In your relationship when your partner is in pain, your first instinct may be to try and fix it. None of us want the person we love and care about to be in pain. The problem is, often times our attempts to fix it make it worse. We may explain, hey, I didn’t mean it that way, here’s my perspective. In which case, your partner is likely to not feel heard, or is likely to feel dismissed. We may get defensive, because sometimes when our partner hurts because of something we said or did, we want to correct the record and defend our good name and get them to see that they have it all wrong. Hey, I’m the good guy here, not the bad guy! And if you just saw that, we’d be okay. Again, this typically leaves a partner feeling unheard, dismissed and alone in their pain.
What your partner is looking for is not for you to fix it. In fact, they will often hear that you are trying to fix them. That their feelings are wrong and they shouldn’t feel that way. What your partner wants and needs, in many cases, is just for you to hear and understand their perspective, their hurt and they also want permission to feel what they feel, not to be made to feel it’s wrong, or silly, or stupid. They want to know their pain makes sense to someone, that they are seen and heard and understood. Once that occurs, then you can ask for what they need. And usually, it’s some type of reassurance that he/she matters to you, that their feelings matter and are important to you. That you’ll be there to listen and give your care and support and a moment that it was missed.
Simply being there, being present is often enough. It’s not about performance or having all the answers. It’s about being present, engaged, hearing, seeing. I like to tell people when your partner is sharing, leave your window for a moment, and walk over to your partners window to see what the picture look like from their point of view. Look through the lens of their story, their experiences, their personality, to see out their window the way they see it, then they will feel heard, and held and comforted and seen. You don’t have to have the answer, what your partner needs, is you.
I recently had some experiences that gave me a renewed sense of passion about what I do, helping couples improve their marriage and keeping families together.
There has been a lot of media lately around a recent study that was published. It reported that 40 percent of respondents said marriage is becoming obsolete. Phooey!
Marriage has great implications to our health as individuals and as a society. Research has shown over and over again that communities where marriages are strong and prevelant have lower crime rates, higher education, lower healthcare costs and other great benefits. The same holds true for individuals.
Divorce may seem like a viable option when you are unhappy or unsatisfied in your marriage. But divorce brings about tremendous upheaval and devastation in it's aftermath, especially when you have children. You should not have to remain in a miserable marriage, but divorce isn't the only option. With help, there are things you can do to create a marriage that is what you desire.
ÂAll marital partners, at some point in their marriage, will feel disconnected from one another. This is a normal occurrence in marriage. However, if it is not recognized as normal, if steps are not taken to prevent it, recognize it, or recover from it, it can make a couple vulnerable to infidelity.
What does it mean to be connected? It means being emotionally in tune with each other. You know when your partner has had a good or bad day, who are their best friends and who are their enemies, what’s going on at work or with extended family. On a larger scale, what their dreams and goals are, what makes them sad and what makes them happy. What their scared of and what they most aspire to be. These are things that two people who are connected know about and care about each other. It requires openness and honesty, genuineness and kindness.
When do couples become disconnected? A couple experiences disconnection for many reasons. There are times in a couples life when they are extra vulnerable to disconnection; the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or other life changes. Disconnection can also happen from not taking the time to be alone with one another, to talk to each other. Not making your marriage a priority and letting other life happenings get in the way.
How do we prevent becoming disconnected: one major way to avoid disconnection is by making your marriage a top priority and always taking time to spend with one another. When there is conflict, to deal with it by talking openly and in a caring way with one another so conflict can be discussed and resolved. Don’t allow resentments to build, talk to each other and stay in tune with each other’s emotions.
You may take all of the precautions and still find that you feel disconnected. The first important step is recognizing it. Being able to catch and notice that you have not been connecting with your partner. The next step is to address it. Let your partner know, without attacking or blaming, that you feel disconnected and together figure out what you need to do to reconnect with each other and tune back in to each other.
When you find yourself disconnected, deal with it with each other. If you do not, you both become vulnerable to infidelity. When disconnection exists for too long, it becomes to easy to find connection from someone outside the marriage.
Couples are not connected ALL the time, that’s normal. And feeling disconnected is not a sign of an unhappy or unhealthy marriage. But how you deal with it when you feel disconnected is. You must recognize it and address it and find each other over and over again to minimize the vulnerability to infidelity.
One of the things I hear most from clients who have experienced infidelity is, I never thought this would happen in our marriage. It is not something any couple plans for or thinks will happen to them. But it can and does happen in marriage, but it can be avoided.
There are many reasons affairs happen, but typically it’s at the point when vulnerability meets opportunity. So first is to reduce vulnerability in your marriage. There are two major ways that I am going to talk about in this article. The first is taking care of your marriage, yourself and your spouse. The second is communication. If these two areas are prioritized in the marriage, you reduce your risk of infidelity.
The first priority is taking care of your marriage, yourself and your spouse. We all want to feel important in the life of those important to us. We want to feel useful and appreciated. We want to belong. It’s important that this is considered in how you treat your spouse. Often in marriage, partners begin to take each other for granted and complain about what’s wrong rather than appreciate what’s right. Daily things like noticing how your partner looks and commenting on it, noticing efforts made with chores around the house or parenting the kids and sharing these appreciations, taking the time to be affectionate and making your partner feel loved and noticed. These may seem like small gestures but they add up to connection and sense of belonging that is key in preventing affairs.
I often hear the spouse who had the affair say things like, this person listened to me, understood me, made me feel I was important. Things that all too often fall out of a marriage. Recognizing love as an action, not just a feeling and treating your spouse accordingly not only works to keep your spouse from looking to get these needs met elsewhere but also helps you nurture your fondness and admiration of your spouse.
In addition to this, it is important to make the marriage as much of a priority as you would your job. Early in marriage, people are focused on having kids and advancing careers. Both of these can pull you in different directions and distract your from your marriage. It is important to prioritize and not let this happen. Carve out time on a regular basis for your marriage to include communication, fun, play, intimacy and connecting.
Another important piece is self-care. It’s important that you make your own needs known, and when your spouse can’t meet them, meet them yourself. For example, if you are a person that likes to go to the beach to unwind but your partner doesn’t enjoy that, go anyway! Otherwise resentment builds, needs go unmet and you make yourself vulnerable to an affair.
The last but possible most important piece is communication. It’s not always possible to avoid vulnerability in a relationship. Vulnerabilities can be anything from job loss, loss of a loved one, new baby, anything that can bring stress to the relationship. By always communicating with one another and working together to overcome challenges, you reduce the risk of turning to an affair to cope. Share your needs with one another and be responsive and sensitive to each other’s needs. The stronger your connection and level of intimacy, understanding of one another, ability to cherish one another and treat each other as such will build a fortress around your relationship that will be difficult for an outsider to break through.
“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
Think of one thing you can do for your spouse today to make his/her life easier. Do it without expectations, do it just to be kind and loving and giving. If you do this everyday, what kind of marriage might you have?
What are the boundaries for effective conflict resolution in marriage? Often, when couples get married, they come into the marriage with unspoken expectations. A common one that comes up is the right to free expression. I should and have the right to express every emotion that I have in the name of honesty. Hogwash!! This can be incredibly damaging to a relationship! Some of this may sound contradictory to that last post that talked about being your genuine selves with each other, but in there I mentioned there has to be boundaries. Well in this post we are talking about those boundaries with the understanding that unbridled self expression can be very damaging to a relationship. It might feel good in the moment, but what feels good in the moment is not necessarily for the benefit of the relationship. Everything you say and do in your relationship will either move you closer together or push you further apart. So ask yourself that question when you are about to “express” yourself. Is this going to bring you closer or push you further?
Here’s an example: when my husband is with the kids for a few hours, I come home and the house is a disaster. If I were to come home and start complaining that the house is a mess, he might feel resentful that I don’t appreciate the time he spent with the kids so I could have some time for myself. I might feel annoyed that the house is a mess, but for the sake of the relationship and my husband’s feelings, I keep that to myself and focus on appreciating his efforts. Is that disingenuous? I don’t think so, because both feelings exist, but I choose to express the ones that will draw me closer to my spouse.
Think about how you can do this in your marriage. Next post I will write about how to express dissatisfaction about something in the relationship without pushing your partner away.
Thank you for visiting!
It is often our human nature to focus on what is wrong rather than on what is right.
This is true in our relationships as well. In thinking about your marriage, do you spend more time trying to fix what is wrong? Do you take for granted what is right?
Think about how you treat your partner. Do you spend more time telling him or her what they do wrong, or more time telling him or her what they do right. If where you put your focus inspires more of the same, where do you want to put your focus? Criticism invites more of the behavior you don’t want. Appreciation and recognition inspires more of what you do want. Don’t ignore or overlook the parts of your spouse that are good and right, nor the parts of your marriage that are good and right. Recognize the strengths and build off of those, rather than focusing on the negative.
Emotional safety is an essential part of a healthy relationship. To trust another human being in an intimate relationship is a choice made when one feels emotionally safe. When this sense of safety has been compromised in a relationship, it can be very difficult to rebuild trust, but it can be done.
The first step to rebuilding trust is acknowledging the impact of the hurt that has been caused. For example, if there has been an affair. The partner who had the affair must fully understand and acknowledge the damage and pain this act has caused. Your partner must feel like you “get it”.
The next step is understanding why the betrayal occurred. There can be many reasons. I’ll site a few common examples. If a man is working overtime and is rarely home, his wife may feel neglected and unappreciated. She may then look for attention and affection elsewhere. This example shows a breakdown in communication. It does not excuse the behavior, but there must be understanding of what is going on in the relationship for the behavior to occur. The wife needs to communicate her needs to her husband and he needs to be responsive to those needs. (I am oversimplifying here just to illustrate the point.)
Another example may be of a husband who lies. When he tells the truth about a matter, he pays a high price. His wife may yell and criticize him so he deals with it by avoiding confrontation and continuing to lie. While you are not responsible for the choices your partner makes, it is important to reflect on your contribution to the dynamic of the marriage. Understanding where your communication with each other breaks down and your responsibility in that, is important to healing and rebuilding trust.
During the process of rebuilding trust, it is important not to do more damage. There is no room for punishment. This may feel better in the moment, but to use the incident as ammunition does nothing to heal and rebuild trust. For example: the wife whose husband had an affair, anytime he gets upset at her for something, she brings up the affair as retaliation. This continues to do damage to the marriage.
It is necessary to have open, honest, respectful communication with each other on a regular basis. It is important that you keep your word, follow through on commitments, and always treat each other with respect. If you are feeling pain, communicate your experience to your partner without attacking or blaming. For example: “whenever I think of the affair, it stirs up all the negative images and feelings and I am having a hard time dealing with it. Remembering the affair makes it so difficult to trust and believe this won’t happen again.” This is an example of sharing an experience without attacking or blaming. A responsive partner might say something like this: “I know I made a mistake and I am so sorry. I realize you are in aÂ lot of pain right now. Is there anything I can say or do right that would help?”
These are just a few of the tools it takes to rebuild trust. Rebuilding safety in a relationship after a betrayal takes time, patience and committment. Counseling can be a helpful tool through the process. Having a third party to help you cope with the pain and not cause more damage can make for a smoother process. If you have experienced a trauma in your relationship and need help, call anytime. (865) 283-1777
I don’t have to tell you about the tough timesÂ our country is facing economically right now. You are seeing it on the news, at the pump and at the grocery store. People are losing jobs, homes, and investments. If these challenges are effecting your family directly, it can put quite a strain on your relationship.
What is most important as you face these challenges, is that you face them together, as a team. Your communication and alliance with each other is of prime importance right now. When couples face hard times financially, there may be a tendency to take fears and stress out on each other. But that only makes the situation worse.Â
Here I present some strategies to deal with tough times, cope with fears and realities without damaging your relationship.Â
1. Listen to each other. Your partner may be feeling many of the same fears that you are. Listen to each others fears and have empathy for one another.
2. Share ideas and discuss strategies with one another. Sit down and write out your budget together. Discuss ideas about how you might cut back, save money or manage money effectively. Listen to each other’s ideas and problem solve together. The only way to effectively problem solve is to listen and talk to one another with respect and resolve. There might not be a ready solution, but talking about it doesn’t have to do damage to your relationship.
3. Stick together. A lot of it is about attitude. Have and share the attitude that we are in this together, and we will get through it together.
4. Recognize that there are ‘free’ ways to spend quality time together. Date night doesn’t have to mean a $30 babysitter, a $50 dinner and $20 at the movies. Date night can be having a night cap on the lanai after the kids go to bed, or an afternoon walk in the park. Find ways to be together and connect with each other without spending money. Cook meals together and eat at home as a family, whether it’s just the two of you or your kids too. Share babysitting duties with a trusted friend who has kids. Take turns watching each others kids for some quality time alone with each other.
5. Be emotionally supportive of one another. Eliminate blame, criticism, finger pointing, attacking and defending. These actions do nothing to solve problems.
Outside stresses can impact your marriage if you let it. But if you build your relationship resiliency through respectful communication, teamwork, support, and love, you can weather these difficultÂ economic times.
If you would like more strategies, I found this great website full of resources. Check it out! http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org/challenges/financialstress.cfm
Having a trusted marriage counselor should be like having a trusted car mechanic or a trusted family doctor. If something doesn’t sound right with your car, you take it in and have it looked at by an expert. You might be able to handle routine maintenance, but anything more than that needsÂ a qualified professional. Same with your physical health. Even healthy people get a cold or a headache here and there, but something more than that, you go see a doctor. The same is true of your marriage. Daily squabbles in a marriage are normal even for healthy couples. But anything beyond that, just like with your car or your body, if you let it go too long without getting professional help, the problem could get worse. Here is a list of troubles that might indicate a problem that needs professional attention:
Anytime you try to communicate with each other it turns into a fight.
You avoid communicating about difficult topics to prevent conflict.
You fight about the same thing over and over with no resolution.
There has been infidelity in the marriage.
You are thinking about having an affair.
You just went through a major life change (marriage, newborn baby, job change) and are having trouble adjusting.
Outside stresses (work, children, family) are putting a strain on the marriage.
Intimacy and passion are not what they used to be.
You often feel disconnected from your partner.
You wish you could communicate better with one another.
You fight about how to parent the kids.
You have a difficult time managing day to day life that you can’t find time for one another.
You feel overworked and under appreciated.
You are having a difficult time getting over past hurts.
You are considering divorce.
Having an objective party take the time to listen to your interactions with one another without taking sides can help break negative patterns of relating, increase effective communication through marriage education, improve intimacy and connection and relieve pain. If you are considering counseling but are still not sure, call for a free phone consultation to get your questions answered. (865) 283-1777