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.

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Five 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!

Conflicts in Relationships

“How can you be so heartless and cold?” Sandra asks with anger in her voice, “Why don’t you have any sympathy for my brother? You are so cruel!”

Kyle is looking at his wife and is wondering how they ended up in this escalated conflict, one of many fights about her brother. He is silently reminding himself that she has simply been taken over by not just an angry but also a judgmental protector right now. And underneath those protectors are feelings of fear and responsibility for a younger sibling who has always relied on Sandra. She feels helpless, guilty and frustrated.

She continues defiantly, “I will not turn him away if he needs my help! I am giving him the money, no matter what you think! You always support your ex-wife when she needs extra money, supposedly for the kids…”

Now Kyle can feel how his own protector is coming up. There is a part of him that just wants to reply sharply, “No you will not. I am the main provider in this family and I make our financial decisions.” But thankfully, he still has enough awareness that his controlling protector is gearing up for a fight in response to Sandra’s anger. He remembers to use their code word, ”Fire.”

The protectors are like Firefighters. They don’t care about the damage they cause; they only care about “putting out the fire”. In our inner world, that “fire” equates to our vulnerability and our emotional pain. That code-word “fire” for Kyle and Sandra means, “Stop. Let’s take a break right now to calm ourselves.” When we are triggered by our partner we need a time out of at least 20-30 minutes. During that time, we need to allow our sympathetic nervous system to calm down again. The time out is probably one of the most important agreements to make when couples struggle with escalating conflicts.

When our partner shows up in one of their protectors, rather than connecting from a more loving, calm or even vulnerable place, we often wonder what we are doing with this awful person. We might think, “How could I not see from the start how horrible he/she is?” While we are in this emotionally activated state, we perceive the situation and especially each other as a threat. We are unable to see clearly, problem solve or make rational decisions. Any conversation that we continue in this state can only become more destructive.

Terrence Real mentions in his book “The New Rules of Marriage” that we all have two competing images of our partner. We have one image of them at their best and one of them at their worst. You could perhaps say that when we hold the first image we see them for who they really are at a core level, or for who they are capable of being. That positive image might be identical with what we fell in love with when we first met. When our partner is being taken over by one of their protectors, we can hold that positive image as a beacon to remind us that he or she is more than this angry, controlling, judgmental, negative, complaining, or defensive person across from us.

In some cases, this core positive image can of course be problematic as well. If one person is holding the potential of who their partner can be so insistently that they ignore detrimental aspects of the relationship instead of acknowledging them, the image is creating an issue.

However, in most cases we need and want to cultivate the positive image to get through tough times. We can cultivate this picture by focusing on everything we love and like about our partner. A practice of appreciation of each other allows us to keep this image alive.

According to Terry Real, we also harbour a “core negative image” of our partner. That’s the combination of all the things they do that trigger us into judgements and challenge us in our relationship. It includes all the pain we have experienced with or through this partner. When we are emotionally activated, we are unable to see anything but the negative. We are seeing the other person through the glasses of the fight and flight response. Or Terry Real would say through “fight, flight or fix”. By that he means, we want to fight back, or stone wall/retreat/run away in some way, or quickly fix the tension in the room without addressing the problems and individual needs. Backing away from the issue just to fix the disharmony won’t help us. It breads resentment.

“The difference between real acceptance and just backing away from an issue, or away from the whole relationship, is resentment.”

Terrence Real, “How Can I Get Through to You?”

Why do we want to fight, run or fix? The reason is instinctual. We don’t see the other person accurately when we have been taken over by our protectors. In that moment in time, we also often assume that our partner has the worst intentions instead of being able to consider that they might have good intentions or reasons underneath their behaviour which seems so outrageous to us.

This goes both ways. Just as you might be triggered into seeing your partner from the core negative image when your vulnerabilities are triggered, your partner also experiences you from their perspective of the negative core image. What we really are seeing are our protective parts responding to what the other person activates deep inside of us, or in other words, what that person reflects back to us.

 

Take a moment to ask yourself what characteristics trigger you in your partner, and write them down. Because the people close to us always mirror to us what we have disowned, you will create a list of traits that will mostly be excellent shadow traits to work with in your next session with your relationship coach.

Now write down what you think your partner gets triggered by in you. What does his or her negative core image of you probably look like?

The work in individual sessions or in couple sessions is to understand our protectors—and those that our partner tends to go into—and to learn to speak “for” them rather than “from” them. It is also our responsibility as an individual to notice and work on the triggers or shadows that the relationship with our partner activates for us.

For individual sessions or couples sessions please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out discount packages for couples here.

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I’ve Got You

Ten days ago, I had an unusual anniversary. Three years ago, I slipped and fell down the last couple of steps on a staircase. I fractured both my ankles. My legs were both in casts for six weeks and afterwards I was working from a wheelchair until my ankles were strong enough and I had learned to walk again. You could say the experience was a bit of a trauma, even though it was of course also a gift. It included experiencing dependency, vulnerability, and held a lot of learning and growth, which I have written about repeatedly. What was left over from that accident was a fear of walking down a slippery slope. I experienced that I would literally freeze and would be unable to walk down if there was any danger of potentially falling. Consequently, I did my uttermost to avoid situations that could trigger that fear.

However, the Universe in its wisdom can be absolutely marvelous. It knows exactly when and how to bring us opportunities to step out of our comfort zones. Last week, coincidentally the day before the three year return of the accident, I joined a group of 10 other people on a nature walk of the Bruce Trail, without knowing what I was getting myself into. It was rainy and muddy, and the trail was steep all the way through.

I had a moment of doubt when the rain started and when I realized what I had committed to. However, I had the most empowering experience on this hike. Every single person in that group had my back. There was always somebody next to me offering to hold my hand, or somebody saying, “I am right behind you, Angelika, I’ve got you”, or “let me go ahead and find the least slippery route, so you can just follow in my footsteps.”

I felt incredibly held and safe and loved. Nobody treated me with impatience or looked at me strangely; they all got it. They were the most loving and supportive group I could have gone on this slippery trail with. In fact, they did not just make sure I was okay at all times, but they watched out for each other. At some points during the walk, we were all holding hands helping each other back down the trail.

That experience of being able to be vulnerable and held in whatever trauma each of us is working through, is exactly why I do what I do. A world in which we are gentle and supportive with each other is exactly the kind of world I want to live in! I am passionate about creating a world of love, acceptance and total support. That’s why I teach workshops like the upcoming Shadow Energetics Workshop, in which we do deep inner work, while everybody is held in complete love and trust within the group.

That is also why I love individual sessions with clients who are ready to be curious about their raw and vulnerable experiences and to heal what holds them back from health, happiness and fulfilling mutually supportive relationships. And nothing brings me greater joy than when a couple comes in together, ready to hold each other in their vulnerability and keep each other feeling safe, as they work through things.

After all, the purpose of our intimate relationships is to create a sacred space in which we can be vulnerable, authentic and reveal our fears and weaknesses. Are you and your partner able to create this sacred space together? Or are you stuck in disillusionment, hurt or pain because your old emotional wounds are resurfacing?

This simply means that the honeymoon stage of the relationship is over. This honeymoon phase was not supposed to last forever. It was supposed to bring you together. Stage 2 of the relationship is about learning how to deal with disagreements, vulnerabilities and challenges, so that we can advance to stage 3, the mature love stage.

The challenges in stage 3 don’t stop, but we have learned how to deal with our triggers in a conscious way so that we can have each others’ backs, like the participants on the nature hike had each others’ backs. This requires that both partners put in the necessary effort to understand themselves and each other so that the relationship can get stronger. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help to achieve this. In fact, it is the smart thing to do. Working on the relationship with a therapist or coach ensures that your relationship progresses to the next stage.

If you would like to do a meditation on feeling supported and being supportive, or do a partner exercise to experience support, go to my Patreon.

Contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

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!

 

Why Do Men Always Change?

Sarah sits in front of me, confused, hurt and anxious. “I don’t understand why men always change? At first, they are all over me, they can’t wait to see me, they call and text a lot, they bring me flowers and buy me cards, and they want to do all these other things for me like repair my leaking faucet. And then they change. They don’t call anymore and don’t bring flowers anymore, and I have to mention the leaky faucet three times. Once men have ‘caught me,’ they change. They become lazy and they stop caring about me.”

My client Sarah is, according to Alison Armstrong, not the only one stuck in this pattern and confused about it. She meets a man, they hit if off, have a fabulous first date and a second and a third, he pursues her, texts and calls a lot, listens and communicates, wants to spend lots of time with her. Then a few weeks or months in, he does something that is the beginning of a downward spiral.

He doesn’t text all day or doesn’t call; he doesn’t respond to the hints of what she needs, wants or likes; he comments on the looks of another woman; he retreats and appears distant; he forgets something that is important to her; he says no to an activity suggestion from her without offering an alternative; he says he is busy and doesn’t share what he is doing; he makes a joke that she is hurt by; he sides with another person in an argument she has; he doesn’t notice the new haircut or how good she looks in the new dress and so on. All these things usually happen because men are men; they are human. They simply are busy or tired or forgetful or insensitive at times.

But Sarah thinks, “I would never do this to him or anybody else I love. Why did he do this? It must be because he doesn’t respect me, or care about me or really love me, or he wouldn’t have done this. I am not important to him anymore. Maybe I never was and he just pretended at the beginning. Why does he not love me (anymore)? It must be me. I must be too much or too little of something. Haven’t I always been told I am too much / too needy / too fat / too emotional / too…” and the list goes on. And she either starts to feel depressed, or she ponders ways of improving and changing herself until she realizes that she has completely lost herself.

I am convinced that a lot of misunderstandings between the sexes are due to the fact that we do not understand the ways in which men’s brains work differently from women’s and how men’s motivations are usually also different from ours. We expect men to be like us and are disappointed if they are not. Or as Alison Armstrong says it, we look at men as “hairy misbehaving women” because they do things a woman would never do. And just as we would judge ourselves or another woman for doing those things, we judge them.

A man’s brain usually has a single focus while a woman’s brain has a more diffuse awareness. We do and think a million things at the same time while they usually only concentrate on one thing and are able to tune everything else out. That’s why they don’t notice that the floor needs to be vacuumed or that the garbage needs to be taken out or that another person in the room is needing some attention or that it’s time to buy the birthday gift for their mother today so she will get it on time. They are focused on a specific task they are completing right now and everything else gets filtered out.

Our motivation is often different as well. Women are more externally motivated. We are often highly susceptible to other people’s opinions. If our girlfriend makes a comment that the grey colour of our top does not bring the best out in us but a blue top would, or if our aunt mentions that she misses hearing from us, we will stop wearing grey and we will wear blue, and we will make sure we call our aunt more often. That’s why we criticize men and think that this should motivate them, but in reality it just demotivates them and makes them feel not good enough. “We are shocked that men don’t spring into action when we criticize them. We think it means they don’t love us or respect us.” (Alison Armstong, Making Sense of Men)

Men are more internally focused. They do something because they are internally compelled or inspired to do it. And, this might surprise you, but they are actually motivated by seeing the woman in their life happy. There is no greater motivation for a man than when he has provided something for her with his actions that makes her life easier or better. When we can express to the man in our life how he is providing us with something or helping us with something, in short actually making a difference by doing something for us, his willingness to help is usually high. Most men actually want to help if they are able to, and if they are being recognized for it by their partner.

What attracts a man to a woman and why do they change? Contrary to what we might believe, it is not the shininess of our hair, or the perkiness of our breasts or the shape of our figure. A male colleague of mine spells it out for his female clients who are worried about their body, “All he thinks about when he is getting physically close to you is ‘boobs’ and perhaps ‘I wonder if I may touch them’. He does not see that one breast is bigger than the other, or thinks they are too small or too big. That is female thinking!” His single focus screens every imperfection out.

So if it’s not the perfection of our body that attracts men and the imperfections of the body that drives them away, what is it? Alison Armstrong names four qualities that, according to research, attract a man to a woman.

  1. Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is irresistible in any person, male or female. What keeps us from being self-confident? Our Inner Critic that judges everything we do and feels it needs to point out that we are “too this or too that” or “not enough this or that”.

Men are actually not even close to as critical with us as our Inner Critic wants us to believe. They adore us exactly the way we are. They are able to see our beauty and adore our shape and imperfections.

So on those days when the Inner Critic gets too loud, how do you boost your self-confidence? Does Yoga, working out, going for a walk, singing or dancing do it? Or cooking and eating healthy food? Or having a pep talk with your girlfriend? Getting a hair cut, manicure or eyebrows done? Or dressing in clothes that you love and in shoes that make you feel confident? The key is to do these things, not because our Inner Critic says we need to but because they make us feel good and boost our self-confidence.

  1. Authenticity

Nothing is more charming than authenticity. And the more confidence we have, the more authentic we can be. One of the highest compliments a man can give a woman is that she is “real, sincere and warm”.

  1. Passion

What are you passionate about? Your career? A hobby or your volunteer work? People or animals? Dancing or painting or writing or meditating? Or your crystal collection and your native drum circle? When a woman talks about her passions, scientists have measured (using magnetic resonance imaging) an increase of well-being hormones in a man’s brain. So instead of holding back and just listening to his interests, express your own passions.

  1. Receptivity

Over the last thirty years, women have learned to value themselves for masculine traits like being independent and productive. The focus has become, especially at work but also in our personal lives, how much we can make happen, organize, control, manage and provide for others. What gets lost in that productivity is being receptive to help and support.

“The first kind of receptivity men need is women being open and responsive to all the ways they express caring for us. Allowing their unique expressions of that big feeling in how they take care of us, protect us, contribute to us and make us happy.” (Alison Armstrong, Making Sense of Men)

Are you aware of the ways in which the man in your life cares for you? What is his love language and how does he provide something for you, practically, emotionally, financially or otherwise?

The second kind of receptivity is, “men need us to be receptive to who they are. The way one man said it was, ‘there is nothing like looking in a woman’s yes and seeing that she accepts you.’” (Alison Armstrong, Making Sense of Men)

That means not to judge them for all the ways they are not like us but to accept that they think differently and are motivated differently but the more we accept them the way they are, the more they want to provide, help and make us happy.

So it is perhaps true that men change, but it is also true that we change. We tend to go into the spiral, like Sarah does, when he does something that we would never do, and we interpret it as “he does not care enough or love me enough”. We take what is simply thoughtlessness or forgetfulness very personally and we think that his behaviour must mean something about us. We conclude that what he did or didn’t do must be the result of something being wrong with us. And as we strive to figure out how to be enough, we lose our self-confidence, authenticity, passion and receptivity, which are the four qualities which attracted a man into our life to begin with.
When we lose sight of our passions and we forget to be receptive to what men want to do for us, we change. Instead of receiving their gifts of caring, we focus on what they are not doing and how what they are giving us is not really what we need and want. And men respond to that lack of receptivity. They stop giving.

If you would like to do a meditation on embracing your confidence, authenticity, passions and receptivity, go to my Patreon. I also offer journal prompts and a partner exercise called “When I look at you, I see…”

Contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.
Angelika
905-286-9466
greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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!

The Six Second Kiss And Other Rituals of Connection

When did you last get a really good long kiss? If you are dating or in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, you will most likely be experiencing lots of kissing. If you are in a later state of your relationship and you haven’t kept up the kissing, you might miss out on an essential connection ritual which has lots of health benefits.

Kissing releases oxytocin and dopamine. Oxytocin makes you feel a sense of comfort and belonging, and dopamine activates your brain’s reward center. Kissing can also reduce the stress hormone cortisol. It lowers your blood pressure and reduces anxiety.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman recommend to share at least one kiss every day that lasts six seconds or more. Why six seconds? Because that requires us to be present and it is long enough to feel the romantic connection and bond with your partner.

“A six-second kiss is a kiss with potential.

It’s a kiss worth coming home to.”

(John Gottman)

The six second kiss is a beautiful ritual of connection for a couple. Our relationships need rituals. We all have many rituals with children, we have family rituals, especially around holidays, we have religious rituals, for example around death. They provide guidance on how to act and interact in a given situation. They give meaning to an experience which is often still remembered many years later, like a birthday celebration, or the annual family vacation, or the lullaby that was sung to us throughout childhood.

Rituals provide a container for an experience of an emotional connection. Rituals give us predictability, something to look forward to; they are anchors in a fast moving and often unpredictable world. Even smaller rituals help us to be emotionally connected with one or more other people. They give us a sense of belonging and they make our relationships stronger.

Something done without intention is not a ritual, yet the same thing done with intention can become a ritual. Watching TV is not a ritual, yet, having a pizza and movie night every Friday with the kids and taking turns picking a movie is done with the intention to connect and have fun as a family. Taking a class to learn a new language or new skill like photography, or to improve your cooking or dancing abilities is not a ritual, but making the conscious choice to take one class a year together as a couple can be a couple ritual to create shared memories of learning and fun.

All couples, no matter at what stage their relationship is in, need rituals. Dan and Bonita are living a long distance relationship, including a significant time difference. Rituals of connection are what help them to get through this period in their life. They text, facetime or skype every day to connect. They make sure they say good night and good morning to each other. Each time they have visited each other, they make a plan for the next time they will see each other in person. Each of these rituals are intentional to provide safety and are like islands of connection as they move forward.

Stan and Jane are newly married and are developing their own rituals. They have very different schedules. He works from 9-5, she from 3-9. When she is done working, the day is over. They are making the very conscious choice to start and end the day together. Having breakfast together and talking in the morning, as well as ending the day cuddling together, are two important anchors for them. Their morning and evening routine frames their day and allows them to be focussed on work, knowing when they will touch base with each other again.

Daniel and Gabriela just had their first child. In order to stay connected, they maintain every Friday night as date night. They are also developing family rituals with their son. The family rituals create a stronger connection with their child, and the alone time allows them not to lose the sense of themselves as a couple and their romantic bond.

Walter and Fran are alone. Their kids have grown up. One of their rituals is to go to the market every Saturday morning and to then cook together. In the afternoon, they work around the house and on Saturday night they go out with friends or by themselves. Their rituals have helped them to refocus from being parents onto their special couples relationship.

What rituals do you have or would you like to create?

If you would like to do a meditation on creating new rituals of connection, go to my Patreon. The upcoming topic is rituals. In addition to the meditation I offer journal prompts and a partner exercise to create rituals together and engage in them consciously.

As a patron your receive a meditation, journal prompts, a relationship tip and partner exercises on a new topic every two weeks.

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Contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

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

A.R.E. you there for me?

Daniel is dating Kelsey. He is incredibly attracted to her beautiful body, he loves to touch and kiss her, and cannot wait to make love to her. She has told him that she is not quite ready yet to be physically intimate with him, but that she will let him know. She has shared with him that a year prior, another man took advantage of her when she was drunk. They are in her room, where they have been studying together for the next exam, and the young couple ends up in a passionate embrace. Daniel is excited and can feel that Kelsey is getting more comfortable with him as well. He could push on and coax her into moving into the next step. He decides to do what is so much harder, which is to honour her request and go for delayed gratification. He leaves. Without fully realizing it, he has laid the basis for a trusting relationship with her.

Christina is five months pregnant with their first child. The midwife has examined her and has recommended to go for an ultrasound. She is concerned that the baby might not be putting on enough weight, especially as Christina is of what is looked at as “advanced maternal age”, at 39 years old. Christina calls her husband, Daniel. He is stressed due to an important deadline at work, but he knows that Christina has experienced three miscarriages in her first marriage and wasn’t supported by her ex-husband. He can hear the fear in her voice. He always does his best to ensure that he is accessible by phone. Despite his work deadline, he agrees to come to the hospital with her because she needs him as her anchor. Doing this, he has reassured her that he will—unlike her ex-husband—put her first when she needs his emotional support, no matter how busy he is.

John just turned 75. He wakes up in the middle of the night from a nightmare, which leaves him not feeling well. He had a heart attack ten years ago and since then, he has been secretly worried about his health. He has trouble breathing. He wonders whether he should reach over and wake Betty. What if she is annoyed with him for being such a baby? He decides to take the chance. Betty responds with understanding and care. She holds him, talks to him and soothes him. They fall asleep again together, arm in arm. She was accessible, responsive and willing to engage with him, despite it being 2:30 a.m. She was willing to be his emotional anchor.

These examples are of three couples of different ages and at different points in their lives and their relationships. Yet, in each case, one of them is asking in one way or another, “Are you there for me? Do I matter? Do my feelings and needs matter to you? Will you honour my requests, fears and needs? Can you be my anchor when I am afraid?” And the other one responds by being mindful of the partner’s requests and needs, by being accessible, responsive and willing to be present and engaged.

We as humans crave nothing more than deep intimate connections with at least one other person, yet, we are at the same time deeply afraid of reaching out to that other person and entrusting them with our fears and needs. The longing to be truly seen for who we are is strong, yet often the fear of rejection is stronger.

In the age of speed-dating, Tinder, and many sites for sexual encounters, we more or less live in and experience a hook-up culture. It has never been so easy to find somebody for a one-night stand, for sexting or for other erotic experiences. Those interactions often leave us temporarily distracted from our inner pain, but ultimately feeling more alone and empty inside.

We receive our wounding in relationships and we also heal in relationships. Our partner becomes a substitute for our parents or caretakers and therefore, our partner triggers our childhood wounds. As painful as this is, there is also the beautiful opportunity to heal these wounds and shift those memories, experiences and beliefs from our childhood, within the “container” of our present-day partnership.

Our partner also heals the wounds we have experienced through previous partners. If a past partner has hurt, disappointed or betrayed the person you are with, you have the honour to be their healer. That is an incredible gift you are being given. It’s a call to show up with awareness, gentleness, understanding and most of all, integrity. Ask yourself what it means to be truly intimate, available, reliable and safe.

Or as Sue Johnson phrases it: “The key question in love is not, ‘How many orgasms can I have with you?’ It is, ‘A.R.E. you there for me?’, where A.R.E. stands for emotionally Accessible, Responsive and Engaged.”

Our deepest healing happens within the boundaries of a safe, exclusive, committed and intimate relationship. In order to heal, we need to acknowledge that we all have wounds, some might be due to bigger traumas, others due to smaller traumas. We need to be ready to let go of the past and expect the best now from our current partner. And as the partner, we need a compassionate attitude and the willingness to be patient; to affirm and re-affirm, to assure and reassure.

The more you A.R.E there for your partner and your partner for you, the deeper your connection will be and the more you will be rewarded in all areas of your relationship. Emotional intimacy translates into physical intimacy and vice versa.

“This quality of emotional connectedness also seems to translate into the bedroom and erotic connection. Securely bonded lovers report more and better sex. They are more confident in bed and can deal with sexual disconnects and problems together. When you are safely connected, you can relax, let go, and give in to sensation. You can take risks and reach for erotic adventure. You can share and respond to each other’s deepest needs and desires.” (Sue Johnson)

What would it be like if, next time your partner reaches out to you, you would be Accessible, Responsive and Engaged? And what would it be like if you gathered all your courage to be vulnerable and reach out to your partner, trusting him or her to be Accessible, Responsive and Engaged?

Image by Skitterphoto on Pixabay

 

Contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

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

How Do I Accurately Assess a Potential Relationship Partner?

Listen to the blog article as an extended version on my podcast, or read it below.

Are you dating and wondering if this time around the other person is the right long-term partner for you? What is required to assess another person realistically and minimize repeating heartbreak and disappointment?

I often see people leaving their marriage or common-law relationship and within a few months, they are involved with somebody else, declaring that this time, things are different.
What has most likely happened in those cases? It is very possible that the person has skipped an important step, the one of grieving and completing the old relationship. Instead, they have simply replaced one partner with the next, because that is what we are taught to do.

If you are like most people, you will associate the word “grief” with a loved one dying. In reality, grief and loss, in one form or another, occur with most changes in our lives, including the end of a relationship.

When a relationship ends in separation or divorce, it brings huge changes to our daily routine, to our friendships and social interactions, and often to our financial situation. There may be elements of relief that the pain and suffering we experienced being in the relationship is over, but there will also be elements of grief and having to adapt to the changes.

Processing the changes can be challenging because our environment is not supportive. Often, the advice we are given when a relationship ends is along the lines of “don’t feel bad” and “there are many fish in the sea and you’ll find somebody else”, or in other words, “replace the lost relationship with another one”, as if partners are simply exchangeable.

What is required to move forward without dragging our old baggage with us is to fully process the previous relationship, understand what patterns caused the break-up, and grieve the old relationship and the loss of our dreams for the future. The choice to be with somebody else without having done the deeper work might come from fear of being alone. I know because I have experienced this myself in the past. I remember being very much in love with a man many years ago and feeling shocked and heartbroken when the relationship ended due to depression and mental health issues. Within five months, in fact by Christmas that same year, I was dating somebody else, convinced he must be “the love of my life”. What was really underneath this rash decision was that I didn’t want to be alone for Christmas. I had not vetted this man properly and the relationship did not last long.

Jumping into the next relationship without knowing the other person well will most likely cause further heartbreak when that relationship also ends. So how does one not give in to the temptation to rush into the next relationship? And how do we evaluate other people as a potential match?

Dr. Joan Borysenko likes to joke that “if your parents were alcoholics, you can go to a cocktail party, and there’s one alcoholic, and you’re going to end up talking to that one person.” We are naturally drawn to what is familiar and unresolved from childhood. Therefore, we need to be aware of our wounds and our patterns. What have I learned about myself, other people and love relationships growing up? If I am afraid to be alone or have a pervasive fear of abandonment, I might rush into the first possible relationship that shows up and recreate a vicious circle of repeating heartbreak. Or if one of my parents was emotionally distant that might be exactly what I find myself attracted to over and over again, even though I suffer greatly when my partner retreats and closes off.

When we get to know somebody, it pays off to take it slow and to not focus so much on ourselves, but to actually be really curious about the other person. If we focus internally on how someone makes us feel, for example attractive, admired, or appreciated, that focus on ourselves does not tell us anything about the other person. We cannot hear what people tell us between the lines if we are too distracted by our own feelings. We want to learn to read other people relatively quickly before we get emotionally attached to them. Once we have started to bond with somebody or have announced the new relationship to all our social contacts, we are more likely to make excuses for them and to put up with behaviours, character traits and values that will become deal breakers in the long run.

In order to assess somebody for a match, we need to know what our own values are and which ones are “must haves” or “deal breakers”. We need to learn to listen for other people’s values in what they share with us. Here are some questions to keep in mind:

  • What matters to them? What values become apparent? Are these values in line with your top 10 values?
  • What is their position on taking responsibility for their own words and actions? Do they blame others, like ex-partners, for past difficulties?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do they look at challenges and problem solving in regards to life situations, especially relationships? If they are conflict-avoidant, they won’t be able to work relationship issues out when they arise.
  • How great are their interpersonal skills and communication skills? Do they have a high EQ which allows them to have empathy, share their own emotions and maintain relationships beyond the initial connection?
  • Do they have a history of working through situations, or are they most likely a “fair weather friend”, who is going to be there for a good time but does not have the resilience to work through challenging life situations?

Even after a few dates, we don’t have the entire picture yet. We are likely filling in the blanks with wishful thinking. Rather than deceiving ourselves that we already know a lot, let’s continue to remain curious and open to discover what the other person is really like. Hypnotherapist Michael Yapko recommends to make a concrete list of 25 things we do not know about this person, any one of which could be a potential deal-breaker. What are the things you don’t know for sure yet, and still need to find out?

Before we commit to another person, it is also beneficial to have one or two honest friends or family members vet this potential new partner. In order for this to be helpful, we of course have to be willing to listen to their impressions and assessment. The best way to attract a more successful relationship is not to approach the search for a new partner with desperation and immediacy but with curiosity, a realistic attitude and by taking one step at a time.

Contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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

Jealousy PART 2 – Working Through Jealousy and Fear

Listen to the entire blog article as an extended version on my podcast, or read part 2 below!

In part 1 of this blog, we met Jessica and Christopher who are struggling with jealousy in their relationship. What can they do to work through the emotions of jealousy and fear?

As a relationship moves through different stages, jealousy changes. During the earlier stages of a relationship, there is little investment, so jealousy is minimal. During the middle part of a relationship, like in Jessica and Christopher’s case, when the honeymoon period is over but they haven’t yet figured out as a couple how to move to a more mature love stage, jealousy is greater because they are invested in the relationship but there is also uncertainty. Once they have moved to the next stage and have learned to reassure each other of their commitment when fears and emotions are triggered, jealousy will naturally decrease.

We all have different ideas about what commitment means. If we believe that our partner is truly committed to us and the relationship, we are less likely to experience jealousy. Communication about what constitutes commitment helps us to understand our partner more.

It takes two to have jealousy problems. In order to build security and clear out jealousy there are some guidelines.

  1. Don’t provoke a jealous response in your partner by flirting with others or by keeping secrets from your partner. When you play jealousy games, you both lose because it increases the fear between you instead of building trust.
  2. Don’t check on or spy on your partner. It does not eliminate your uncertainty and worry. You can never be 100% certain what another person might do one day. Instead of being able to enjoy your love in the present moment, you live every day in the misery of jealousy and fear.
  3. Don’t get involved with somebody who is already attached to somebody else. You might think that you are sophisticated enough and can handle a triangle situation by compartmentalizing, but in my experience as a relationship coach, most of us have a hard time doing this in the long run. We are programmed by our biology to form exclusive attachments.
  4. If you are in a committed and exclusive relationship, reassure your partner of your commitment. Show empathy with their fear of loss and show them through gestures and words that they are the most important person to you. You might feel controlled or smothered by their jealousy, but retreating only increases their fear and creates a vicious cycle. If you can on the other hand take a step towards your partner and reassure her or him of your priorities, your love and your lasting commitment, you have changed the jealousy dance. What is good for your partner, is also good for you.

In our session, both Christopher and Jessica learned to understand what predisposed Jessica through her past history and the present situation to be jealous.

  1. Her father died when she was 8. She learned the belief that “people you love leave you”.
  2. Her mother remarried quickly and had two more children with her step-father. Jessica felt replaced.
  3. Her high school boyfriend cheated on her. She learned the belief that “men can’t be trusted to be faithful”.

  1. Christopher had expressed to Jessica that he does not want a fourth child because he already has three daughters. Even though Jessica never particularly wanted children, she has had second thoughts for a while. The bond Christopher has with his ex-wife through the children made Jessica feel excluded and short changed by life.

In several individual sessions with Jessica, she managed to clear out many of her limiting beliefs and fears. She also got to know the jealous part in her that was trying to protect her from getting hurt again. She connected with her younger selves which carried the pain of her past experiences to clear those burdens out. She became able to express her jealousy by speaking for that jealous part rather than going ballistic because she was being high-jacked by that part.

In further couples sessions, Christopher learned to do what felt counter intuitive to him. Instead of retreating when Jessica expresses jealousy, he learned to reassure her. He lets her know that she is still the most beautiful woman he knows even if he looks at other women. He also changed how he interacted with others: He is now merely friendly instead of flirting with other women. Most importantly, he was able to share with Jessica that he accommodates his ex-wife out of fear to see his daughters less. They managed to work out how they can show up as a team with his ex-spouse. Jessica’s doubts about children disappeared as her relationship with Christopher grew closer and as she felt more secure and safe.

 

To work through jealousy and other relationship issues,

please contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

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

Jealousy PART 1 – “It’s ridiculous how jealous she is!”

Listen to the blog article as an extended version on my podcast, or read it below!

The body language of the couple in front of me indicates a complete disconnect. Christopher has his arms crossed and has turned away, while his partner Jessica has tears rolling down her cheeks. Her body is bent over in shame. She looks down. “I don’t know what is wrong with me”, she says with a small voice. “I get so jealous when he looks at another woman and I get really mad when he flirts with somebody else. And then there is his ex-wife…” Her body language gets defensive. “It makes me absolutely ballistic that he accommodates her every whim.” Christopher reacts, “She is even jealous of my daughters”. He adds with contempt, “that is just ridiculous!”

Is it ridiculous? Let’s see if we can understand jealousy better, based on our evolutionary heritage and Jessica’s past experiences.

What is this emotion that we call jealousy?

Jealousy is the fear that a special relationship we have, with a romantic partner, family member or close friend, is threatened. We fear that our partner, family member or friend will form a closer relationship with someone else and that we will be excluded or abandoned. Jealousy is not envy. Envy occurs when we believe that someone has achieved an advantage and we resent their success or happiness. We interpret their success as our failure. Envy is about comparing ourselves to others. Jealousy is about a threat to a relationship in which we are deeply invested.

Jealousy is not a single emotion, but a mix of anger, anxiety, fear of loss, confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, sadness and great vulnerability. These powerful emotions go hand in hand with certain fearful thoughts, e.g. “I am being replaced. I don’t measure up. He/she loves another person more. He/she will leave me”. These thoughts and emotions usually trigger previous relationship experiences, often all the way back to childhood. We might be triggered into feeling the same way as when our younger sibling came along and received all the attention, or when we had another painful experience of a relationship changing or ending.

Jealous feelings are normal and not a problem. They can become problematic when we act on those feelings of fear, when we ask pointed questions, interrogate, follow the other person, spy on them, check their GPS, read their email or text messages on their phone and obsess about a potential dishonesty, betrayal or infidelity.

Jealousy is a primal emotion just like our fight or flight response. Evolution helps us to understand why jealousy can be so powerful and all consuming. There are two evolutionary theories that explain the terrifying fear behind jealousy. Parental Investment Theory and the Theory of the Competition for Limited Resources explain that we are more likely to protect and support individuals who share our genes, like biological children, siblings or parents. Both men and women can experience sexual jealousy and attachment jealousy but a man is more likely to feel jealous over perceived sexual infidelity because of the biological need to protect and continue his own genes. A woman is more likely to experience jealousy over perceived emotional closeness between her partner and another woman because that could mean that resources and protection will be provided to someone else.

Robert L. Leahy points out in his book “The Jealousy Cure” that historically, jealousy was viewed differently than today. It was a central aspect of Greek mythology and literature. In Medieval Europe, it was viewed as a necessary, even positive, emotion that was linked to honour. Only in the 19th century did jealousy come to be increasingly viewed as interfering with domestic harmony. The Victorian period emphasized the need to control our powerful emotions. Today, jealousy is an emotion we are expected to be ashamed of and feel we need to hide. We believe that jealousy is a sign that there is something wrong with the jealous person. Jealousy has become a symbol of inability to trust and lack of self-confidence.

Jealousy does not only show up in romantic partnerships, but also in families. Today, 35% of all households in North America include stepchildren. When there is a new partner, children often experience feelings of betrayal, anger, anxiety and resentment. Stepparents can also experience competition with their step children. To deny those feelings only creates inner conflicts and passive-aggressive interactions. There is no shame in jealousy and it can be worked through and cleared out either in individual sessions or through couples coaching, or both.

Jealousy even shows up at work. Job security in today’s day and age is constantly in question. It can depend on whom the boss favours and who gets socially included or excluded. The fear to lose one’s job can fuel jealousy with work colleagues.

Social media gives us all opportunities to feel that we have been excluded or rejected. We might perceive that others seem to enjoy friendships, relationships and families that we don’t have. Not being invited to an event or not being tagged can become an experience of exclusion. Or we view others seemingly happy private lives, romantic declarations or trips to exotic destinations with jealousy or envy. We don’t realize in those moments of jealousy that Facebook or Instagram are anything but a full reflection of reality.

Just know that you are not alone if you are experiencing jealousy. Anyone can be provoked to feel jealous because evolution built jealousy into our human nature. Whether jealousy is a problem depends on how much jealous feelings overwhelm and preoccupy you, and if you act on them and if that interferes with your relationships. Feelings of jealousy can be balanced out by working on your past experiences and beliefs about relationships.

If you experienced a traumatic separation, divorce, sickness or death in your family of origin, you might have learned the belief that people you love and rely on will leave. Your learned attachment style also has an influence on the relationship beliefs you have learned. If you have experienced that you can rely on your primary caretaker to always come back and adequately take care of your needs, it is more likely that you have learned to trust that others are reliable and caring. If you have learned as an infant that your primary caretaker cannot be relied on, does not care or does not respond in an appropriate time or manner, it is more likely that you expect—and recreate—the same in your adult relationships. If you have learned an insecure attachment style, you are more likely to be jealous.

Your comfort level with closeness is also related to how jealous you feel. If you don’t feel comfortable with closeness, you are less likely to be jealous. You won’t rely on the relationship as much as somebody who needs closeness or is comfortable with it.

If you answer to one or more of these questions with yes, you are probably more likely to be afraid of loss and therefore more jealous.

  1. Did one of your parents leave or were there threats of a separation or divorce?
  2. Did you worry as a child or teenager that one or both of your parents might leave you, disown you, replace you, or that they might get sick or die?
  3. Did your childhood include infidelity by one or both of your parents?
  4. Did you family move a lot so that you did not experience longer lasting friendships with other kids?
  5. Were you ever in a relationship with a narcissistic or dishonest person?
  6. Did someone you dated or were married to let you down, even cheated on you?

 

You can read how Christopher and Jessica have changed their situation,

in Jealousy PART 2 – Working Through Jealousy and Fear.

 

Contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

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

The book “The Jealousy Cure” by Robert L. Leahy is available from Amazon.

Expressing Criticism So It Can Be Heard

I had an interesting talk with a client the other day. He shared: “When I first met my wife, I really appreciated her telling me what impact my behaviour had on her. I learned, for example, how it affected her when I was late and I worked hard to change my time management skills. However, about a year or two into the relationship, I gave up. Somehow I felt I couldn’t change enough and it felt like I was constantly being watched for a misstep. Each time she pointed something out to me that she had noticed about me, it felt like I was being stabbed in the heart.”

Why does criticism so often feel like we are being stabbed in the heart? Why does it make us feel fearful and defensive? Historically, being criticized and found lacking could lead to being ostracised from our tribe, and that could mean death, as we as humans were unable to survive by ourselves.

Even though a part of us knows criticism does not mean rejection and death, the more instinctive parts of our brain kick in and our nervous system goes into high arousal. Relationships require us to communicate honestly and to handle criticism constructively. If we stuff down our feelings and needs, they will either come back up in passive aggressive ways or will be kept down by methods of avoidance like addictions. In the first case, the person can’t help but make little digs, use sarcasm or putdowns, or worst of all, talk negatively about their partner behind their back. The avoidance methods take many different forms: physical symptoms like tension headaches or fatigue, addictions like drinking, gambling, overworking, having affairs, to name a few.

How does one express a complaint in a way that it can be easily heard and does not feel like being stabbed in the heart? The two main rules of constructive criticism are

  1. Tone of Voice

Your partner is more likely to be able to remain open if you use a soft, gentle, respectful and appreciative tone of voice. You are going to be more successful if you can approach him or her with affection, interest in their intent or experience, positive physical touch, smiles and even humour and laughter.

  1. Appreciations Need to Outbalance the Complaints

Gottman emphasizes the Magic Relationship Ratio of 5:1. That means for each complaint or criticism we need to receive five positive or appreciative statements. Other experts speak about similar ratios.

 

How do we ensure that ratio and help our partner remain open and continue to feel safe with us instead of watched? Warren Farrell, author of “Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say”, offers two methods of successfully delivering criticism.

The first method is what he calls the “Plan Ahead Method of Giving Criticism”:

Step 1: Write Down Your Complaints

To figure out what the most important concerns are, it helps to write down our complaints on index cards and to put them in a box. The mere act of writing them down releases some of the negative energy. It also frees us from the need to keep reviewing the complaint in our mind. However, most importantly this helps us to sort out which complaints are the ones worth bringing up.

Step 2: Set a Predictable Time Each Week to Share

Gottman recommends a “State of the Union Meeting” every week to talk about what went well and what is not going so well in the relationship. Farrell calls it a “Sharing and Caring Evening”. Once you have set a predictable time each week, stick to it and turn the rest of the week into a “no-complaint zone”.

Step 3: Share at Least 4 Positive Feelings Before Each Complaint

During your meeting share at least four positive feelings with each negative. In order to do that make positive notes throughout the week whenever you appreciate something your partner is doing. An extra incentive is to do the positive notes ahead of time and leave these little notes for your partner as you notice it. That trains our “gratitude muscle” and shifts our focus to noticing the positive.

Step 4: Incorporate Humour and Romance

For your “Sharing and Caring Evening,” turn on music, light candles, face each other, touch and look into each other’s eyes. Share your 4-5 positives and then make one request for improvement or change. Then alternate; let your partner share in kind. Do three to five rounds of this depending on how much you have to share. Because you feel so understood, you might want to make love, but always return to completing the process after love making. Otherwise, the rest of the week as a complaint free zone might disintegrate.

 

It would be ideal, of course, if we could always just give criticism by using this Plan Ahead Method but sometimes a talk has to happen right in the moment. Farrell also provides steps for “The Spontaneous Method of Giving Criticism”:

Step 1: Identify Your Loved One’s Best Intent

Let’s say your partner is late because they got caught up in solving a problem for work. He lost track of time because he wanted to complete and finish a project. You might feel tempted of diving right into your own disappointment about him being late, or you can instead acknowledge his best intent, e.g. “I know that you are really responsible and I can see how you were trying to do your best to complete the task at work.”

Step 2: Identify Your Partner’s Dilemma or Struggle

Most of us are caught in a dilemma and when our partner can empathize with our inner struggle, we feel heard and understood. In our example, you could say, “I imagine you feel caught between wanting to be on time for me and feeling you need to finish and complete the work.”

Step 3: Identify the Feeling Behind Your Partner’s Dilemma

Empathy with our feeling experience also makes us feel seen and appreciated. “It must be stressful to have in the back of your mind that I am waiting for you.”

Step 4: Identify the positive character traits your partner exhibited in her or his handling of this situation

By doing that we show that their underlying character traits are not in question. They do not need to defend their values. “I imagine it is also hard to leave a project unfinished when you value responsibility and reliability as you do. I am always grateful when I can rely on you completing a project for me.”

Step 5: Recall relevant past conversations and use them to make your partner feel more understood

Instead of using past incidents to argue your own point and for ammunition against the other person, empathize even more. The rule for love relationships is, the more arguments we win, the more love we lose. “I remember how torn you were when your colleague left on vacation and you had to finish the project you were both working on over the weekend. He is really lucky you did that.”

After using the five steps, your partner feels understood and appreciated. They are still open and receptive. Instead of having to defend their values and choices, they can take a step towards you to resolve the problem together. Now it is time to gently share the impact the situation has on you and to work out a compromise which works for both of you.

Farrell points out that learning relationship language is the best hope of re-stabilizing our relationships and families which technology has destabilized and affected negatively. When we teach debate skills in schools, we teach listening for the purpose of uncovering the other team’s faulty analysis. In our private one-on-one relationships, especially our intimate relationship, this way of listening and arguing is like a termite is to wood. It slowly erodes the relationship. “Teaching children to debate without teaching children to listen is divorce training” (Warren Farrell).

 

To read more about how to receive criticism,

please read “Getting to the Complaint Underneath the Criticism“.

To learn relationship language and how to handle criticism,

contact me for

individual coaching sessions, couples’ sessions or workshops.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

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