Can I Come in with My New Girlfriend?

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A long-term client of mine, a smart and warm man, who I have coached through different personal and professional challenges and previous relationship struggles, just came in with his new girlfriend of one month. I was thrilled—and so was his girlfriend. There is a man who is aware of the importance of working on himself and on a relationship from the very start. Both, he and his partner, have had—like all of us above a certain age—previous experiences of how we can get hurt in relationships. They both recognize the importance of getting to know each other well and of navigating potential pitfalls with awareness.

Most of my clients come in when there is a crisis and when they have already been struggling for a while. What if we didn’t wait until the path we are travelling on has so many potholes that our relationship car is in acute danger of breaking down on this road, but if we committed from the start to doing regular maintenance?

Different religious affiliations offer premarital counselling or marriage classes prior to making the commitment. Some of those sessions might be more helpful than others but the intention is to get to know each other better. Counselling offered by a church might not be a consideration for all couples, depending on one’s spirituality or lack there of.

Premarital coaching, or simply relationship coaching from the start of a relationship, is an alternative, independent of your religious affiliation. It helps both partners to learn to communicate about challenging topics and to learn to hold each other in those vulnerable moments we all experience. Coaching allows us to become aware of patterns and to release them. Relationship sessions enhance any relationship and help us to be able to be our best self in our long-term relationship or marriage.

You might wonder what there can possibly be at the beginning of the relationship, when we are in the honeymoon stage and everything looks rosy and hopeful. There actually are a lot of topics to explore.

What kind of questions might we ask in a relationship coaching session at the start of a relationship?

  1. Let’s talk about values. What are my top values in life, what are my partner’s?
  2. Let’s become aware of our subconscious. What beliefs and fears have I learned based on my family history and my past relationship history?
  3. Let’s talk about expressing affection. What is my primary love language, what my partner’s?

  1. How do I tend to handle conflict, and how about my partner?
  2. Do I know what my emotional triggers are and can I share them with my partner?
  3. Let’s talk about mutual support. What emotional support do we both hope to get from each other? What practical or financial support?
  4. What does it mean to each of us to commit to a relationship?
  5. What did our own parents model for us concerning love and a long-term relationship or marriage?
  6. What attracted me to my partner and who do I believe my partner will help me to be?
  7. Let’s talk about goals. What personal and professional goals do we both hope to achieve and how do we see the partner’s role in that?
  8. How are we planning to create a life-work balance?
  9. What is a comfortable balance for spending time with my partner and with other people?
  10. Let’s talk about needs. What are my top ten needs, what are my partner’s? How comfortable am I expressing my needs?
  11. Who will take on what responsibilities at home?
  12. Let’s talk about money. How do we feel about differences in financial income, joint accounts, debt, keeping a budget, having spending money, paying bills, completing income tax, financially supporting parents or previous children, and so on.
  13. Let’s talk about our families and the in-laws. What boundaries with regard to family interactions do we both need? How do we show up as a team with third parties?
  14. Let’s talk about future or current common children and/or step-children and about parenting. Where do we have overlapping ideas where do we differ? How are we going to handle differences?
  15. Let’s talk about intimacy and sex. Do we need to learn to talk about this sensitive topic? What are our hopes and expectations?
  16. Let’s talk about spirituality. What are our beliefs and practices? Where are there differences and can we be tolerant of each other’s differences?
  17. Let’s talk about monogamy and affairs. How do we both feel about one of us slipping up? Can we both commit to talking to our partner when we experience an attraction to somebody else, in order to strengthen the bond between us and to avoid sliding across the line with an outsider? Can we also commit to not talking to a person who is not a “friend of the marriage”, about our relationship problems because this builds a bond outside of our relationship? (For more information and to learn more about what this means, check out my blog series “Affairs”.)

 

Contact me for individual coaching sessions,

couples’ sessions or workshops.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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The Blind Passenger

I had been contemplating this year’s Thanksgiving blog, when I came across this beautiful story by an unknown author on Spiritual-Short-Stories.com. It is perfect the way it is written, so allow me to just share…

The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver, and using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg. It had been a year since Susan, thirty-four, became blind. Due to a medical misdiagnosis she had been rendered sightless, and she was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, anger, frustration and self-pity.

Once a fiercely independent woman, Susan now felt condemned by this terrible twist of fate to become a powerless, helpless burden on everyone around her. “How could this have happened to me?” she would plead, her heart knotted with anger. But no matter how much she cried or ranted or prayed, she knew the painful truth: her sight was never going to return. A cloud of depression hung over Susan’s once optimistic spirit. Just getting through each day was an exercise in frustration and exhaustion.

 And all she had to cling to was her husband Mark. Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all his heart. When she first lost her sight, he watched her sink into despair and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence she needed to become independent again. Mark’s military background had trained him well to deal with sensitive situations, and yet he knew this was the most difficult battle he would ever face. 

bus-city

Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Mark volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city. At first, this comforted Susan and fulfilled Mark’s need to protect his sightless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task. 

Soon, however, Mark realized that this arrangement wasn’t working – it was hectic, and costly. Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again, he admitted to himself. But just the thought of mentioning it to her made him cringe. She was still so fragile, so angry. How would she react? 

Just as Mark predicted, Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again. “I’m blind!” she responded bitterly. “How am I supposed to know where I’m going? I feel like you’re abandoning me.” Mark’s heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened. For two solid weeks, Mark, military uniform and all, accompanied Susan to and from work each day. He taught her how to rely on her other senses especially her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. 

He helped her befriend the bus drivers who could watch out for her and save her a seat. He made her laugh, even on those not-so-good days when she would trip exiting the bus, or drop her briefcase. Each morning they made the journey together, and Mark would take a cab back to his office. Although this routine was even more costly and exhausting than the previous one, Mark knew it was only a matter of time before Susan would be able to ride the bus on her own. He believed in her, in the Susan he used to know before she’d lost her sight, who wasn’t afraid of any challenge and who would never, ever quit. 

Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. She said goodbye, and for the first time, they went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan had never felt better. She was doing it! She was going to work all by herself! 

Blind-Passenger-silouette

On Friday morning, Susan took the bus as usual. As she was paying for her fare to exit the bus, the driver said, “Boy, I sure envy you.” Susan wasn’t sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live the past year? Curious she asked the driver, “Why do you say that you envy me?” The driver responded, “It must feel so good to be taken care of and protected like you are.” Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about, and asked again, “What do you mean?” 

The driver answered, “You know, every morning for the past week, a fine looking gentleman in a military uniform has been standing across the corner watching you when you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches you until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss, and gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady.”

Tears of happiness poured down Susan’s cheeks. For although she couldn’t physically see him, she had always felt Mark’s presence. She was lucky, so lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight, a gift she didn’t need to see to believe – the gift of love that can bring light where there had been darkness.

This touching story has me wondering if we aren’t sometimes all like this blind woman? We feel alone, struggling to go about our life, meanwhile we are watched over, protected and held without being aware of it. We are, in fact, safe and abundant beyond our wildest imagination. There is an abundance of love and support—if we could just see it. What if we opened our hearts and looked around to notice the fullness and abundance in our life with gratitude.

Thanksgiving - Happy Thanksgiving 3

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Angelika,

905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

The Four Pillars of Shared Meaning in Our Marriage or Partnership

Is our love relationship or marriage just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love, or is there more? What about the spiritual dimension of creating an inner life or inner culture together?

Usually, we think of culture in terms of large ethnic groups or even countries. Within those macro-cultures, each couple and each family creates their own mirco-culture. These smaller units also have their customs, rituals and stories or myths about what it means to be part of their group.

In order to create shared meaning, Drs John and Julie Gottman name four pillars to build a solid relationship on. These four pillars allow the couple a shared sense of meaning. With this shared culture, conflict is much less intense and perpetual problems are less likely to lead to gridlock.

pillar_sky_one

PILLAR ONE: Rituals of Connection

Powerful antidotes to disconnection are rituals with your spouse and children—together and separately. A ritual is a structured event or routine that you enjoy together. Such rituals include

  • rituals of communication like talking over dinner or the stress reducing conversation
  • celebration rituals, like birthdays, holidays or anniversaries
  • rituals around recreation like repeating weekend or seasonal activities, and vacation times together
  • sexual rituals, like initiating lovemaking
  • rituals around everyday living, like start-of-day rituals, end-of-day reunions, bedtime routines or dealing with illness

 

PILLAR TWO: Support for Each Other’s Roles

We all play different roles. We are not just partners, but also parents, children to our own parents, siblings, friends, and of course we take on professional roles as well. Our perspective on our own roles, and our partner’s view of them, can either add to the meaningfulness or create tension and disharmony.

Dissimilar perspectives on what the role of the husband/wife is, different views on parenting, and which kind of interactions with parents, siblings and friends are appropriate, can all contribute to conflict. Our views and our partner’s views on what it means to work and the significance we attach to our own work can either deepen our sense of connection or create tension.

It is important to speak about and understand what the different roles mean to each partner. Even if we do not agree with each other 100%, we can reach a consensus if we know what is significant to the other.

heart-sky-door-cropped

 

PILLAR THREE: Shared Goals

Part of what makes life meaningful is the goals we work towards. No relationship stands on solid ground without shared goals of some kind. These are some useful questions to pursue.

  • Do we value each other’s accomplishments and honour each other’s personal goals unrelated to our relationship?
  • Do we share the same goals for our children, our life in general, our financial future and our old age?
  • Are our life dreams similar or compatible? If they are not identical, do we find ways to honour them?

 

Gottman-quote

 

PILLAR FOUR: Shared Values and Symbols

Values and beliefs form the final pillar of shared meaning. They are sometimes represented by symbols. Such shared philosophies are around

  • love and trust
  • the importance of family
  • spiritual beliefs
  • the role of sex in the relationship
  • the importance and meaning of money and possessions
  • the importance of education
  • similar dreams about retirement and old age
  • the role of fun, play, adventure and connection with nature
  • similar values around personal freedom, autonomy and interdependence
  • sharing power in the relationship.

 

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Angelika, Belief Change and Relationship Coach

905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca