Tag: Relationship Advice

Friends and Relationships – Making It Work

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You’ve met someone and decide to start dating. You have been telling your best friend about this person and can’t wait for these two special people in your life to meet. The highly anticipated day comes, and it doesn’t go as planned. Their interaction is lukewarm, or one person is friendly while the other is not. How do you balance your two relationships and keep the peace?

Consider all sides.

The first thing to do is to consider each side’s perspective. Being the new person trying to fit into a relationship triangle can be challenging, as can being the long-time friend who has to make room for someone new.

Examine how you might be adding to the fray.

Without being aware of it, you could be making the situation more complicated. Are you setting unrealistic expectations? Do you want them to interact with each other in a certain way, and are disappointed because they aren’t? Be prepared for the possibility that they may never interact the way you’d hoped. However, it is also possible that in time, they will grow closer, or at least more cordial to each other.

Also, consider your dating history and how it may be impacting your friend’s perspective. If you’ve introduced a number of boyfriends or girlfriends to your best friend, your friend may just be staying cautious until s/he knows this new person is here to stay. You might not be the only one who gets broken hearted by breakups…friends who have invested their feelings on your behalf can also experience a loss.

Have an honest conversation with your best friend and romantic interest, separately.

Your friend may be worried that your new relationship will change the status quo or even jeopardize what you’ve had together. Your friend may be protective, wanting to make sure this new person is “good enough” for you.

Ask your friend what it is about the person you are dating that they don’t like: Is it the person’s personality? Does s/he think you’re incompatible with this new person? Do they see a change in you? Does your friend feel neglected or are they worried that you will no longer have time for them? Getting to the core issue can clear up misunderstandings and clarify expectations.

It may help to let your friend know that s/he is still valuable to you, and that you will make a concerted effort to spend quality time with him or her.

In your sit-down with your significant other, communicate why your best friend is important to you. He or she may not understand your friend, the type of friendship you have, or your history together. If your friend is overtly expressing dislike, it can be understandable that your boyfriend or girlfriend might react to the animosity, or be overly protective of you because of misconstrued interaction between friends.

Some more points to keep in mind:

  • If you are having a disagreement with one of them, be aware that telling the other one about it can reinforce the wedge already between them.
  • Invite your best friend and romantic partner to events you would normally invite both of them to. Give them the chance to get to know each other.
  • Allow them to have the feelings they have, which may or may not change with time.
  • Try to have a positive attitude about the interactions. Expressing anxiety will not promote harmony.
  • These two people you care about don’t have to be best friends with each other. They don’t even have to like each other. However, what will work is for each of them to respect your decision to have the other person in your life and for you to accept their relationship as it is.

While it is can be initially painful to see discord between your friend and significant other, the situation can be successfully managed, and even repaired, with everyone’s best efforts.

 


The Freedom of Forgiveness

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“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

 

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is not about pretending something didn’t happen, surrendering, accepting injustice, or being weak. It is about acknowledging what happened and moving past it, hopefully with more wisdom and enlightenment.

When we hold onto the feelings caused by a wrongdoing—anger, resentment, fear, hurt, shame—we keep ourselves imprisoned in that story. We relive the injustice and its effects on us, which prolongs the pain and can even cause it to grow. Releasing our feelings through forgiveness releases us from the story.

The following are some ways to facilitate the process of forgiveness:

Try to separate the facts from the story. Think of how your situation would be presented in a scientific journal. Only things that could be proven would be included, and anything not directly observed would be considered a hypothesis or prediction. Anything related to emotions, feelings, and hearsay would be useless to a scientist. This exercise can help untangle emotions from events to provide a more objective view of what happened.

Remember that this involves another human being. We all make mistakes. While being human doesn’t excuse us when we do something that is considered “wrong,” it is helpful to remember we all have faults, weaknesses, and errors in judgment.

Examine why you feel the way you do. Perhaps your feelings are tied to a previous betrayal, or the person’s actions brought up issues with which you are struggling but have nothing to do with this person. Knowing specifically what you are upset about and why can shed light on the real issue. It can also allow you to have a clear conversation with the person you want to forgive, if you decide to talk with them about it.

Make a commitment to forgiveness. Sometimes we say we want something, but don’t really want it or aren’t ready for it. To forgive someone and move on, we have to truly want to forgive that person. Give the same kind of focus and energy to forgiveness as you would a meaningful goal or intention. Imagine your desired future relationship with that person, or if dissolution of that relationship is in order, imagine yourself making peace with that decision and moving on in a way that is supportive to you. You may want to try Loving-Kindness Meditation.

Be gentle with yourself. Forgiveness can be difficult when the wounds are fresh. If you do not understand the reasons behind the injustice, or you can’t find any positive light from the experience, you may not be ready or willing to forgive. It often does not happen overnight, and it is also not something you master like a learned skill. Forgiveness is the subject of many spiritual teachings and can be viewed as a daily spiritual practice. Therefore, allow yourself to see forgiveness as a journey, not a destination you must reach. Try to release any self-judgment in the process. Forgiveness starts with you.


8 Loving Tips To Improve Your Relationship

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Do you feel a little distant from your romantic partner? Could your relationship with a family member be closer? Are you experiencing some friction with a friend? Here are some Loving Tips on boosting contentment and happiness in your relationships with a loved one:

Accept the person for all that they are, and all that they aren’t. To truly love someone is to do so for who the person is right now, not for their potential or who you want them to be.

Resist keeping score. Keeping track of what you’ve done for him or her and comparing it to what you’ve received in return puts the focus on competition, judgment and may lead to resentment. Instead place your focus on love, kindness and gratitude. When you give or are kind to a person, do so because you truly want to rather than thinking that they will then give to you or be kind to you. If you do something nice for them and then expect a certain level of gratitude from them, you are not coming from your heart but from your ego. When we come from our egos, all that we do is unconsciously or consciously self-serving. When we come from our hearts, all that we do both consciously and unconsciously is purely from love. On an energy level, people know when affection or help comes with strings attached, which will create tension, distance and resentment in your relationship.

Keep your mind open instead of “knowing” their next move. When you predict someone’s actions based on your imagination or past experiences, you might be setting the relationship up to fail. If they do what you expect, there is the possibility that you have now cemented your negative prediction, which may close off possible positive future outcomes. And of course, if they don’t do what you expect, you may not fully accept it because your ego wants to be right. There is a saying, you can be right or you can be in a relationship, but you cannot have both. It is best to consider this if you find your ego wanting to be right and blinding you to the positive change that your partner or friend has made.

Offer the benefit of doubt. Remember that they are human and things happen. Some are within their control and some are completely outside of it. When a loved one falls short of their promises—or our expectations—and disappoint us, allow them the opportunity to have their side heard. Instead of jumping to conclusions based on what you think you “know” about them, ask him or her what happened. Be honest with your feelings of how their actions affected you. When the conversation has reached a resolution, even if that means to agree to disagree, let it go.

Listen. This simple tip is often overlooked. We sometimes go on “listening autopilot” when a loved one speaks, either because we “think” we’ve heard it before, are preparing our answer, or just daydreaming about other things. Think of a time you knew someone wasn’t listening to you and how that felt. It probably didn’t encourage a closer relationship with that person. Now think of a time someone really listened to what you had to say, and how that made you feel. For more on the skill of listening: How to be an Active Listener.

Get permission before unloading your day. When you have the urge to vent to your loved one about all the “crap” that happened in your day, first ask if they are willing to hear it. This shows that you respect their time and their choice to take on the energy you will be passing along to them. You will be expressing to them that you are aware that they are emotionally separate from you and that you know they may have other things on their mind. Often when one person shows this kind of consideration and respect, the other person learns how to show it as well.

Make distraction-free time for them. It’s not the amount of time you spend with someone that brings you closer; it’s the quality of that time. Set aside regular time with them that is “distraction-free,” which means silencing and putting away the cell phone and putting all your energy and attention on being in the moment with them.

Let them know how much you care. Friends, family, and romantic partners are sometimes the last people to hear how much we love them. Although you might consider it a given that the person knows your feelings, everyone appreciates hearing a reminder. At least 10 years after my grandfather had passed on, a much older cousin of mine told me how my grandfather used to tell everyone how proud he was of me. I had no idea as he never told me. It was nice to find that out. I would have appreciated knowing this when he was alive.


Evaluating Your Relationships

valentine cats3We are social beings. We crave connection and relationships. Relationships can bring us much joy, fulfillment, and security. However, there are times when we have to decide whether we want to continue our involvement with a friend or significant other. How do you know when it’s not working for you?

Counsel yourself like a friend.

Ask yourself questions you would bring up in a conversation with a good friend who is unsure whether they should stay in a relationship. For example: Do you find yourself making excuses for the person? How does the person usually make you feel…positive about yourself or feeling low? There is a difference between someone challenging you to be the best you can be and someone putting you down.

Make a list of pros and cons.

It may seem trite, but it’s a useful and important exercise. The purpose is to be able to see—in print—what you view as reasons why you are in the relationship. Compare the two columns. Is one stronger than the other?

Look at the items you’ve put under the pros column. Are they superficial or important? Did you have to struggle to make this side longer?

Look at the cons. Are they serious considerations? Your not liking the way the person holds their fork is very different than your not liking the way the person treats your friends. Are any of the cons deal breakers? If so, why have you continued to stay in the relationship?

Consider a wider scope.

Think of what other people say about the person. Not that you should make your decision based on popular vote, but it’s telling if no one has anything nice to say about him or her. For example, if you repeatedly hear that the person is not to be trusted, it’s possibly an attribute the person has hidden from you or you haven’t wanted to admit was true.

On the other hand, everyone liking who you are with does not mean the person is right for you.

Tune in, and listen up.

You will know in your gut what the answer is, if you allow yourself to look inside and consult your inner guide. You may not be able to put your decision into words or explain why you don’t want to be with someone. Your ability to verbalize your reasons should not affect your decision. Trust your instincts. If you feel less than yourself when you are with that person or that you consistently have less energy around them, you’ll want to seriously consider if that person is complementary for you.

It can be especially confusing when “nothing happened” that has caused you to feel the relationship is over—no personality change, abuse, breach of trust, etc. This confusion may be exacerbated when you try to answer the “what happened?” question from others. Just because “nothing happened” does not mean you should push your gut instinct to the side. It can also be difficult to admit it’s over when we have spent considerable time in a relationship…we may feel obligated to stick it out. Many relationships have a time when they come to an end. Some relationships are for our entire lives, but most are only for a portion of it.

Remember, it’s ok to decide a relationship isn’t for you. You can honor the good memories, lessons learned, and growth experienced, and move on gracefully. This is your life, to be lived authentically and with self-love.


How to be an Active Listener

jackrabbit-673965_1280Hearing and listening are different things. Hearing is passive; sounds come to us through our ears and we notice them. Listening, however, requires the brain to get involved. It’s a learned skill because it requires concentration, interpretation, and interaction. To really listen, we have to be present in the moment.

In our busy world and with so much on our minds, it can be challenging to actively listen when a friend, co-worker, or family member wants to have a conversation with us. We are often thinking about or doing other things while someone else is talking—ever realize you’ve been asked a question and you have no idea what was said to make a response? We may pay more attention to conversations we deem “important,” but for everyday conversations we have with family, friends, co-workers, it’s easy to “check out.” If we’d like to be more active listeners, it’s a good idea to practice being aware and present for those people in our lives.

Here are some ways to facilitate conscious, active listening:

  • Determine whether you are able to give your full attention when someone wants to have a talk. If not, let them know. For example, “Can I call you back in 10 minutes? I’m finishing up this task and then I can give you my full attention.” If the conversation is going to take more time than you have, or you are not able to be there for them because of your mood/business, it is ok to say: “This is a rough day for me. I want to be able to give you the time you need. How about we chat over coffee tomorrow?” In this way, the other person feels valued but also understands that right now is not a good time for you.
  • Focus your energy on the speaker. If you are speaking face-to-face, maintain eye contact, have an open body posture (uncross your arms, turn your body toward them), and either lean slightly forward or imagine doing so.
  • Put aside your own troubles and thoughts. You will have time to deal with those later.
  • Don’t interrupt. Allow the other person to speak to completion. We often interrupt out of a need or desire to connect (“I’ve had that happen too!”) or show we’re listening (“Really? Why would he/she do that?! That’s terrible!”), but we can do the same thing without interrupting by facial expressions, nodding, or simple comments (such as saying wow, yes, right, uh-huh). Instead, imagine sending them energy that corresponds with how you would respond verbally. For example, imagine your heart open and radiating love, care, or empathy to someone who is upset.
  • Resist mentally rehearsing what advice you will give or how you’ll respond. You will end up distracted, miss what is said, and may telegraph to the person you’re not with them. If you listen fully, you will be ready to speak when it’s time.

If you put these tips into practice, you will not only strengthen your ability to actively listen, but others will most likely notice the difference and feel positive about your conversations. Whether we are aware of it or not, we can sense when someone is really listening to us, and we respond more favorably to them because of it. By practicing active listening with the people in your life, you might find they are more present with their attention and energy when it’s your turn to speak.

 


What Asking Questions Brings to Your Life

I was speaking
with a friend on the subject of asking questions. He shared how at times in his
life he refrained from asking questions for fear of appearing ignorant; I
wonder how many of you have had this challenge?
I then thought about how many of my clients have stopped themselves from
moving forward because they refrain from doing this or second-guess what they
ask before even getting it out of their mouth?

Even personally,
I’ve found that it has affected me. One of my challenges has been not asking
enough questions. Early in my career I had to learn to ask questions;
questioning was not ignorance, it was the beginning of knowledge.

 In my life, I
have made mistakes due to not asking questions; letting my imagination guess
the answers instead of seeking the real truth. Getting comfortable with my own
internal answer and assuming it as truth, which is very different from reality,
may actually become a habit—which is unhealthy for us. 

What about the
occasions that I did not ask questions for fear of offending the other
person?  Perhaps I thought a question
would be disrespectful. Or not asking questions because I imagined ‘I know the
answer, I do not have to ask’.  

How and when can
you identify with this challenge?

What do we get when we ask questions? 

·      Clarify ideas & situations

·      Keeping relationships

·      Get information

·      Solve Problems & make decisions

·      Think clearly & create strategies

·      Negotiate & resolve conflicts

·      Stimulate your mind

·      Learn

·      Reflect

Clear communication
is all about asking questions. One technique that I teach couples immediately is
to stop ‘mind-reading’. Mind reading is thinking you know what your partner is
going to say or do without asking h/her—think of it this way, how many times
has someone made an assumption about something you were going to say or ask
that was incorrect? Yes, mind reading benefits no one.

Sometimes we’re
unaware of small things that stress us, one of them can be the result of not
asking enough questions for the reasons that are highlighted here. Don’t let
that be something that affects you in a negative way.

Asking questions
is one of the prerequisites to enjoying your life and achieving your goals! Remember you don’t know what you don’t know. Be curious and
ask questions.


Dealing with Vexatious People

Each one of us has people in our lives that just make things a bit more difficult. They may be co-workers, acquaintances, friends, family members, or even our significant others. They come in many forms, but their behavior and their effect on us are the same—they drain our spirit, make us frustrated and doubtful. And instead of making our lives happy, many times, they make things less than easy for us in a variety of ways.

We all know them, we may even love them, but they’re not necessarily the best choice as a confidant or compadre for our long-term success. It could be anyone, even be someone that has been in your life for years, take a moment to reflect on how some of those closest to you impact your life—is their influence and existence mostly positive or does it tend to be a negative? It’s important.

If it is, indeed, negative, where do these feelings stem from? If we strive continuously to be a good person in our own opinion, and in the opinion of those that know us best, wouldn’t it make sense for most everyone to find that genuine goodness as a positive trait? Not necessarily. There are two key reasons why people may find fault with you, even if it’s not justified.

Sometimes, it comes from jealousy. They see what you have—your accomplishments like a strong family unit or great job security and they find reasons to make you feel guilty about your achievements or make light of their weight and importance. It may not be in obvious ways, either. A lot of time we’re unaware of that habit because we often either give them the benefit of the doubt or just aren’t even aware of it because we assume they care for us.

And if it’s not jealousy it’s fear. When others don’t believe that they’ll succeed personally, they can push those undesirable emotions onto others and it shows in their actions or attitude towards us. Many times, the distaste that person has for us doesn’t actually come from anything we’ve done to them, but more so, it comes from their perception of a situation and the opinions that they create from it. Self-perception is powerful. It may not be the universal reality, but it’s theirs, and many times, that’s a very difficult mindset to change.

So what can you do to save yourself some stress when dealing with someone like this?

Try being open and honest. Ask them politely but directly if you’ve done something to offend them—make sure to do this in private to avoid the person shutting down or becoming angry. If they feel embarrassed or put on the spot, you’ll lose the opportunity to fix the situation right away.

When you’re talking to them, keep it short and to the point. Stay on topic and use ‘I’ messages instead of ‘you’ messages. Avoid approaching it as ‘you make me feel this way’ and try ‘I feel that there may be something that I’ve done’— when you explain out loud to someone that you may have hurt them, even unintentionally, it may change their mindset and a resolution can come to fruition. It may not work with everyone, but it’s at least worth a shot—especially if it’s someone that you spend a great deal of time with.  When you take the leap and show them you care, they may soften their walls and start to create trust with you—everyone wins.

Working it out won’t always be that easy, however.  There are people that are sadly stuck in their misery and they’re hard-pressed to find happiness for themselves, both in their life happenings and their relationships. All we can do is try to do our best with what we’ve got, we can’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

What’s most important, is to be the best version of ourselves as much as we can, that way, within our own hearts, we’ll never have to question the reasons behind our own motivations or actions.  The ones that matter most will see that and appreciate and celebrate us for who we are, and we’ll have peace within ourselves that we stay on the side of what’s good and what’s right.


Take Responsibility and Let Go

Instead of focusing on how you may have contributed to your relationship ending are you spending hours of your time analyzing why he/she acted the way they did?

Overanalyzing is often bred from avoidance, thinking  about our feelings and/or about understanding ourselves, personally without being self-reflective. How it is that we act in the ways that we do. Usually when we overanalyze it is about what someone else did or did not do, rather than our own thoughts, actions, behaviors and feelings. Does this sound like you?

If it does, than you might be wondering what you can do to feel better, stop going on and on in your mind, over and over what they did or what you could have done. The answer is learning how to be in the moment rather than in the past or your idea of the future. So, how do you do this?

Here is are two easy exercise that you can do anywhere when you find yourself caught in on the merry-go-around of analyzing:

Repeat these steps several times:

  1. Close your eyes and breathe, noticing your body, how the intake of air feels, what sensations you have in your body, what you are smelling, hearing, sensing etc.
  2. Touch your fingers together and feel your hands or touch your arms and feel them

You can also do this with your eyes open. If you do make certain to consciously notice what you are seeing. It is important to use all of your senses.

Another helpful tip:

If you begin to analyze: think (or even say out loud) “STOP”, and replace the analyzing thoughts with a pleasant image: walking on the beach at sunset, relaxing next to a waterfall, watching a butterfly dance in the wind; you can choose your image, whatever allows you to feel calm and peaceful.

Identify your personal pleasant, relaxing image and see it anytime you find yourself analyzing the why/how’s/what’s/whens of another, or yourself excessively.

Analyzing can be a useful tool when used for explorations or options such as looking at our own actions, thoughts, behaviors and feelings. This form of analyzing can help us make great career choices as well as relationship choices. Used in this way what you are actually doing is deciding what is best for you as opposed to over-analyzing and taking no action at all.


The Path of Relationships: Dealing with Loss

We oftenbelieve that relationships are supposed to be permanent, yet loss and grieving
is a theme in our lives. Somewhere along
our path someone dies or must be left behind.
Loss of a relationship plays a significant part in all of our lives.
Because many of us define ourselves by our relationships, we believe something
is wrong with us if we do not keep our friends for life.

What is
true, is that change is a constant and that relationships come and go from our
lives. When someone dies, leaves us, moves away or becomes estranged, it may be
a double loss: the loss of the relationship itself, and the loss of the
relationship as a source of our identity, of who we think we are.

If you
have been the dependent partner in a relationship you will find yourself after
the loss of a relationship, through divorce or death, forced to undertake tasks
that you never dreamed of. It is through
these tasks that a new sense of self will evolve. You may have a new career or
the education you always wanted but did not have time for—the future is up to
you, and you can make it bright.

Whenever
we are forced to let go of something or someone a psychological death occurs
and we need to grieve for our loss. Death comes in many forms; it may be an
aspect of ourselves, our youthful qualities, our health, or a dream any
attribute that is no more. Or it may be
a relationship that is ended by death or distance. With every death and rebirth
something of value has grown inside us.

How we
react to the constant changes that occur in our lives through our relationships
is probably the only aspect of a relationship that we have some control over.
Shifting your thinking from a negative to a positive is an excellent way to
change your view of the things. When you find yourself beginning to think
negatively, try to approach it in a more positive light.


Successful Communications for Healthy Romantic Relationships

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It’s everyone’s right to exercise their (positively-charged) power in a situation where they are made to feel uncomfortable, whether purposefully or accidentally. Many times, it’s easier than we think to get someone to see our point of view; we just have to make sure that we’re open and honest with them. Communications barriers build up when we believe we’re not being heard or understood. We shut down; start to build up walls; begin to care less and get to the point where we shut down all together. We may stop trying to fix the issue— at worst, just accepting things as they are.

Before these barriers begin to build for you—listen to your internal voice. It’s amazing how many times an answer can actually already be inside you. Think for a second, and examine the situation on the other foot. If your significant other believed that you were looking at men when you were on a date night, running errands, or just going through everyday life, how would you want them to approach it with you? Examine that choice, and see if it would work on the other side. Many times, intrinsically, we know how to handle issues—we just don’t know how to externalize the answer.  

Finding your own voice is key. If you’ve got a relationship with strong communication skills, this may be easier for you. The bottom line, be honest, fair, and stick to the point—don’t get tied to heavily into emotions. Share your feelings concisely and clearly. Don’t demand a resolution; allow it to be a discussion, not an argument. It’s the expectations that you set up within the confines of your own relationship— not the parameters set by the outside world— that shape the happiness of your union, so stick to what you know to be true in your own relationship only.

What may work for a friend, aunt, mother or sister may not for you— it’s important to be selective in who you seek out advice from, especially from those close to you. The more often we allow outside influences to help us shape our decisions, the more power we take away from our own individual identity as a problem solver. Make sure that you’re setting yourself up for personal success that will help build your own esteem, and in turn, enhance the strength and success in the relationship with your partner.