our partner about what makes us feel most loved?

What is your preferred love language? Which language do you like to use; which do you like to receive? What is your partner’s love language? Your daughter’s or son’s? How can you learn to understand, or even speak, each other’s languages?

I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you reading my blog. If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

For Relationship Coaching contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation