MARRIAGE: Tired of Arguments and Unsolvable Problems

COVID-19 has created an unusual situation for our marriages and close love relationships. Suddenly many couples were forced to live and work in close quarters, often struggling with financial hardships and worried about their health, about educating and entertaining their children at home and about the future in general. For some couples, having the forced time together has rekindled their love and refocused them and their families on what is truly important: their relationships with each other. For other couples, the close and constant proximity has highlighted their differences and accentuated their conflicts and doubts to a point where the pressure has become unbearably painful.

When World War II started, there was a sudden increase in marriages. Unsure of what the future held and perhaps trying to give their lives some normalcy, hope, and joy, many more couples found their way to the altar. These life and death situations seem to force us to make hard decisions one way or another. They bring up our vulnerability and make us realize that life is short and that everything is transient. These moments might push us into getting married or, the opposite, into giving up on our marriage. Perhaps we are also desperately struggling to find something that we are in control of when life is so unpredictable.

Several times over the last few months I have heard from clients, “I am so tired of the same arguments and frustrations. We just don’t seem to see eye to eye. Now it is worse than ever before. All we seem to do is argue. Maybe we would be happier apart.”

Living on top of each other for months is bound to bring to the surface what has always been smoldering underneath. No matter how good a fit we seem to be with our partner at the beginning, no two people are ever perfectly alike in their values, needs, life goals and how they handle crisis situations. It is completely normal for every couple to have similar but also different values and needs. When we are stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, these clashes of values and needs are unavoidable.

Relationship therapists Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman have always empathized that in each partnership, there are perpetual problems. In his research, John Gottman found that 69% of problems couples have are repetitive issues because they are based on fundamental differences in personality, lifestyle, or needs. Daniel B. Wile, the late founder and developer of Collaborative Couple Therapy, phrased it well by stating, “Choosing a partner is choosing a set of problems” (Dan Wile). That means, no matter which partner we choose, there will always be some issues which are easier to solve and others that turn out to be perpetual problems.

If we invest our energy into changing our partner, we are exhausting ourselves with a hopeless mission and we have completely missed the point. If we are identified with opposite energies in a partnership and entrenched in our position, opening up to the other person and their experience is exactly what we need.

Let’s take Stephanie and Chris and one of their perpetual disagreements. Now more than ever, she wants to be consistent with the bedtime for the kids, while he is more generous and willing to let them stay up later. This creates weekly tensions and discussions between them. Each of them feels unheard and misunderstood.

Underneath our conflicts is a hidden dream, fear, need, or value. To find out the dream or the fear underneath our conflict, we need to ask our partner the question, “What makes this so important to you?” We might also want to be curious if there is an experience behind this situation for our partner, maybe during childhood or in a past relationship. Being curious about the story goes beyond understanding just their thoughts and feelings. We want to find out what our partner values, believes and holds dear.

An important key to a happy relationship is to learn to listen without judgement, to acknowledge the other person’s experience and feelings, and to share our own feelings and experiences with as much openness. Without active listening and true dialogue, we end up in gridlock conflict.

According to Gottman, gridlocked conflict does not simply happen. Dr. John Gottman names the steps on the way to this gridlock situation as:

  1. The partners have opposing dreams or values.
  2. They get entrenched in their opposing positions.
  3. Their fears of accepting influence from their partner increases.
  4. The “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling and Contempt) are progressively more present in their interactions.
  5. The partners emotionally disengage from each other.

 

All couples will face some forms of perpetual conflict. But those recurring issues do not need to become gridlocked. What a couple needs is the willingness to explore the other person’s side of the conflict and what dreams are beneath their position.

Stephanie and Chris have different needs. Stephanie feels strongly about sticking to the bedtime for the kids. What this is not about is her being controlling, inflexible or not enjoying her kids, as Chris assumes. By 7:30 p.m., she feels overwhelmed and has the need for quiet time to recharge and for alone time with Chris to connect with him. What this is about is her being able to step out of the role as a mother and feeling like a woman. It is also about her needing and valuing a deep connection with her husband, independent of their roles as parents. She is able to communicate to Chris that her parents dutifully stayed together until her dad passed but were always distant and quite cold with each other. They had different interests, were judgmental of each other and did not share their feelings. As a young girl, Stephanie promised herself to have a different marriage.

And what about Chris being more laid back about the bedtime? What this is not about is him being irresponsible, just wanting to be the fun dad and avoiding time with Stephanie alone, as she suspects. As Stephanie asks why being flexible is so important for Chris, they uncover that family time is about comfort, nurturing and belonging for Chris. He grew up as an only child without brothers, sisters or cousins his age. He has always longed to have a big loud happy family. His parents never seemed to struggle connecting with each other. They were going out three or four nights a week, to the theatre, a concert or to meet with their circle of friends. As Chris contemplates his parents’ relationship, he realizes that the quality time they spend together, and their common interests, were probably one reason why they had a good connection.

After both feel heard and their needs and values were acknowledged by their spouse, Stephanie and Chris arrive at a compromise:  From Monday to Thursday the kids bedtime is strict, Friday and Saturday their bedtime is more flexible, and on Sunday evenings Chris and Stephanie plan to spend time together as a couple. As we are going into phase two of the pandemic right now, they are able to expand the group of people they get in contact with and they are able to ask Stephanie’s mother to babysit every Sunday. They also have set the intention to tackle their other perpetual problems with the same open curiosity to arrive at compromises that meet both their needs.

With awareness and adaptability, perpetual problems do not need to mean the death sentence for a relationship. We can move from judgment to being understanding and accepting, to a dialogue about what values and needs are not met and how to negotiate compromises.

 

What are your perpetual problems? What opposing views are you and your partner entrenched in? Have you noticed how criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, or even contempt, play a role in your interactions?

If you are willing to explore your partners dreams, beliefs and values and share your own needs and values reach out for

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Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

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Doing the Best That We Can

As we had into another week of social distancing measures, I wonder if any of this sounds familiar to you?

“I am so tired of hearing how this COVID-19 situation is a blessing. I am spiritual but I swear I will kill the next person who tells me that I should be thankful that we are all healthy and that it gives me more time with my husband and kids! I feel constantly anxious and overwhelmed, trying to juggle work and the kids. My work hours and my pay has been cut, but I am supposed to be grateful that I still have a job. I might get fired any day! I can’t sleep at night and during the day I walk around in a mental fog. I have lost it several times with my kids and husband. I am a horrible mother and wife! And the house constantly looks like a bomb exploded. I’ve put on 15 pounds because I don’t get to exercise much, and eating is my only excuse to stop and take a break. All I wanted for Mother’s Day was a break and to forget about this nightmare. My husband did not even manage to get some flowers or make a card with the kids. I know he is tired and overwhelmed, too, but I just wanted one day of being appreciated. I got in my car and just left them. I drove to the lake to just sit there by myself. I feel horrible for not having my shit together!”

This client of mine echoes what so many are experiencing. During the first three weeks of social distancing and isolation in our homes, we might have still coped quite well, but now we’ve started to realize that this is not a sprint, but rather a marathon to get through. We can certainly say that the entire world has been affected and changed forever, and in some ways, it helps that we are all supposedly in the same boat. Whether we still have a job or not is not due to individual failure, but often luck. There are—at least in Canada—emergency rescue benefits by the government that provide some relief. Yet, despite supposedly being it the same boat, we have to be aware of comparisons and giving advice to others, because the effects of the world-wide COVID-19 pandemic are quite different for each individual person.

For some of us, it has locked us in with family members that we never had to spend so much time with before. Having young children is especially challenging right now. We have limited privacy and outside activities, and it naturally brings out the issues and magnifies the triggers in all our relationships. As a relationship coach, I would be the first one to tell you that this is an opportunity to work through issues, but that is not always easy or possible. I have seen positive stories of couples taking this time to work through their issues and teenagers opening up and interacting with their parents, but there are as many people who are stuck with a partner not wanting to do the work or a teenager not ready to connect. Being locked in together also does not allow us to escape the anxiety or depression our partner or family member might be experiencing. That can be quite draining. It leaves us helpless and discouraged.

For others, this situation has brought the experience of too much space because they live alone and are going through intense loneliness and grief for their situation as a single person or widow(er). For others yet, it has brought a tragic loss, for example by not being able to be present when a loved one passed away.

Our experiences range from simple inconveniences to financial loss to relationship challenges to personal tragedies. The situation has allowed some of us to experience a much-needed reprieve from a life that was too busy before, for others it has become a desperate attempt to keep everything normal and to adapt to never expected circumstances.

Accordingly, our feelings range from finding relief or inspiration in this unusual situation to feeling depressed and anxious. Even though we are all in a storm on the sea, we are not really in the same boat. Some of us are in little canoes, others in little motorboats with only so much fuel on board and others, in big solid yachts. We must not make the mistake of comparing our experience with the experience of someone in a different boat.

One of the most common denominators seem to be that these tough times bring out the Inner Critic voice in many of us. This is that nagging voice inside, which is trying to protect us by letting us know in which ways we are “faulty” or not doing enough. No matter how well we are doing, the Inner Critic will find something that apparently needs to be improved. And the Inner Critic loves situations of adversity, for example when we get a bad grade, fail to reach a goal, gain some weight, lose a relationship, when others seem to be doing better, or simply when we are tired, exhausted or feeling vulnerable. And, oh boy, does it love the present situation with all the unpredictability and changes!

In a phone conversation with a good friend and fellow practitioner a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned that he has been noticing that the Inner Critic seems to be coming up in all his sessions right now. That is exactly what I have observed for my client sessions and—as I just fully realized—for myself as well.

Over the last two months, I have been going through a whole variety of emotions myself. I have felt worry and fear for my own situation as well as for my children; I have felt annoyed and angry at family members who seem to be better off due to having a stable job and paid-off mortgage and who—meaning well—kept sending photos of joyfully working in their garden; I have felt exhausted and resigned just getting through another day; and I have, of course, also found amazing gifts and opportunities in this situation and had many days where I felt positive and inspired. But in order to see those gifts and appreciate them, I had to be my own coach and talk myself through releasing stuck emotions and shifting my perspective. Some days I was doing my best to go with the flow while breathing through and meditating on the more vulnerable emotions which the unknown always triggers for us. Other days I did not do so well and would not have gotten out of bed if I didn’t have to, thanks to my side job forcing me to get up at 5:00 a.m. most mornings.

Over the last two months, I have shifted all my coaching sessions to Zoom and I have had lovely sessions with individuals and couples, but many of my clients have lost their jobs and have been postponing sessions. Instead of coaching, I found myself getting busy with German lessons. At the beginning, I was looking to fill my time by accepting many more lessons than I usually do at the online school I work for on the side, but after a few weeks, I also had private students reaching out wanting more classes now that they’re stuck at home. Suddenly, I was totally booked up with teaching German classes and coming up with new grammar exercises for my German website in any free moment.

Now, you would think that my Inner Critic would be happy with this. Yet even though that inner voice was acknowledging that I was productive and earning money, it was also finding fault with all of this. I found myself thinking, “I am not putting enough time and energy towards my coaching business”, “I should write another blog, record another meditation etc. to support my clients better”, “I should reach out more to individual clients to see how they are doing at this time”, “I should network more with my colleagues” and even “I should have time to clean the house and declutter, what is wrong with me that I don’t?”

From some of my friends and clients, I have heard over the last few weeks that they are using this time to organize the cupboards, declutter, paint or renovate the house or work in the garden. And, as we know, the Inner Critic loves comparisons with others, never in our favour of course.

Over a week ago, I was on a break from teaching online classes and enjoying the sun outside. At one point, as I glanced over at our neighbour’s backyard, I couldn’t help commenting on how impressed I was by all the work they were putting into their garden and saying I should do the same. Our neighbour made a simple but wise comment. “We all do what we can at this time”. I realized how the Inner Critic voice has not just been plaguing my clients but also apparently myself, nagging about using this “break” to get things done.

So here is my new mantra for this week, or how about this entire month, whenever the Inner Critic voice pipes up: “I do my best” (on the inhale) “and my best is always good enough” (on the exhale).

 

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Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The COVID-19 Situation Challenges Our Beliefs, Emotions and Relationships. How PSYCH-K® and Other Tools Can Help.

The COVID-19 situation has disrupted our daily routines, affected our finances and is challenging our relationships. The crisis has changed everything we used to consider “normal”. We are grieving losses, experiencing anxiety, navigating often tumultuous emotions and bumping up against limiting beliefs. As we experience the uncertainty of unemployment and potential illness, we might be reaching for our partner, hoping for comfort and support. Yet, most couples have never learned how to communicate vulnerable emotions and hold each other in fear. To have a stress-reducing conversation, rather than taking on our partner’s fear and stress, has become a more valuable skill than ever before.

This exceptional situation is an opportunity to work on our fears, learn how to release our emotions and improve our relationships, especially our closest partnerships or marriages. Our old ways of being are currently being torn down and it is time to ask, what do we want to believe and feel as we are going through this period? What do we want our life and our relationships to look like? And which habits, beliefs and repeating patterns do we want to change?

We get to make that decision and work towards our relationship dreams and life goals. Instead of waiting for the crisis to be over, we can choose kindness, patience, compassion and successful communication now. At a time when many couples are home together working in close quarters, it is important to create a routine, maintain boundaries, design compromises, learn how to respect each other’s needs, respond lovingly to bids of attention and most importantly, have supportive conversations. Dr. John Gottman has designed the “stress reducing conversation”, in which both partners take turns speaking about a conflict outside of their relationship and listening to their partner. I find that it makes a huge difference when we can centre ourselves and speak and listen from the heart. When one of us is emotionally activated, it is up to our partner to hold that space of compassionately listening. While one partner shares what has happened and how they feel about it, the rules for the listener are as follows:

  1. to suspend any judgment
  2. to validate and empathize with our partner’s experience
  3. to side with our partner (or at least, to not side with the other person in the conflict)
  4. to remember that our partner is whole, complete and resourceful and to refrain from “fixing” their problem for them

Image by Anna_Sunny from Pixabay 

In order to successfully hold these conversations, we need to be aware of our own fears, triggers and limiting beliefs. We need to know how to self-regulate and how to not let our own emotions spill over into the moment when our partner needs us to support them.

Here are some examples for the most common subconscious beliefs that both my clients and myself have had to balance lately by using PSYCH-K® or the belief change process from Shadow Energetics.

 

REGARDING THE (FINANCIAL) SITUATION:

  1. Even though (financial) uncertainty is a part of my life right now, I know and trust that I am safe / taken care of / financially resourceful etc. at all times.
  2. I relax and accept when things are temporarily on hold, being grateful that I now have the time to take care of myself.
  3. It is okay for me to slow down and enjoy my time with my family.
  4. I embrace the current situation as a gift to slow down / to focus on my relationships / to find new financial avenues etc.
  5. I let go and trust that all my needs are abundantly met in this current situation.
  6. I do my best and my best is always good enough.

 

REGARDING HEALTH:

  1. I take good care of myself by giving my body enough sleep, physical movement and healthy nutrition.
  2. I keep my immune system strong through rest and exercise.
  3. I do everything in my power to stay healthy and beyond that, I let go and trust.
  4. I enjoy the slowing down and I relax into a different rhythm.

 

Image by Anrita1705 from Pixabay

REGARDING RELATIONSHIPS:

  1. I easily and effortlessly communicate my needs to my partner.
  2. Both of us working from home is smooth and easy for us.
  3. We naturally switch between being connected and focusing on work.
  4. Each time my partner is distracted, I remember that he/she is simply focused on work.
  5. We make time for each other (and the children) at the end of the day to connect and talk.
  6. It is safe for me to be vulnerable and share my fears with my partner.
  7. I am good at self-soothing when I feel emotionally activated.
  8. It comes naturally to me to be present for my partner.
  9. I listen non-judgmentally and acknowledge my partner’s feelings and fears.
  10. We creatively bring some novelty into our relationship by trying out new activities we can do at home.

 

REGARDING FAMILY:

  1. Having time with my kids and my spouse is a gift for all of us.
  2. We are adaptable and creative as we adjust to the new situation.
  3. I embrace the new situation and enjoy every moment with my partner / my family.
  4. I am patient with myself and all family members as we go through this time of uncertainty.

 

If you have taken part in one of my workshops or perhaps learned how to release emotions in an individual session, remember to use the EMOTIONAL RELEASE PROCESS on a regular basis. Here is a list of especially common emotions that the current situation might have triggered for us. You can of course also work with other lists of emotions, for example the one you would have received during the Shadow Energetics Workshop. If you want to learn what to do with your emotions, change limiting beliefs and clear out fears, please reach out for a free phone consultation.

 

TRIGGERED EMOTIONS:

Feeling…

 

1.    afraid

2.    angry

3.    anxious

4.    bitter

5.    confused

6.    defeated

7.    defenseless

8.    depressed

9.    deprived

10. desperate

11. destitute

12. diminished

13. disadvantaged

14. discouraged

15. distressed

16. fearful

 

 

17. forgotten

18. frustrated

19. grief

20. helpless

21. homesick

22. inadequate

23. insecure

24. isolated

25. lacking

26. like a failure

27. lonely

28. lost

29. out of control

30. overwhelmed

31. panicked

32. pessimistic

 

33. powerless

34. regretful

35. sad

36. shameful

37. shocked

38. sorrow

39. suffocated

40. terrified

41. uncertain

42. unprotected

43. unsafe

44. unsupported

45. victimized

46. vulnerable

47. worried

48. worthless

 

Online Sessions

for Individuals and Couples

If you have lost your job or you are financially struggling because you are self-employed, reach out and talk to me about a discount, especially if you are a previous client. I am here to help you and your family through this time.

If you are a health care worker or first responder, your session is complimentary right now, out of admiration and deep gratitude for what you are going through right now.

 

You can start with a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Increase in Divorce Rates Due to COVID-19. How Can We Pull Together?

A client of mine, challenged with her marriage right now, said to me a couple of days ago, that when the Coronavirus threat is over, there will be an increase of divorces. Her comment was based on an article from “the New Yorker”. The newspaper reports, “In Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, more than ten million people were placed under lockdown. When restrictions were eased, earlier this month, the city’s divorce rate spiked.” Psychologist and attorneys speak up and predict that the divorce rate will also rise in the rest of the world due to this stressful situation COVID-19 has brought us.

Image by Sally-Kay from Pixabay

As a relationship coach, I want to challenge that statement. Undoubtedly, like any crisis, this challenging time also brings issues to the surface that we can easier ignore at other times. But instead of resigning ourselves to the fate of getting a divorce, we have the choice to examine how we can use this time period to improve our relationships and especially our partnerships or marriages. Naturally, we are going through a period of adjustment as our work situation changes and most of our favourite free-time activities are cancelled. We need to be creative to meet our needs while staying at home. The issues in a relationship might resurface right now and force us to notice and address them. But we also now have more time together to do our couples work, due to the lack of outside distractions and activities.

The strength of our relationships depends on if we can successfully hold each other in the fear we feel. There are fewer outside influences to argue about right now, but a new kind of anxiety has come up. One upset client of mine shared that while she is home with the children, her husband still goes out to have a cup of coffee with clients. She is afraid to question this and “restrict” him, meanwhile she lives in unnecessary anxiety. Their situation requires agreements on what precautions to take and how contacts can be shifted temporarily to virtual contacts.

Another couple told me that they are arguing about how to disinfect the surfaces, wash the food, and how often and thoroughly to wash their hands. Our fear brings up our vulnerable parts and our protective parts. Our fearful parts are triggered more than ever right now and our protectors (protective parts) can look like a “Scolding Parent” or an “Attacker”, accusing our spouse of not caring enough to take more precautions. If you want to read more about our protective parts in our relationships, please got to my article “You Are My Valued Tor-Mentor”.

Operating from our protective parts engages us in conflicts with each other. How can we instead have empathy and compassion with our partner’s fears and show the willingness to negotiate acceptable compromises to reassure each other?

Being home together also requires boundaries and the balance between alone time and time together. It is now, more than ever, important to communicate well. One of the things that seems to work well for my family, is to create a routine and structure, even if it is an artificial one. Have a set time to get up and to go to bed, a time to eat, a time to work if you have work right now, a time to do yoga, or go for a walk and so on.

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay 

As human beings, we need to feel productive and useful. Some of my clients have told me that they are doing some de-cluttering and extra cleaning right now. Or they are engaged in creative activities that they have not had time for in a long while.

Part of establishing a daily routine is to determine how much time we are going to spend listening to the news or reading information on social networks. It is possible that you and your spouse, or family members you live with, are affected differently by the news and announcements. It requires figuring out what your individual needs are and respecting the differences. If you can go to different rooms or use headphones if you need to separate, do so regularly.

If you have small children, the routine and giving each other breaks from entertaining the children is even more important. Clear communication on when and how each of you is going to work and when you are spending time separately with the kids or as a family is imperative. Children need a structure even more than we do as adults. Decide what your daily routine is going to be and stick to it, so your kids have some predictability.

And don’t forget to enjoy this forced upon slowing down that is happening right now. Cherish each moment with each other. There is a lot of cooking, baking and playing games going on in our house. I don’t think I have played as much Cribbage in years as I have played during the last two weeks! My niece and her partner in Germany sent me photos of doing puzzles together while waiting for their test results. I’ve been hearing a lot of “finally we have time together” comments from extended family members and clients.

Puzzles, Cribbage, being together without rush… Without wanting to downplay COVID-19 being a real threat, it almost sounds a bit like a trip to the cottage in the summer, doesn’t it? I can’t help but wonder what we can learn and gain from this experience. When you contemplate the short-term and long-term benefits and advantages of what is unfolding right now, a lot of promising developments stand out.

Whole neighbourhoods are pulling together, offering each other help with the supplies individual families have—yes, the much laughed about toilet paper, for one. We are reaching out and phoning or texting family and friends we might not have talked to in a long time. It brings out kindness, compassion and taking care of each other. Despite or because of the fear we all feel, we continue to come together like never before.

What is happening right now is a general refocus on what is important: partnerships, family and relationships with others. The situation we find ourselves in due to COVID-19 is unprecedented, not only on an economic and societal level, but also for our family relationships. Self-isolation and extended time together are sometimes welcome and harmonious, other times they bring great challenges. But that is a good thing! When problems come to our attention, we can do something about them. The couple can work on it alone, or they can reach out to a coach or therapist.

Image by Gracini Studios from Pixabay 

Most of us coaches and counsellors are working remotely right now. A session through Zoom or Skype is as beneficial as a session in person. If the technology aspect makes you nervous, I understand, and I promise, that I will walk you through the steps to connect virtually.

As many of you are faced with uncertainty right now, I am offering an online session discount:

from April 1 to April 14

online sessions

for individuals and couples

20% off

For a start reach out for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

10 Relationship Myths We Are Conditioned to Believe

I just re-read the book “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley because my niece in Germany had an English exam on that topic and I had volunteered to help her prepare for it. This novel, published in 1932, is a dystopia in which a world government completely controls all citizens from the moment of their conception in a test tube to the moment they die alone and drugged up. There are no mothers, fathers or spouses, and emotional ties of all kinds are frowned upon. The methods used to control the population are “genetic engineering”, “sleep conditioning” and the happiness drug “soma”, which turns the workers of different casts into willing laborers for a consume oriented society.

One of the questions which came up in the discussion with my 17-year-old niece was what signs of social conditioning she sees in our society today, especially regarding our relationships. We spoke about different ways of conditioning through our society, parents, peer groups, the education system, the media, popular culture, religion and so on.  Once I named a few examples, she realized that no social group, no matter how liberal, democratic or tolerant, exists without training individuals to think and respond in a manner generally approved by the respective society.

In contrast to Huxley’s dystopia, we have the freedom to examine and question our conditioning, and we have the freedom to change those learned beliefs, and conditioned emotional responses and desires, if we so choose. However, analyzing and changing our conditioning is not always easy. We have been programmed to believe and hence feel that we are a failure if we don’t look a certain way, make X amount of money, have what is called a “successful career”, and are not in the societally expected relationships at a certain age. That idea of being a failure can literally paralyze us and keep us stuck in the social conditioning that is to blame for the feeling of not being “good enough” to begin with.

Anne is depressed because she has been struggling with her weight all her life. Martin is beating himself up because he has been out of a job for the past year and he wishes he had made other professional choices when he was younger. Laura is 30 and feels like a failure because all her friends are married. Peter is angry because he works long hours but still cannot afford the lifestyle his brothers have. Marie is a 38-year-old midwife who has been struggling to conceive for the past six years. Frank is a 68-year-old widower and is convinced he won’t be able to find a new partner. Lisa is 59 and ashamed to be alone since her husband of 25 years has left her for a younger woman. And this list goes on and on. There is an incredible amount of suffering in our society when we don’t manage to meet the norms we have been conditioned to meet.

In fact, our Inner Critic voice can always find something to criticize because it is literally impossible to meet the societal standards for success in every single way. The conditioning of how we should think, feel, act and what goals or relationship markers we should have reached at arbitrary points in our life has a strong hold on us. As a belief-change and relationship coach, I come across limiting beliefs every day. Today I want to highlight a few about love and committed relationships.

In “Brave New World”, committed relationships or marriages do not exist, instead “everyone belongs to everyone else”. Family, monogamy, and romantic notions are highly discouraged and regarded as a crime against the state. Promiscuity is in this future world the only way to interact with the members of your own caste. Citizens are given the happiness drug soma to relieve their depression about being lonely or insecure.

It is so obvious how the citizens of Huxley’s dystopia are manipulated and conditioned about love and relationships. Yet, what beliefs have we learned about love and relationships?

Here are ten of the top myths:

  1. Love is all you need to make a relationship last

Long-term relationships go through different stages. What is essential at every stage is to adapt and work with what life brings us. We start out with the honeymoon phase, but that is not supposed to last. It is just supposed to bring us together. Instead, love ideally matures more and more with each new phase. A book that describes this with beautiful metaphors is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea”.

  1. Good relationships don’t require work

Absolutely all relationships require ongoing attention, successful communication and the willingness to work through issues together. Or as Carroll Bryant says: “Love is a two-way street constantly under construction.”

  1. If my partner really loved me…

Those beliefs that start with “If my partner really loved me…” are another trap we fall into, e.g. If they really loved me, they would know what I feel/want/need. Our partner is not a mind reader. For a successful relationship, we need to learn to express our feelings and needs.

  1. He/she will change if I just keep trying to change them

It is completely impossible to change your partner! You only end up in a tug of war. In fact, focusing on how the other person should change keeps you stuck in your problems. Instead, a successful relationship is all about the question “How can I change? What is going to be required of ME to create a better relationship?”

  1. Couples in good relationships don’t argue

Many people still believe that conflicts in a relationship are a bad sign. Relationship scientist and expert John Gottman has proven that arguments are not the problem, but that how couples argue can destabilize a relationship. We want to practice how to deliver and receive criticism successfully and learn how to argue with less defensiveness and without stonewalling or showing contempt for our partner.

  1. Couples should have sex x-number of times per week/month

You should not compare yourself to other couples. Whatever amount of sex you both are comfortable having is exactly the right amount. Getting too stuck on average numbers when it comes to having sex, distracts from the actual problems which might be behind changes in the sexual desire. The desire to be intimate is about making time to connect and be vulnerable with each other. If a couple has a huge discrepancy between how often each partner wants sex, that is an issue to work through with a coach or therapist.

  1. True love is all about passion

I have seen people leave a perfectly good marriage because they felt it was lacking the passion. Often that meant that they have exchanged one stale relationship with one that is exciting but filled with drama and jealousy. Love can be both, passionate and safe. A solid relationship has achieved the right balance for a couple and their individual needs for passion.

  1. If we are struggling in our relationship it means we made a wrong choice and are just not destined to be together

Every couple goes through ups and downs. Every relationship is a constant dance between closeness and distance that we need to navigate. A belief like “every relationship has a shelf-life and ours must be over” gets in the way of putting in the work which every relationship requires.

  1. Talking about my past wounds will only make them worse

You cannot change your past, but you can change how you feel about it and heal your childhood wounds in your grown-up relationship. Speaking about your vulnerabilities and wounds with your partner is one answer to healing them. Ideally, the purpose of a relationship is to provide a safe space to be vulnerable and feel loved.

  1. Couples don’t need coaching or counselling unless their relationship is in serious trouble

Seeing a professional is beneficial at any stage of our relationship to help us navigate the transitions. In fact, a fabulous time to come in for coaching sessions is before you get married to lay a solid foundation for this next step of your relationship.

 

Do any of these myths sound familiar? Are you feeling stuck in your communication or struggling to navigate the current phase of your relationship? Perhaps it is time for you and your partner to come in for relationship coaching to work through a tough time or to get ready for a bigger commitment.

Check out my packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Fertility Issues and Your Partnership

Nicole is devastated. After 15 months of trying to conceive, and having had an early miscarriage a few months ago, her period has arrived once again. Her husband Jason just shrugs as he briefly lifts his head from the TV screen and says “Don’t Worry! We will Just Try Again”.

Nicole feels like she wants to shake him. He just doesn’t get it! She wants to yell at him, “Why aren’t you upset? Don’t you want a baby, too?” Underneath the anger, a feeling of intense loneliness and inadequacy takes hold of her. It is bad enough that she has to deal with the fact that this life-long dream of hers is not becoming reality the way she had hoped and planned. Now she also feels completely disconnected from Jason. She had to admit that it was helpful that he had been calm and tried to be her rock when she had the miscarriage, but it still felt like he simply did not understand what the loss and the ongoing failure meant to her.

What Nicole forgets is that Jason might be dealing with this challenge differently. As women, we have learned to express our vulnerable emotions more than most men. We have also learned that being a mother is an essential part of life. We often plan our entire life, including marriage and motherhood. Being able to conceive fulfills—for a lot of women—several heartfelt desires; the desire for the companionship children and grandchildren bring, the desire to feel a new life growing inside, to give birth and nurture this fragile human being, and last but not least, the sense of purpose that can be derived from parenting and raising the next generation. The idea of fertility is often tightly linked to our self-identity as women. Therefore, trying to conceive unsuccessfully often cause anxiety, fear and grief.

Most men have not received the same messages about the importance of parenthood. Yet, for men, showing vulnerability and allowing the fear of failure can be more scary than we usually imagine. Men can also be terrified that their sperm won’t measure up and that they won’t be able to reproduce and give their partner what she most desires. Their female partners however, only perceive denial, indifference or stoicism. Trying and having difficulties conceiving takes a toll on a marriage or partnership.

The challenges around conceiving create different stresses for a couple. Sex can become a means to an end rather than a spontaneous expression of the need for closeness and love. The couple might disagree on when to get help and how much money to invest in often costly treatments. Fears and insecurities are triggered for both partners. More than ever, what the couple needs most during this stressful period is time to connect with each other, beyond fertility. How can they still enjoy life and each other totally unrelated to trying to conceive?

As modern day humans, we are so used to being able to control everything and obtain reliable results. We plan what job we want to do and make the choice to attend a certain school or learn a particular profession. We might plan to get married or buy a house and so on. Getting pregnant defies those expectations that we can plan everything in life. When the stork does not deliver as planned, it can feel like we are completely out of control in regards to making our dreams come true and it can appear completely unfair that other couples seem to be getting pregnant so much more easily.

However, even faced with fertility struggles, the question remains, “What choices can we make together as a couple?” Some examples are:

  • The choice to make time alone with each other and time with friends and family to experience carefree fun and laughter.
  • The choice to be loving and gentle with yourself and with each other, as you navigate this challenging period in your life. Even though it feels that way right now, infertility is not forever. You will find a way to meet your needs and create what you want.
  • The choice to find natural mood boosters like sunlight, exercise, yoga and enough sleep.

  • The choice to treat your mind and body well, for example by getting massages or giving each other massages, or by using relaxation techniques, meditation or hypnosis. The last three will come in handy when you are giving birth or raising your kids or in any professional or private situation where you are challenged.
  • The choice to see a relationship coach or therapist for couples sessions. As was the case with Nicole and Jason, fertility struggles often affect the relationship between the partners tremendously. A professional can help you to reconnect.
  • The choice to focus on everything you are grateful for that is part of a fulfilling life, for example by keeping a gratitude journal.
  • The choice not to ruminate and buy into depressing thoughts and limiting beliefs. I know! That is easier said than done. And that’s where one more choice comes in:
  • The choice to do the inner work and change limiting beliefs and fears into supportive beliefs. That increases your ability to move through this trying time more smoothly. You can make the choice to see a life coach or therapist on your own. Friends, family and your partner should not be your only support.

 

Contact me (Angelika) for individual sessions or couples sessions at

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Please read testimonials from couples here.

Don’t forget to check out my discount packages for couples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

What Does a Relationship or Marriage Coach do?

Sometimes a client just makes my day because they send a few lines as a thank you, or an update to let me know how they are doing. Each time I get a feedback, that I have empowered somebody to be their best self or that I have helped an individual or a couple through a rough time, I feel deep gratitude for being able to be a coach. I am always very clear that the credit lies with the person or the couple who has done the inner work. At the same time, it is beautiful for me to see how somebody has been able to shift something around. It is truly an honour to be invited into the life of a couple or a family and to be able to guide and witness amazing transformations.

Last month, a client send me—with a note of gratitude for having a “marriage mentor” in me – an image she had seen on Instagram. The idea of marriage mentoring is a bit different. I usually refer to myself as a relationship coach or coach for couples. I offer sessions for couples who are married as well as those who are not. I see heterosexual as well as homosexual couples. I also go beyond mentoring as I use techniques to do deeper personal work. So, after receiving the image accompanied by her beautiful thank you note, I thought I should write about being a relationship coach.

A big part of what I do is educational. I share what relationship experts have discovered about challenges we all have in our interpersonal connections, how to repair relationships and how to make marriages last. An example of that are the five losing strategies in relationships and the five winning strategies. Relationships have been a life-long interest of mine, and by that, I mean all sorts of relationships. In fact, I would go as far as to claim that fulfilling, loving relationships make our life worth living. Of course, that applies to our romantic partner, if we have one, but just as much to our relationships with our children and other family members, with friends and colleagues and even with strangers. Relationships can be our greatest joy and our greatest source for pain. Perhaps you are struggling with jealousy or trying to process an affair, just to mention two common situations. Or maybe anger in the relationship or feeling emotionally flooded is your challenge. Anger has a surprising purpose and when you feel flooded there is a way to address that issue. How do we show up with each other and how are we able to connect in a meaningful way? How do we apologize and make amends and how do we communicate successfully. This all actually starts with self-love and self-acceptance, or in other words, by working on our relationship with ourselves.

As a relationship coach, I help you understand your relationship with yourself, with your partner, your family and your friends. Because I look at the situation from the outside with complete neutrality, I am able to point out dynamics and how to shift them. When you are about to give up, I encourage you to keep going. As your biggest cheerleader, I can hold the belief for you that you can create the relationships you desire. I teach you how different parts of you operate in relationships, how they protect you, but can also keep you stuck in unhealthy dynamics and conflicts. I urge you to be gentle with yourself and others and to see things with renewed clarity from different perspectives. I guide you to apply new ways of communicating and interacting. No matter how challenging or dysfunctional a relationship has been, there is never any judgment. I am as human as you are and have complete empathy while keeping my eyes on how to make the changes necessary.

Photo by Cole Keister from Pexels

When you come in with your partner, I am impartial. I am neither on your side, nor on their side, but my primary client is your relationship. I will advocate for what the relationship which you have created together needs from both of you. I encourage both of you to take responsibility, make amends and ask what it is you can do to create the connection you long for.

Whether you are wondering if you should come as an individual or as a couple, I will never tell you what to do because you know best what is right for you. I simply assist you in achieving the clarity you need for all your decisions. My focus is to support you fully in all your choices and to encourage you to live with awareness and integrity, to be the healthiest, happiest and most authentic version of yourself.

If you feel a bit stuck or lost in the dynamics with your partner, or another person close to you, please reach out for a free phone consultation to see if we are a good fit. A good connection with your coach is crucial, for you to feel comfortable enough to do your inner work. You can speak to me on your own, or we can arrange a three way call with your partner, to get a feel for how we might be able to work together.

Contact me (Angelika) for individual sessions or couples sessions at
905-286-9466
greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca
Don’t forget to check out my discount packages for couples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the pop up window or in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Why Are You Getting So Upset? – Passive Aggressive Behaviour PART 2

You met Lisa and Yohan in part 1 of my article Why Are You Getting So Upset? They decided to face the challenge of shifting out of a problematic pattern She was being placed in the role of a controlling mother and he was responding passive-aggressively to the control he experienced. They had no productive disagreements at all. Today we will look at some of the work they did to shift out of the unsatisfying dynamics.

Disagreements and conflicts can only be resolved when both people are honest about their feelings, willing to take responsibility for past actions, and committed to making changes for the future. When one partner is stuck in a passive-aggressive stance, he or she is too busy pretending not to be angry and feeling wronged instead of being able to make amends and work through conflicts. To move out of this pattern, it is first of all necessary to believe and feel that it is okay to be angry.

Lisa had to examine if she was perhaps unintentionally discouraging Yohan from expressing his anger directly. She realized that she had a tendency to humour him out of his anger, especially when the kids were around. It still felt more comfortable to her when Yohan was moody and sulked than when he actually expressed his anger. As much as she had been saying to him, “I wish you would tell me honestly what you are feeling”, what she actually wanted was for Yohan to be less resentful and angry. However, supressing anger will only guarantee that it comes out in other more indirect and passive-aggressive ways.

Anger is an emotion like any other emotion. It is neither good nor bad. It is a protective emotion and serves a purpose. It gives us the feedback that we are perceiving something as unfair or unsatisfying, or that there are other emotions hidden behind the anger. Anger is only the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, there are usually more vulnerable feelings.

Therefore, Lisa’s first step was to understand that anger is not a “bad” emotion and to learn to be less judgemental about Yohan feeling resentful and angry to begin with. She had to get to know her own angry part inside, so she could love and accept first herself and then him with this emotion.

Yohan, was very afraid of his own anger and had to do some inner work to get to know this passive-aggressive part, as well as his angry part. He connected to himself at younger points in his life when he was angry and felt the only way to express his feelings was to be passive-aggressive.

Venting anger on its own is not useful unless we can get to the more vulnerable feelings underneath the anger. Yohan needed to find the perfect balance between expressing the anger and finding the courage to explore his unmet needs or what feelings were really hiding beneath the anger.

“Anger is an inherent component of all human relationships, especially romantic ones. The more dependent on someone and vulnerable you feel, the more likely they’ll be the object of your hostility as well as your affection”

(Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man).

 

Relationship expert Dr John Gottman has proven in his scientific research that fighting is not the problem; rather, how couples fight is the issue. Conflicts are inevitable in relationships. Addressing the conflicts is healthy if we can avoid the four horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Healthy and strong relationships can and do handle anger, provided a couple sees it as a constructive force and fights smart and fairly, sticking to certain ground rules.

Both Yohan and Lisa needed to learn to have healthy fights in which it is okay to express anger, explore more vulnerable feelings and make requests of their partner. An important key element was to recognize when Yohan was triggered into feeling like a child. When Lisa became more controlling, she reminded him of his mother and he would instinctively revert to passive aggressive responses. His automatic assumption in many situations was that his needs were in conflict with Lisa’s and that there was no point in expressing those needs because they would not be met anyways. This corresponded to his experiences in childhood. He grew up feeling that nobody heard him and that he never got what he wanted. He was still stuck in that feeling, expecting that he would still never get enough of what he wanted as an adult.

Yohan had to learn to notice and acknowledge when Lisa was meeting one of his needs. He learned to say thank you and shift his perspective. She, on the other hand, had to learn not to interfere and do things for him he hadn’t asked her to do, especially not when he chose to be passive aggressive with other people in his life. A repeating example was when he was supposed to pay his child support to his ex-wife, but Lisa had to remind him to do it repeatedly before he put the cheque in the mail. Lisa felt this was antagonizing and unfair to his ex-wife and son and had put the cheque in the mail a few times herself. Yet, that caused Yohan to postpone the next cheque even longer and to feel resentful towards Lisa. When they examined this situation without judgement, but simply with curiosity, and began to understand their own parts in it, they were both able to shift out of it.

Another important shift was for Yohan to retreat less. They learned that underneath Yohan’s distancing behaviour was a fear of rejection. He would push Lisa away to prove to her that he didn’t need her. He had to learn to make the distinction between feeling rejected or fearing rejection and actually being rejected. He had to learn how to recognize stuck emotions and release feelings of rejection and disappointment.

Today, Yohan’s and Lisa’s interactions have mostly changed. Some situations still cause them to fall into old patterns, but one of them usually recognizes the pattern, takes responsibility for his or her part in it and initiates an open and honest conversation. There is more intimacy and closeness in their relationship and they exhibit better teamwork taking care of the children. Sometimes Yohan needs space, but he is able to express that instead of just retreating. He is also able to allow more vulnerable feelings of dependency and love without a constant nagging fear that he will get hurt. They know that their intimate love relationship continues to confront them with challenges and opportunities for growth, and they are both committed to continuing to put the necessary time and attention into their marriage.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

If you are interested in ordering Scott Wetzler’s book ”Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” I am grateful for you using my amazon associate link below.

Why Are You Getting So Upset? – Passive Aggressive Behaviour PART 1

Have you ever tried to clear the air with somebody by initiating an open conversation, putting your own needs on the table and asking the other person what they need, but they have been very vague and non-committal? Maybe you have even apologized or taken responsibility for your part in an interaction but the other person pretends that they cannot remember what you are talking about? You are given feedback along the lines of “No big deal, can’t even remember what you mean…” but then within the next days, the person drops some pointed remarks about how ridiculous your needs are or how difficult you are to deal with? Or have they ever given you the silent treatment and sulked? Or do they promise to be supportive in some way, tell you they will do something for you, but then conveniently keep forgetting their promises? And when they have led you down again and you are disappointed, they say with disbelief, “Why are you getting so upset?” All this could be passive-aggressive behaviour.

We are all forgetful at times and we have certainly also all been passive-aggressive in situations when we felt powerless, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about passive-aggressiveness as a strategy developed in childhood out of a feeling of powerlessness, and carried into adulthood and into our relationships as the automatic response when there is a conflict.

The passive aggressive person in your life could be a friend, a family member, your colleague or boss, or your spouse. The passive-aggressive person appears to be such a nice and peaceful human being, supposedly getting along with others, denying that they are doing anything at all while the people they are in relationships with feel the anger seething underneath. Their behaviour is not inadvertent, even though they hope you will think it is. They count on your politeness or need to get along. However, underneath the guise of innocence, generosity or passivity, is hidden hostility.

They test your boundaries all the time. How often can they ignore your needs or rattle you by doing what they know is infuriating to you? That could be forgetting to do what they said they would, doing what they know you hate, taking advantage of you in another way or playing little power games. When you call a passive aggressive person out, they deny their indirect and inappropriate way of interacting or play it down. This is confusing and utterly infuriating because it is impossible to honestly talk about hurt feelings, insecurities or needs.

Passive-aggressive behaviour is a learned behaviour. Passive aggressive people often had an overbearing or controlling caretaker as a child. Expressing their needs and wants was not welcomed. Let’s take a look at Yohan’s upbringing, for example.

Yohan remembers his childhood as a time of coldness, deprivation, control and conflicts. His parents both drank and his mother was an alcoholic. “A remarkably high rate of alcoholism exists among the parents of passive-aggressive men. Alcohol has a way of facilitating conflict” (Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man). His mother humiliated his father and Yohan lacked a strong male role model. He wanted her approval while he also feared and resented his mother. He felt he was never good enough for her and he has projected that onto every female partner or boss he ever had.

The conflict became even more apparent when his two younger siblings were born. Some jealousy towards a younger sibling is normal, but his parents responded with harsh punishments and did not let him voice his feelings or his fear of being replaced.  Because he couldn’t express his anger and fear, he used other ways of communicating his hostility.

He responded to his parent’s expectations with moodiness, stubbornness and a lack of cooperation. He became destructive, whinny and sulky. He refused to speak and started to underperform academically, rebelling against yet another authority figure, the teacher in school. His mother especially wanted to know his every move. This is the emotional expectation of the women in his life, which he still holds onto today, as he has grown into an adult who is secretive and vague.

As a teenager, his inner conflict grew further. When he was kicked out of school for missing too many classes, he felt that was unfair, after all he was working a nighttime job. He did not see a connection with the fact that he was falling asleep at his desk, didn’t turn his homework in on time, and cut too many classes. Expecting special treatment, he felt victimized and still tells this story from that perspective as an adult.

He has a hate-love relationship not only with his mother but every women—like his superiors at work—who appears to be powerful. His wife became an unwitting player in the reconstruction of his past. In Lisa, he was attracted to a woman who was strong and controlling. Simultaneously being attracted to a strong woman who reminded him of his mother and subconsciously fearing dependency and control, he responds to her with retreat, sulking, stubbornness or by turning a cold shoulder.

Yohan is unaware that a mutual dependency is normal and healthy. As humans we all need other people: we are interdependent beings. In our romantic relationships, that means letting yourself be cared for by your partner and at the same time caring for your partner. Dependency makes him feel weak, incompetent and needy. Feeling needy creates a fear of abandonment.

Today, he sets up situations which create an experience of deprivation, rejection or abandonment for him, especially in his love relationships. The stuck emotion of feeling unimportant and the belief that others, especially women, are not giving, operates like a self-fulfilling prophecy in his life. Either he does not express his needs at all and expects his wife Lisa to be a mind reader, or he expresses them at inopportune moments when the kids need to be attended to or Lisa is distracted by work. Subconsciously, he expects for his needs not to be met and sets out to prove that this is true. Meanwhile, he believes other people have all these unreasonable expectations of him which he feels resentful about.

When faced with challenges, opportunities or conflicts, he responds with procrastination, lack of initiative and indecisiveness. He waits for others to solve his problems or for his luck to turn. When others suggest positive changes or new opportunities, his response is, “what’s the point?” His hopelessness wins out over taking action.

Lisa, his second spouse, has a strong manager personality trait and says she fell for Yohan’s potential. She came to his rescue by organizing his finances and resolving his problems with co-workers and family members. She is surprised that Yohan resents her for what he experiences as dependency on her. His inactivity has brought out her more controlling side. And her controlling side activates his passive-aggressive behaviour. The more she tries to fix and help, the more resistant and negative he becomes.

A similar thing occurred in his previous marriage. That marriage ended due to Yohan having an affair and carelessly leaving the signs for his indiscretion out in the open for his first wife to find them. According to Scott Wetzler, that again is typical for passive aggressive men. “No matter how troubled relationships get, the passive-aggressive man will not unilaterally leave them…If he wants out, he’ll engineer the situation so you are forced to break up with him. Leaving is too real, too actively self-assertive, requiring too much initiative. It would allow you to actually blame him, something he doesn’t like at all.” (Scott Wetzler: Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man)

Lisa loves Yohan and she wants to get out of the role of being the mother figure he fears and resents. At the same time, Yohan is recognizing his challenges due to his learned passive-aggressive behaviour and the underlying fears. What can Yohan and Lisa do so that their marriage does not end in the same way that his first one did?

Please read my next blog to find out. You can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post part 2 of this article. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar or in the pop-up window.

If you are interested in ordering Scott Wetzler’s book ”Living with the Passive-Aggressive Man” I am grateful for you using my amazon associate link.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

Check out my discount packages for couples.

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

5 Winning Strategies in Relationships

In one of my last articles, I outlined five interactions which are useless and damaging to your relationships, especially in our close loving partnerships. Here are five winning strategies, as Terry Real describes in his recording, “Fierce Intimacy”.

  1. Go After What You Want – Express Your Needs 

Express what you want and need and be assertive about getting it. Terry Real calls it “daring to rock the boat”, which is scary at times, especially when we seem to be cruising along smoothly. If we are overidentified with our Pleaser Part or our Peaceful Part, because we received the message during childhood that we will only be loved if we go along with everything, it can be terrifying to rock the boat. There are two things to consider. Firstly, it is your birthright to be in an equal cherishing relationship in which both partner’s needs are met. The second thing to realize is that if you do not find your voice and speak up for your needs and wants, resentment begins to grow, and resentment is a poison that slowly erodes the love between you and your partner. To stay with our metaphor, resentment drills little holes into your relationship boat.

Sometimes we have this idea that we should not have to ask for what we want and need and that our partner should just know what our needs are if he/she really loved us. Our partner is not a mind reader. We set them and ourselves up for failure with this attitude!

Furthermore, help your partner to succeed by telling him or her up front what you need or want instead of waiting for them to fail. Be encouraging and affirm your partner’s efforts by giving positive feedback. Terry Real calls this “celebrating the glass being 15% full”. If the glass was 5% full beforehand, this is a reason to celebrate and thus encourage your partner to keep going. With our children, we naturally do that. If your son or daughter made an improvement in school from a D to a C, you give them reinforcement to keep going and to eventually get to a B.

 

  1. Speak to Make Things Better 

Speak to your partner with love. Before you speak, drop down into your heart and speak from there. If you are too triggered to do that, take a time out until you are able to interact from a more centred place. Remind yourself that you want to speak to make repairs not to make things worse. Learn how to be assertive and loving at the same time. Make sure your partner knows that you love them but that you also need to respect yourself and your needs and feelings.

Make very clear requests using I-statements. There is nothing you need to say that cannot be phrased as a subjective I statement. This helps us to stay away from judgments or accusing the other person. One method for good communication is the five steps of the non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg as described in my article “Having Our Needs met in Relationships“.

Speak respectfully and be prepared that not all your requests will be met. You could say “I would like to talk to you about… Is this a good time?” We need to be able to also tolerate small disappointments. Your partner might reply, “I am tired right now. Can we talk about this tomorrow?” Terry Real even takes it so far as to say we need to “celebrate the no”. Celebrating the no means to be proud of your partner when they say “no” to take care of themselves and meet their own needs, and be proud of yourself for being adaptable and grow-up when you don’t get everything you want in the moment when you want it.

 

  1. Listen to understand 

Before we can respond, we need to really listen. Getting defensive, whether that is out loud or in our heads, is not true listening. We need to put our own feelings aside while we are listening. Listening is also not about arguing about the facts and wanting to be right. Wanting to be right is one of the 5 losing strategies. Listening means entering into your partner’s subjective experience. What do they feel and how do they see things? Be a friendly interviewer who really wants to understand the perspective of the other person.

Remember that as a couple, you are in each other’s care. Or keep Terry Real’s analogy in mind that you are at a customer service or support desk. When a customer complains that their new electric kettle does not work, they don’t want to hear from you that your toaster does not work. Your only concern is to listen to them and tend to their issue in that moment in time, until it is your turn at the customer service window. When your partner comes to you in a state of upset, you are in their service.

Remember that nobody thinks they are irrational. Their feelings and interpretations of reality make sense to them. It is your job to be curious about what makes sense to them. It is your job to help your distraught partner to get back into harmony and closeness with you because that is good for your relationship and therefore is also good for you. Terry Real calls this stance “Enlightened Self-Interest”.

 

  1. Respond with Generosity 

Our first impulse might be to deny that we have done something or to explain why we have done something. That way of responding was termed “leading with an argument” by Terry Real, because it usually is the beginning of an argument. Instead, acknowledge your partner’s experience or feelings and take responsibility for your part in the issue. You might need to lead with a sincere apology, or at least an honest acknowledgement of what you have done or not done.

Image by JenDigitalArt from Pixabay

That disarms your partner, deescalates the conflict, and allows you to make repairs. Terry Real calls this skill “relational jujitsu”. You don’t oppose the force. You yield to the energy coming at you and turn it into a more harmonic energy. Admittedly, that is not an easy feast to accomplish, because we have been taught to respond to power with equal or greater aggression. When we meet aggression and respond with generosity and gentleness, the aggression runs into emptiness.

On the side of the partner who receives an apology or an attempt to improve, “responding with generosity” means to gracefully accept the repair. This is not the moment to be picky. You might not get all you wanted, but if you get 70% of what you have been asking for, that is a sign that your partner wants to cooperate and make peace. Accept the peace offering! Respond with a “thank you” for listening to you and meeting your requests.

The next step is to ask what you can give your partner. Find out what they need from you to make the changes you have asked for. You are on the same team, so you want to help them come through for you. This is relational empowerment rather than personal empowerment. Our society tends to encourage personal empowerment at the expense of our relationships. I am of course not saying that our personal growth and empowerment is not important, but we need a balance in order to live well functioning relationships.

 

  1. Cherish what you have 

Cherishing is a powerful change agent. Terry Real believes “this one winning strategy is equal in potential to all of the other strategies combined”. The best way to get more of what you want in a relationship is by appreciating what you are already getting. Whatever we give energy to, or pay attention to, grows and becomes more. We have the choice to focus on the steps forward, on the progress.

Why is that sometimes so hard?

Real intimacy, closeness and vulnerability can be scary for many of us. Fights can serve as a distance regulator. Complaining about what we are not getting helps to keep the distance between us and our partner, instead of truly opening up our heart and acknowledging everything we are getting. Fights keep us tied into each other but at a certain distance. The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Fights are an opportunity to experience that the other one cares enough to be triggered by us and to feel close but not so close and enmeshed that it creates fear or panic. So what if, instead of starting a fight each time our inner child feels too vulnerable, we would express that we feel scared or that we need a bit of distance?

Terry Real calls the lack of gratitude towards our partner “having ADD, Appreciation Deficiency Disorder”. The ratio of negative feedback to positive appreciation is often out of balance in relationships. We need to engage in active appreciation several times each day.

Once our partner starts to give us more of what we have asked for, the challenge is to receive it gracefully and to cherish what we are getting. So if you hear yourself disqualifying what they are giving, e.g. “you are not doing it right”, or “you are only doing it because I asked for it”, or “you are doing it now but you didn’t do it then or you won’t do it in the future”, be curious about what is actually going on.

Sometimes we also have an attachment or belief system that keeps us from having happy and healthy relationships. We do something that Terry Real calls “keeping a parent spiritual company” by living in the same world they live in, e.g. being mistrustful like your father, or being passive aggressive like your mother, or overidentified with independence like your father, or overemotional like your mother, or too easygoing and disconnected from our own needs like your father and so on. When we try to move beyond that it might feel disloyal to the respective parent.

At other times, we might be invested in not wanting to be like one (or both) of our parents at all costs. For example, not wanting to take advantage of your spouse like you experienced your mother doing, or not wanting to abuse power like your father did and so on. When we identify with the opposite of an energy we are equally not whole and not able to create a balanced relationship. Moving into happiness in all those cases is synonymous with separating from our family. That’s were belief change techniques like PSYCH-K® and Shadow Energetics come in to change our subconscious programs.

If you dare to move beyond your parents and you dare to be happier, more vulnerable and more intimate than they were able to be, you are forging into new territory for your whole ancestral line. You are changing the future for your children and grandchildren, who will receive a different legacy because they now have new role models.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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How To Do the Time Out Right

“You did it again!”, Sarah yells at Frank, her face red and her eyes dark and full of fire. “If you think you can treat me this way, you are mistaken! You just wait! I will show you!…” She takes another breath to continue her loud tirade, but stops herself. She realizes that her angry and vengeful self has taken over. Before she can say another word, she says, “I need a time out…” and storms out of the room. Ten minutes later her husband gets a text from her “I need a time out to calm down. I will be back in an hour.”

When one or both people in an interaction are emotionally triggered, perhaps even feeling extreme anger or rage, absolutely nothing good can come out of continuing the fight or emotionally charged conversation. While we are in fight, flight or freeze mode, we simply CANNOT problem solve.

What Do We Do When My Partner and I Trigger Each Other Emotionally? (Relationship Tip 1)

When a protective part has taken over, for example anger, harshness, revenge, moral judgement, defensiveness or fear, we do not have enough Self, or in other words, not enough “heart energy”, present to connect and solve an issue as a team. We need to get back into a calm, clear, collected, creative and even compassionate state first.

The time out is like a circuit breaker. When one of our protective parts takes over, it can be powerful and it might feel like we are just not in control anymore. Remember that you are not the anger. It is just part of you. The initial angry impulse might come too quickly to do anything about it. However, any emotion that we engage in longer than two minutes, is not an instinct anymore, but a choice. Like Sarah, you have enough control to turn around and leave. Terry Real likes to point out, and I agree with him, that if you truly could not control your anger and rage, you would be raging everywhere. You would lose your temper at work, in public situations—for example at the cop who stops you for speeding—and you would end up in prison or in a mental institution. If you can control your rage somewhere, you can control it anywhere. If you can control your anger in other situations, you have the choice to control it with your partner.

It is a myth that love has to always be passionate. This myth has us believing that in order to have the positive passion that we want, we also need to put up with crazy jealousy and anger. Emotional ups and downs will ultimately burn you both out and destroy the relationship. It pays off to learn to use the time out method.

Terry Real names ten rules for applying the Time Out method successfully. He calls them the ten commandments.

  1. Use a time out as a circuit breaker
    Time outs immediately stop a psychologically violent or nonconstructive interaction between you and your partner.
  2. Take your time out based on how YOU feel
    You call the time out for yourself, no matter how your partner feels. It means advocating for your own needs because you don’t want to feel and/or act the way you are.
  3. Take distance responsibly
    When we decide to take distance, we can do it provocatively or responsibly. Responsible distance taking has two parts: 1) an explanation and 2) the promise to return. You need to get across to your partner, “This is why I need distance and this is when I intend to come back.” When you don’t give an explanation, you are disregarding your partner’s anxiety about your distance taking and you are further triggering your partner. Provocative distance taking tends to get you chased. Do not play games with your partner. Be very clear about when you are going to continue the conversation.

  1. The phrase “Time Out” or the “T” sign
    If you are able to say something like “I don’t like how I’m speaking to you and I don’t trust what I am about to say/do, therefore, I’m taking some time to regain my composure. I will be back” that is great. However, most people are not able to express all of this, so a previously agreed upon phrase or signal are helpful.
  2. Don’t let yourself get stopped
    Terry Real stresses that time outs are unilateral. Unlike any other relationship tool, time outs are a non-negotiable declaration. You’re not asking permission. Leave the room and go into another room and close the door, or even leave the house.
  3. Use check-ins at prescribed intervals
    The purpose of the time out is not to punish your partner, but rather to calm things down. Therefore, it is critical that you check in with your partner from time to time in order to take the emotional temperature between you. The intervals Terry Real suggests are: an hour, three hours, a half day, a whole day, an overnight. You can check in by phone or even by texting.

  1. Remember your goal
    The goal of time outs is to stop emotionally violent, immature, and destructive behavior. “Stopping such behavior in your relationship is a goal that supersedes all other goals. You may need to work on better communication, more sharing or negotiation, but none of that will happen until you succeed in wrestling the beast of nasty transactions to the ground” (Terry Real).
  2. Return in good faith
    Don’t return with resentment or self-righteousness. Come back when you are truly ready to make peace.
  3. Use a twenty-four-hour moratorium on triggering topics
    In severe cases, put the triggering topic on halt for 24 hours. When you come back from a time out, put a pause on the reoccurring fight you are having. First get comfortable with each other again. Engage in a non-triggering simple every day activity together, like having a cup of coffee or watching TV. Return to the topic the next day when you are calm and collected.
  4. Know when to get help and use it.
    If you find that a certain topic, for example money, children, sex, trust, ex-partners, etc. always triggers a nasty transaction, take that as a signal that you need some outside support in order to break through to having constructive conversations. There is no shame in getting help; it is what smart couples do.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

5 Losing Strategies in Relationships

“All relationships are an endless dance of harmony, disharmony and repair. Closeness, disruption and return to closeness.”

– Terry Real

Harmony, disharmony and repair are the essential cycle of all relationship experiences. Closeness, disruption, and return to closeness, happen in many smaller and bigger ways in all our relationships every day. This can already be observed when you watch mothers or fathers and small babies.

I was fortunate enough to visit a beautiful young friend the other day who just had a baby daughter two months ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the slow pace and rhythm of the baby’s needs. I was also able to observe how, from the first day on, we learn this dance that Terry Real describes.

The baby is all relaxed and everything is in perfect harmony. The intimacy and peace is palpable. Caregiver and baby can just look at each other forever, connected through perfect closeness, and eventually the baby falls asleep peacefully. Then the harmony gets disrupted by a feeling of hunger, or the wet diaper, or a gassy tummy, or a sudden loud noise. The mother or father responds by soothing the baby, fixing the issue, and restoring harmony, whether that is with the breast, or the soother, or a dry diaper.

The parent does not argue with the baby if they are right to cry, or punishes the baby for being upset, and hopefully does not let them cry themselves to sleep. Yet, in our love relationships, we employ such useless and damaging strategies. Here are five strategies which are futile and harmful to your relationships.

1 Being Right

I often see couples having a discussion about who was right or what is true. That usually means they argue about who remembers something correctly, or who has the correct perspective on an issue. As Terry Real says so poignantly, “Objective reality has no place in personal relationships”. Or in other words, it does not matter who is right and who is wrong!

If you ever took a workshop with me, you will recall the story of the five blind men and the elephant, which I often share. In doubt, you both have only part of the truth in a given situation. If you asked a third person about the event, they might have a third perspective. There is no such thing as objective truth when it comes to our experiences. Our memory tends to be faulty and betray us because we will remember very selectively, depending on how something impacted us emotionally.

What wanting to be right leads us into is what Terry Real calls “perception battles” or “objectivity battles”. Trying to sort out our relationship issues by wanting to figure out who is right and who is wrong, is an endless losing strategy that has us running around in circles. In fact, if we argue about who is right, nobody wins! As Stan Tatkin likes to point out, if one partner wins and the other loses, you both lose. However, the relationship wins when you create a win-win situation for both of you. What matters is not who did what and who is right, but how you are going to solve a situation or issue in a way that your needs and your partner’s needs are met.

 

2. Control

Trying to control your partner and make them do something can show up in two ways: direct control or indirect control by manipulation. We all have those protective parts inside, that want to come up and control a situation either openly or more subversively. Traditional feminine expectations want women to be indirect instead of openly speaking up for their feelings, needs and wants. Therefore, women might often have a stronger manipulative part which helps them to get what they need.

My grandmother was a master of manipulating others around her, either subtly or less subtly, because she felt she had no other way to have her needs met. 70 years ago, or even 40 years ago, that might have been true. However, in order to be in an equal intimate relationship, we need to find the way out of stereotypical gender roles.

Even though the conventional male and female roles are slowly changing, women still tend to lose their voice. Or as Terry Real says, women “learn to close their voices and men still learn to close their hearts” and disconnect from more vulnerable feelings.

Manipulation is a way to play or manage your partner, which is detrimental in a relationship, because it fosters resentment. Nobody likes being controlled. Even when it looks like your partner is relenting and not objecting to giving in and doing what you want, the likelihood that he or she will grow resentful over time is great.

 

3. Unbridled Self-expression

The third strategy that Terry Real discusses is “unbridled self-expression”. This refers to venting and vomiting up not just the present issue, but all past situations when your partner did something similar.

Why does it not work to bring up past offenses that tie into the present issue? Functional moves in a relationship, whether that is with your partner or anybody else, are moves that empower and motivate the other person to come through for you.

If you are a parent, you know that if you “flatten” your son or daughter and make them feel not good enough and incapable, you are not inviting them to change. If you tell them what they aren’t doing right now in the present, they can do something about it. If you tell them all the things they didn’t do in the past, perhaps throwing in some general accusations starting like “You always…” and “You never…”, the only effect this has is that the other person feels helpless and insufficient. This trend talk then often leads to criticizing somebody’s character, rather than staying with the present issue that can be resolved. You end up with a partner who feels helpless and paralyzed.

When expressing our feelings and needs, “short and sweet” is the winning strategy, while keeping in mind what actually encourages and empowers our partner to meet our requests.

 

4. Retaliation

Revenge and getting even are another losing strategy. This strategy can show up overtly or covertly. The latter occurs when we get stuck in a victim story of “He/she hurt me, so I will hurt them back”. Terry Real calls this offending from the victim position. This makes your partner the perpetrator while featuring yourself as the victim. Every perpetrator thinks they are the victim and have no choice but to fight back with self-righteous indignation. The faulty idea behind revenge is to want to make the other person experience the pain we have experienced. Punishing somebody will never bring them into increased understanding or accountability for their own actions. That’s how legal battles or wars between countries are started. Whenever has the losing party in a court case or in a war said, “Now I understand that I shouldn’t have done this and how my enemy felt. In fact, I am going to love my enemy now that they have won”?

There are two forms of retaliation. Direct open retaliation, or the even more destructive indirect retaliation which is passive-aggressiveness by withholding something, most often love and affection. Both does enormous damage in the relationship.

 

5. Withdrawal

Passive aggressive retaliation can look like withdrawal but is really about revenge. Actual withdrawal is were one person leaves the field. That can be the refusal to engage about an issue, for example trouble with other family members, financial challenges, or the addiction issues which are going on, or opting out of a particular aspect of the relationship, for example the sexual part of the relationship. This can even mean checking out of the relationship entirely. When the latter happens, the end of the relationship is often near.

When withdrawal happens, you might mistakenly think that the withdrawing partner is moving into acceptance. They might say, for example, “I just accept that I cannot talk to my partner about this topic”. However, is the withdrawing partner somewhat resentful in this situation? Resentment is not acceptance.

girl-sea-white-shirt

Withdrawal is also different from having a healthy detachment from what is going on. Withdrawal is unilateral and a rapture. Sweeping things under the carpet and not dealing with them might work as a temporary strategy when we are very overwhelmed, but ultimately backfires.

Withdrawal often looks like provocative or stubborn distance taking. When you can see that a protective part comes up and says “Let’s get out of here. The only way to handle this pain is by distancing yourself.” This is totally different from taking a needed and conscious time out when there is an escalating conflict, or what Terry Real calls “responsible distance taking”. Conscious distance taking means letting your partner know that you need some distance and why. You are also letting them know when you will be back to continue this conversation. If you do this responsibly, you help your partner not to feel abandoned or spin into anxiety. Then they do not need to react from their own protectors like anger or control, or their own inner child, which might respond with fear.

None of these five strategies—or any combination thereof—are in any way helpful or beneficial for a relationship. We need to remember that our partner is not our enemy, but our ally. Instead of controlling, venting, retaliating, withdrawing or wanting to be right, realize that all these strategies are us operating from a protective part and not really connecting from heart to heart. Instead, it is our job to take care of our inner child parts so that we can refrain from using any of these detrimental strategies in our relationships.

Take a moment to honestly assess what your top one or two default strategies might be when the going gets tough. Be compassionate with yourself as you make that self assessment. These are protective parts that step up to protect your vulnerability. Meanwhile, they are keeping you from what you most long for, but might be afraid of: true intimacy and closeness with your partner.

Stay tuned for the next two blog articles “Five Winning Strategies in Relationships” and “How to Do a Time Out Right”. If you have subscribed to my blog, you will be notified by email when the next article is posted.

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to receive an e-mail notification when I post a new blog. Just enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!