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

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

Image by Sally-Kay from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Gracini Studios from Pixabay 

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

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

from April 1 to April 14

online sessions

for individuals and couples

20% off

For a start reach out for a free phone consultation.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

10 Relationship Myths We Are Conditioned to Believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are ten of the top myths:

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

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

  1. Good relationships don’t require work

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

  1. If my partner really loved me…

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

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

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

  1. Couples in good relationships don’t argue

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

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

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

  1. True love is all about passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Check out my packages for couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

Fertility Issues and Your Partnership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Please read testimonials from couples here.

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

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What Does a Relationship or Marriage Coach do?

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

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

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

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

Photo by Cole Keister from Pexels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

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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

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!

 

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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5 Losing Strategies in Relationships

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

– Terry Real

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

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

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

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

1 Being Right

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

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

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

 

2. Control

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

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

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

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

 

3. Unbridled Self-expression

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

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

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

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

 

4. Retaliation

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

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

 

5. Withdrawal

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

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

girl-sea-white-shirt

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

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

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

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

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

 

For individual sessions or couples sessions please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Check out my discount packages for couples.

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

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.

You can also work on your relationship by subscribing to my Patreon. The package “Relationship Tips and Partner Exercises” provides you with my ongoing support to improve your relationships beyond sessions with me. Please click here for more information and samples.

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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!