Tag: marriage

How to Resolve Conflict Through Communication

_807Disagreement is a natural occurrence in life—we all have different opinions, ways of doing things, personalities, and communication styles. However, if one or more of the persons involved don’t communicate openly, or let emotions take over, a disagreement can easily turn into conflict.

Here are some suggestions for resolving conflicts in a respectful and productive way:

  1. Acknowledge the points the other person has made with which you agree; if you don’t agree, acknowledge you’ve heard their point of view. Simply knowing their viewpoint has been heard can go a long way in diffusing conflict. It is also helpful to reiterate in your own words what they said, which not only gives them an opportunity to elaborate on a point, but also to correct any misinterpretations.
  1. When you speak, it is best to keep what you say to your own point of view rather than telling someone how they feel, think, or act. Those are your interpretations of what you experience. Frame your point in a way that lets them know you are only speaking from what you see and feel, which allows them the opportunity to clarify the same situation from their point of view. It is also a chance for them to clear up any misunderstanding.

Look at the subtle but meaningful differences in these examples:

Example 1

“You make me feel unappreciated all the time.” vs. “I feel unappreciated when I hear you say _____.”

Example 2

“Can’t you see I was trying to help you?!” vs. “My intention was to help you. I understand now that is not how you experienced it.”

In both examples, the first response places blame on the other person, whereas the second response communicates your experience in the situation. Which would you rather hear said to you? Blame puts the other person immediately on the defensive and they will in turn block out anything you say, or worse, interpret any further messages as attacks.

  1. Be aware of extreme or emotion-full words (also known as nominalizations). Using words like “every time,” “never,” and “always” may result in the other person going on the offensive to prove you incorrect, thereby allowing them to ignore the point of your message. Also, take care that any emotion-full or more vivid forms of a word are true (e.g., sad versus devastated); if you’re exaggerating for emphasis, your message may lose credibility. Emotional language may trigger the other person to react on your emotion rather than on your message.
  1. Allow the possibility that people can surprise you. We all have the ability to learn, grow, evolve, and change. The longer or more closely you know someone, the harder it is not to jump to conclusions based on past experiences. As Eckhart Tolle said, “The moment you put a mental label on another human being, you can no longer truly relate to that person.” Although you can take note of someone’s patterns, try not to let your awareness keep you from having an open mind.

Emotional Infidelity – What is it? Is it in YOUR Life?

Many people think that infidelity is only sexual. The #1 form of infidelity is Emotional Infidelity. It usually stems out of feeling that something is missing in your relationship. You may feel disconnected from your partner. What is best is to talk to your partner about feeling disconnected. If you cannot talk to your partner than seek the help of a couples/marriage counselor.

How do you know if you are emotionally cheating?

  • Ask yourself: If my partner were sitting next to me would I be uncomfortable doing this? If your answer is yes, it is a clue for you.
  • You flirt with him/her.
  • Perhaps you dress in a way that might attract the person’s attention.
  • When something happens in your life you share it with her/him rather than your partner.
  • You feel excited when you see the person and look forward to seeing them more than you do your partner.
  • You have relationship fantasies about that person.
  • You find yourself sharing problems you are having at home with that person, rather than your partner.

I recall a man I worked with who was so proud that he had not had sex with his female work friend until after he and his wife had separated. He had been receiving emotional support from his work friend for over 1 year and this is what led to his wife leaving him. He had no idea that he had been emotionally unfaithful in his marriage. Nor did he get that he was cheating on his wife.

Emotional Infidelity is quite common and very difficult for couples to fully address on their own as often the partner that is cheating does not know he/she is cheating.


Marriage the Internet and Cheating?

  • Any similarity to you or someone you know is just that a similarity. So many people have similar stories

Sara awoke in the middle of the night wondering where Paul, her husband of 7 years was, as he was not in their bed. She thought he might be sick so she went downstairs looking for him and to her dismay found him chatting to another woman on an internet chat website. This was the low point of their marriage. Until this point she thought that they had a fulfilling, spiritually connected marriage and were honest with each other. Sara felt so betrayed, hurt and humiliated that she did not think she could ever trust him again. Paul reported that he felt confused and misunderstood. He did not understand why Sara was hurt, as he had not ‘cheated’ on her, he was just chatting. This is how they began couples counseling with me.

They both loved each other and wanted to regain the trust that for the moment was lost in their marriage. When a couple loves each other, and is willing to commit to working though their hurt feelings, they will heal, and can rekindle what they had before.

Sara and Paul needed to learn how to communicate what they wanted from each other more clearly, as well as heal this particular wound. Through our work together, they also learned what specific behaviors they were using to avoid each other, (we will call these behaviors Exits), and how to make and keep agreements. Once Paul learned how to close this particular Exit, i.e., chatting with other women on the Internet, Sara was able to notice how she watched T.V. at night as an Exit, i.e. a way of avoiding closeness with Paul.

Ultimately, Sara was able to forgive Paul and he was able to feel understood.

It is always nice to be able to watch and assist as a couple regains, trust and heals individual and relationship wounds as they rekindle their commitment to each other.


One Story of Infidelity

  • Any similarity to you or someone you know is just that a similarity. So many people have similar stories.

About two years ago I began working with a couple that began marriage counseling, believing that they would get a divorce. At the point they came to me, their relationship seemed to be based upon a bond of hostility. They consistently argued angrily as their main form of communication. Both said that they loved each other very much after 19 year of marriage; which let me know that there was hope for this couple.

What led them to reach out for my assistance was that the husband (we will call him Peter), confessed to his wife, (we will call her Robin), that he had been having an affair for over 16 months. At first Peter was only aware of feeling shame and Robin was only aware of feeling hurt and anger. Robin, as you can imagine, felt a gamut of emotions, rage, anger, hurt, shame, and confusion to name just a few. Peter, as we became more involved in the work, also began to feel a whirlwind of emotions, anger, confusion, resentment, hurt and shame.

As time passed and we worked on their communication, forgiveness and reconnecting, Peter began to feel quite resentful and impatient that Robin seemed unable to forgive him faster. Both Robin and Peter had the tendency to blame the other for the affair as well as anything that they did not like in the relationship. It took much hard work for them to reach the place where they could truly hear each other without wanting to prove that their version of the truth was correct for all. Once this occurred the couple began to move towards re-connecting and the work of regaining trust within their relationship.

As they moved forward, Robin and Peter began to laugh with each other in my presence as well as report back to me that they were having fun together again and having “hot” sex.

They both shared in a session that they now believed they could and would reach their goal of rebuilding their relationship. It took several more months of intensive marriage counseling for Peter and Robin to reach the place they are now. Robin no longer blames Peter for ‘the affair’. She understands her part in the weakening of the marriage and is willing to forgive Peter. She has also regained a high level of trust in him and for their marriage’s continued growth. Peter no longer feels shame and understands his motivations, actions and the consequences of them. They have come a long way from the couple that came to me thinking that they would get a divorce.

 


How do I get close without getting lost while in a committed relationship?

Ever wonder how to know if you are being intrusive? It is much easier to get when someone else is being intrusive. Sometimes that can be confusing as well.

When we are in a committed relationship our confusion with boundaries becomes most evident. It can be quite confusing. Is it okay if I tell my partner what I think? Will I be invading their space? How come I get upset when my partner tells me what he/she thinks? If I want something done a certain way am I invading my partner’s boundaries? These questions can go on and on. Understanding our own boundaries is quite complex and worth the effort.

I have noticed that all working relationships have some degree of haze surrounding the boundaries of the persons within it. Relationships are alive and the people in them often overlap in order to achieve comfortable levels of intimacy. Relationships take on a life of their own separate and apart from the I or the you.

The question many of us ask, is how can I tell if I am getting lost within the life of my relationship? And yet some of us do keep our sense of self and do not get lost in the forest of our relationship. While others forget to leave breadcrumbs when they go into a relationship and so they get lost.

What prevents us from maintaining our identity in a relationship? Perhaps we did not have a clear sense of self when we went into a relationship and so the relationship became whom we are. It is possible to lose your sense of self-while in relationship if you are trying to accommodate the other person.

It may be time for you to look for your I.

In all relationships there is some melding of identity. Understanding and knowing your own boundaries will allow you to know yourself and who your partner is with clarity.


Divorce ?

When we marry most of us believe it really is for the rest of our lives. We often create a combined life as well as individual life. It is the combined life however that usually has the priority in marriage. Separating from our life partner is painful; feelings of anger, abandonment and yes relief may also be present. There is no escaping your feelings, whatever they are.

I have seen some people avoid their feelings by dating constantly or drinking or drugging. I have seen others plummet into despair for periods of time. It is natural to miss the warmth, friendship, financial security, and sex you had or hoped you would have.

If you have children parenting becomes much more challenging as your role does change and the frequency that you will spend time with your children will change as well. Questions like when do I introduce my children to the person I am dating will arise and possibly cause you anxiety, as there is no ‘right’ answer, only better ones.

Divorce is often one of life’s most stressful experiences. I refer to divorce as a mini-death. In some ways it is more challenging than a ‘real’ death in that the person you have separated from, possibly feel abandoned by, is alive. If you have had children together you will be seeing your X for the rest of your life. This for many is re-wounding, especially if you are unable to forgive yourself and you’re X for the divorce. It is common for both parties to have feelings of failure regardless of who initiated the divorce.

On the positvite side, a divorce can be a time of discoving yourself again, creating new relationships, learning and growing. In order to move forward taking responsibility for your part in the divorce rather than blaming your X for it is paramount. As well as, allowing yourself to grieve your loss and honor your feelings. Then you will be in a space to grow into your new life, the one you will create out of joy. The life you used to dream about having when you were married and unhappy but always thought you could not create it.


The ‘Space-Between’

My Colleague Hedy Schleifer uses the term ‘Space-Between’ when describing what occurs energetically between two people in a relationship. I find this term very useful and wanted to share my point of view with you.

Consider that Relationships live in the ‘Space-Between’ you and your partner? The space that often you can feel but do not see. This is the space where your children are, the space where they grow up and learn values.

Have you ever wondered what happens in this space when you yell at your partner, or belittle him/her? And the effect negative behaviors have upon your children’s development?

So, how can you keep the ‘Space-Between’ safe for your partner and for your children?

Creating a Safe ‘Space-Between’

  • Communicate safely and effectively with each other
  • Building trust and intimacy
  • Be willing to hear and actively listen to what your partner has to say
  • Value your partners point of view
  • Respect your partners feelings
  • Show empathy towards your partner
  • Show appreciation for what your partner does
  • Respect your partner’s point of view

Leave the following in another room:

  • Criticism
  • Contempt
  • Defensiveness – Defense is the 1st act of war
  • Stonewalling
  • Resentments

The ‘Space-Between’ is thriving when you have:

  • Affection in Public
  • Passion in Private
  • Fidelity
  • Quality Time Together
  • Confiding
  • Mutual Interests/Activities
  • Shared Decision-Making
  • Shared Housework
  • Shared Parenting

Growing an Intimate Relationship

Are you married now? Have you thought about being married? Do you ever wonder how you can have a lasting marriage? Do you want to re-marry but are unsure it’s right?

Think about how much work you put into preparing for a career. Weddings as well often take a large amount of planning and preparation. Think about what happens after the honeymoon, though. Have you simply planned your wedding, or have you prepared for your future? Isn’t it interesting that when it comes to your marriage, preparation is often not part of the picture.

Preparation and education are vital to a lasting marriage. Here are some important steps to explore and share with your partner before and after your wedding:

Increasing Intimacy

  • Understand your own values, qualities. Explore each other’s values and qualities, such as truthfulness, trustworthiness, integrity etc.
  • Be responsible for your words and actions. Communicate clearly and often with each other. This will help you develop great communication skills which are vital to a happy marriage.
  • Develop a deep and caring friendship with your partner. Learn each other’s likes and dislikes, such as foods, entertainment, sports, recreation etc. Know that it is okay that not every interest includes both partners.
  • Ask yourself if you have the ability to be a compatible and harmonious couple. Can you laugh at yourself and each other’s foibles or quirks?
  • Consider if you both have the same values around family. Communicate your expectations. Do you want to build connections with each other’s family? Do you want to have children together? Discuss this in advance and decide a strategy.
  • Explore and discuss how you will manage money. Many couples do not discuss this and later have challenges around how to spend, how to save, etc. If you work this out in advance you will be true friends and your marriage can be a happy one. Money is the #1 reason for arguments in a marriage.
  • What are your sex role expectations? Become clear about them and communicate them to your partner.
  • As you establish a strong spiritual and emotional bond, the happier your marriage will be. By communicating clearly you will feel heard and understood and your relationship will grow.

Confusing Marital Statistics

The latest statistics on marriage in the United States say that 41% of first marriages end in divorce, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages. This can be misleading.

They initially might make one want to work in couples’ therapy on their first marriage as it has a higher possibility of success. While this may be true, I wondered at what cost to the couple and the family. Please do not misunderstand me; I think it is wonderful for people to be in healthy working marriages. What I do not think is that staying together out of fear of being alone, ‘for the sake of the children’, or for financial insecurities is healthy. After reading these statistics I began to wonder why first marriages last longer.

Most first marriages occur when we are young and do not yet know who we are. As we mature sometimes we grow apart from our partners; developing different interests, values change too. It is not that we do not love or care for each other anymore, it is just that we would prefer a partner that shares our values and interests. Moreover, one’s sex drive does change as we age. It does not necessarily slow down but desires and tastes change.

Many first marriages are held together by a common goal of wanting, and having children. Parents want to be in the same home with their offspring. As children grow, the need for the parents to stay together may shift: the couple may notice that they have little in common. For some this is a time of re-kindling the relationship and developing new-shared interests.

Another thought I have had is that during a first marriage many people care more greatly for what their families and friends will think if they divorce. They themselves have a negative view of divorce and so assume that their family and friends will too. Sometimes this is so, but not always. Having no experience in leaving one life and creating another, divorce is very hard and scary for most people, especially for those whom have never done it before.

If a couple does choose to get a divorce they live through the initial hardship of it then grow and learn that they can build a new life. Often the new life can be more satisfying for them.

With age and the experience of a divorce most people will become less afraid of moving on and less tolerant of behaviors in others that they do not appreciate. So, a second divorce although equally challenging is easier as the fears that you will not be able to build a new satisfying life is no longer present.

If you are in a good marriage, whether it is your first or your fifth, and you are having a challenge; than a great couples therapist can be a catalyst in working out the knots.

Just make certain that this therapist is actually trained as a couple’s therapist and not an individual therapist that calls themselves a couple’s therapist. Individual therapists working with couples can actually do harm to your relationship as they do not understand that your relationship has a voice of it’s own.