(02) Relationships & Marriage Counseling
Rules for Fighting Fair in a Relationship (part I)
(Some of this material is taken from my book
“The Essential Guide to a Lasting Relationship)
In my next two blogs I will share four basic rules to follow if you are upset with your partner and find yourself in an argument. As you follow these suggestions you will be able to have what I call “a constructive fight” as opposed to nuclear warfare which destroys everything in sight.
1. This rule is a “must”; approach your partner with something that is upsetting you when you are calm. If you start off with an attack or scolding the rest of the exchange will be destructive and nothing will be accomplished.
2. Focus on what you want and are as specific as possible; for example: “You hurt my feelings; I’d really like to know that you feel badly and that I’m upset is important to you”.
Think about a disagreement you and your partner have had and then rate yourself on a scale of one to five (five being that you have followed these guides well).
Having a good relationship is about you doing the right thing even if your partner doesn’t.
In my next blog I’ll tell you what you should not do and also the real secret to getting your partner to listen to yo
How to Become a Low Stress Partner. (Part IV)
A valuable way to become a low stress partner is to focus on the positive. Spend time each day thinking about what you appreciate, love, and / or like about your partner.
We get so caught up in the day to day tasks that we are more about accomplishing things than we are about the positive side of our relationship.
Look for things to tell your partner that you like. When they do something for you, even if it is not unusual don’t take them for granted. When they do something for you tell them and do four things:
1. Be specific about what you like. An example of that is:
“Thanks for picking up the dry cleaning.”
2. Recognize what it took for them to the task, for example:
“I know you were busy and were running late but you took the time anyway.”
3. Really mean what you say, just don’t say it because you’re suppose to. Think about why you partner did something for you and that their motive was just because they care about you.
4. Say “thank you”.
Here are the major things that I have mentioned in this blog series that will help you to lower the stress in your relationship.
1. Look for things that your partner is doing right.
2. Focus on finding a solution rather than being angry
when something goes wrong.
3. Be slow to pull the trigger and slower to blame.
4. Focus on the reasons you care about your partner.
The lower the stress in your relationship the more being with your partner will be a place you want to be.
How to Become a Low Stress Partner. (Part III)
In this blog I will give another strategy you can use to reduce the stress in your relationship.
Be slow to pull the trigger and slower to blame.
When something happens that is upsetting (and it will) actually take a deep breath. As soon as you possibly can, step back and calm yourself down. I’m not saying let things go, but before you react come from calm rather than an agitated place. The calmer you are the more likely you are to figure out a way to handle whatever the issue or problem is.
Anger only generates more anger or withdrawal from a partner. If you are upset about something that you did or did not do the more you blame yourself the less likely you are to deal effectively with what ever has happened.
Speaking of blame, let’s say your partner made a mistake or did something you didn’t like, do you respond by exploding and accusing? You can greatly reduce the stress in your relationship if you try and understand why your partner did something that upset you and then approach them by talking rather than scolding. Let your partner know what you are upset about, without putting them down.
Having a positive attitude can go a long way toward having a relationship with less stress and drama.
I’ll give you one more “tip” in my next blog about lowering the stress in your relationship.
How to Become a Low Stress Partner. (part I)
In this three part series I will suggest four things that can be done to lower the stress and negativity in your relationship. When I am working with couples whose relationship is in trouble, I like focusing on simple almost obvious things that they can do to restore the love and caring in the relationship. The simpler the “fix” the more likely the couple is to follow the suggestion, simple is good.
The first thing to do move to lowering the negativity in your relationship is to focus on finding a solution rather than being angry when something goes wrong. Of course, all of us will get angry and I recognize that as a human normal response, the idea is to realize that for things to get better we have to get past anger, accusations and blame.
So if your partner does something that is frustrating or insensitive think about how you let them know what angers or upsets you and what you would like from them, rather than telling them why they wrong or stupid or using more colorful terms. Let them know what you would like and how you would like to see things handled in the future.
The second thing to do to lower stress in a relationship is look for things that your partner is doing right. It’s easy to ignore the good things and respond strongly to the ones that are troublesome. Don’t take your partner’s doing something positive for granted, even if they usually do that for you. We all like to be appreciated and even if some people say: “you don’t have to thank me” it does register with them that you notice that they are taking the time and energy to do something for them.
In my second blog on lowering stress I will share two more easy things that can be done that really make a difference.
Are You A High Stress Partner? (Part I)
This next serious of blogs will talk about what is a High Stress Partner, that is someone who adds stress rather than support and closeness to their relationship; and then there will be suggestions as to what to do to reduce the stress in the relationship.
If you would like to find out if you are a “High Stress Partner” take two minutes to answer the four questions below:
Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 (five being high stress)
1. When I’m with my partner and they do something I think is wrong I get very angry with them.
(Not true) (Very True)
2. I spend a great deal of time thinking about what iswrong with my partner.
(Not true) (Very True)
3. When something goes wrong I get very upset
(Not true) (Very True)
4. I think a lot about what is wrong with my
(Not true) (Very True)
Be honest with your answers, you can’t fix a problem unless you can figure out what it is.
Add up your “Score”
0 – 6 Low Stress Partner
7 – 15 Moderate Stress Partner
16 – 20 High Stress Partner
In my next blogs, I will suggest things you can do to lower the stress in your relationship.
The Impact Siblings Have on Our Life (Part III)
Dr. Safer advocates that the “golden child’ make a special effort and acknowledge that their parent really did favor them and that asking the sibling who got less or negative attention, what they can do to heal any damage that might have been done by their parent’s favoritism.
This issue of sibling relationships is wide spread for three reasons:
1. Siblings are the first peers that we come into contact with;
2. Parents usually do place emphasis on the importance of this relationship and yet they may without meaning to tilt the scales in a negative direction;
3. We are constantly exposed to our siblings thereby having lots of time for making an impression on us.
I believe that though people may not have had a sibling who they had a major difficulty with , that parents whether they mean to or not often favor one child and that is an issue that can be swept under the rug and never be resolved, but can cause a tremendous amount of emotional scaring. That preference may well show it self in adulthood and the negative feelings can be a destructive influence through out someone’s entire life. .
I invite the readers who have siblings to think in terms of the impact their siblings have had with them. Is there unfinished business between the two of you?
The Impact Siblings Have on Our Life (Part II)
Dr. Safer talks about reaching out to the brothers and sisters and reconnecting with the sibling who was struggling with the difficulty (i.e. addiction, illness, or being the black sheep). She believes that parents often favor one child over another. Sometimes the child with the disability or problem will get more attention or sometimes one child will be the “black sheep” and be rejected, in any event it makes for serious imbalance in the relationship between parent and children.
I am discussing the issue of being favored between siblings, not because I agree with Dr. S’s thoughts (though to some degree I do) but to open up thought and discussion about this subject. I have often times found sibling issues to come up during therapy. It may effect a person individually or may even effect a relationship.
Of course even the best efforts to reconnect may not work out, but ignoring that parents have and show their preferences can cause damage to siblings for their entire lives, and relating to the situation may help many people not only to avoid a tremendous amount of emotional pain, but develop an important supportive resource.
In my last blog in this series I will talk about what Dr. Safer thinks the best way to relate to this issue and why this issue is so wide spread.
The Impact Siblings Have on Our Life (Part I)
This blog series was inspired by wonderful book “The Normal One: Life with a Difficult or Damaged Sibling” by Dr. Jeanne Safer. Dr. Safer, who is a psychotherapist; in an honest, open and insightful manner talks about her struggles with her brother who had a terrible problem with drugs. She talks about being the favored child, the challenges and heart aches that she experienced due to the impact of her brother’s having an addiction problem.
Below are four personality traits that evolved as a result of her having a brother with a significant drug problem:
1. Premature maturity which shows itself by being impatient with other people’s immaturity
2. Survivor guilt which made her feel badly because her accomplishments only highlighted her brother’s inadequacies.
3. Compulsion to achieve is when the “normal” sibling feels they must accomplish a great deal to make up for their siblings deficiencies
4. Fear of Contagion which can show it self by the “normal’ sibling either removing themselves from their troubled sibling or by being embarrassed by having a brother or sister that has some serious problem.
In the literature and in therapy often the impact siblings have on our emotional lives is over looked. Also Dr, Safer’s point is that the characteristics that she adapted might also be developed by others in a similar situation.
In my next blog on this subject I will talk about what Dr. Safer suggests in terms of successfully dealing with these issues. I’ll also discuss my thoughts about the importance of this subject.
Will I Ever be Able To Trust My Husband Again (a question from Annie)
A few days ago I got a comment on my blog from a woman who calls herself Annie.
It has been over two years since my husband’s infidelity. I still get upset sometimes. I often wonder if I will ever get back to the trusting person I once was.
Here’s my answer:
That’s a very good question but to answer your concern I’ll need to know two things:
Do you know what caused him to be unfaithful in the first place? People do things for a reason and unless we know what that reason is and relate to that, it’s not likely that things will change.
The second question is: Have things changed in your relationship? Have the changes really addressed what caused him to stray?
I want to quickly add that he shouldn’t have been unfaithful and I understand that you’re having a hard time trusting him, but you can’t solve a problem unless you understand it first.
If you still have doubts, it’s clear that though time has passed, the above questions have not been totally answered, and it’s probably time to talk to a counselor, to help you sort out if your relationship is beginning to heal, or if you are not emotionally able to trust based on something that’s going on with you.
The answer to whether or not the marriage is going well or your unable to trust, will determine the direction of counseling and that will help your relationship to move forward.
“Healing From the Trauma of Infidelity” (for the faithful partner) Blog V in this series
This is the last blog in the series of forgiveness.
I have offered five separate blog entries on the issue of forgiveness
for two reasons:
1. Unless there is some level of forgiveness the hurt that has come from infidelity will destroy the relationship.
2. Forgiveness is an issue in any relationship that has significant problems.
Partners that are upset with each other, at some point have to let go of their resentment as I’ve mentioned in my first reason above, a relationship that has a strong component of resentment is always at risk of falling apart.
Forgiveness and trust have a lot in common; both are not given, they have to be earned. The person who has been unfaithful will
ask: When are you going to forgive me? The appropriate response is, when you are going to earn it?
When an affair first comes too light, often times the unfaithful partner is incredibly apologetic. As time goes by, the unfaithful partner can begin to become frustrated. They may think “after all my efforts you still don’t trust me, what will it take?”, or “if you don’t trust me now, when will you ever trust me?”
Each person needs to move at their own pace for forgiveness, it can’t be rushed. Forgiveness happens whenever the person forgiving is ready.
The process could take several months or even a year for relationships to heal and to have a sense of ease that comes from gaining trust and forgiving.
It is a very dangerous sign, if after a year a partner can’t forgive at least enough to feel like the relationship is moving forward. When this situation occurs it is very likely that the relationship will not last.