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7 posts from December 2005

December 28, 2005

WHAT IS YOUR “EDGE”?

In my work with couples again and again, I hear each person discuss in great detail the flaws and problems of their partner. Seldom do I hear someone say, “You know this is what I have to work on in this relationship. This is where I take us off course.” Instead, I hear something like this:

Sally: “You never talk. It’s like I’m living alone!”
Hank: “I would talk if you weren’t nagging all the time. Did you ever think of that?”
Sally: “Well, if you did something around here, I wouldn’t have to nag. Did you ever think of that?”

…and on and on they go, with little, if any, resolution to many exquisitely described problems. Instead each partner holds steadfast to the idea that their partner is wrong and is obviously the problem. It’s as if they believe the world will come crashing down on them if they admit they too have flaws. In my experience, the opposite happens -- the world opens up to them.

Once people are able to accept the idea that all of us have our “edges” (areas where we struggle relationally), then we can learn to work these edges rather than spending all of our energy denying we have any. Human beings are …HUMAN! We have our faults, foibles and imperfections. That’s the nature of being human. The sooner we can accept this and begin to get clear on what our specific edges are, the sooner we can begin to consciously work on changing them. It is perfectly okay to have edges, it is not okay to have them and not work on them.

People have this fantasy that “if only” their partner was kind or respectful or caring or _________ (fill in the blank), their relationship would be great. Chances are your partner is thinking the same thing about you –- if only you would…

Challenge: Take some time to think or journal on your edges (e.g. Do you struggle with your anger? Do you withdraw? Are you emotionally distant?). If you are not sure what your edges are, listen to your partner’s complaints about you. Chances are, what you’ve been defensive about for years is what you need to look at the most. Once you are clear on what your edges are, be forgiving of yourself, remember that we all have them and then commit to working on them everyday.

December 26, 2005

THE POWER OF WORDS (Cornerstone #2)

Cornerstone 2. Use your words to build others up, not tear them down.

I believe that people underestimate the power of words everyday. Whether it is a kind word shared with love or mean words thrown in anger, words have impact. Kind words can soothe a person’s heart, raise a person’s spirit or bring a smile to a person’s soul. Coldhearted words can destroy a person’s confidence, shatter a person’s joy and leave a person shaken to their core.

Regardless of whether we justify our hurtful words by saying, “I was mad,” “I was joking” or “I had a hard day,” the truth is, I believe, that no amount of rationalization can totally heal the damage done. Words sting, nick and sometimes gouge and until we learn to stop the nicks, we will be forever hurting the ones we love.

Words are one of the most powerful tools we have. They have the power to nourish another’s soul or destroy it. Learn to use words wisely and purposefully.

Challenge:
1. Get conscious and pay attention to how you use your words everyday –- especially when you are tired, upset or cranky. Make a promise to yourself to stop stinging, nicking and/or gouging the ones you love -- and if you slip, repair it immediately (apologize, don’t rationalize!).
2. Take the time to say a kind word everyday (compliment, tell a loved one you love him/her, be appreciative in your words, write a kind note…) and notice the shifts that occur.


December 23, 2005

HOLIDAY TIPS

After returning home from a full day of shopping, I am reminded of how stressful the holiday season can be for families. If we're not careful, we can easily forget that the holidays are a "joyous" occasion filled with love, laughter and "good tidings." With this in mind, here are some tips for this holiday:

1. Be wary of trying to outdo your neighbors. It can be a never-ending battle that no one will win.
2. Remember that this season is a time for family. Take the time to enjoy each other, be together and laugh! Work can take a back seat for a little while!
3. When you are feeling stressed, remember to breathe, slow down and keep things in
perspective. Take a moment to count the blessings you do have -- and be thankful.
4. Treat loved ones lovingly, especially during the stressful times. Don't take your stress out on them, even if you believe they are the ones causing it!
5. Most of all...have a wonderful holiday season filled with joy, good health and much laughter!

Holiday Challenge:
1. Remember to give each gift, no matter how big or small, from your heart; receive gifts in the same fashion (be thankful!).
2. Realize that there are many families who are mourning loved ones lost this holiday season. If you are not one of them, be thankful for their presence, enjoy them and let them know you are thankful!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

December 20, 2005

RELATIONSHIPS ARE HARD WORK

The idea that relationships should be easy is a crazy idea that I am convinced was made up by some Hollywood producer to help the movies sell. The reality is that relationships are hard work and there’s no way to get around it. They can be the biggest joy in your life one day and a thorn in your side the next; and that’s normal!

All relationships have their ups and downs. What is important is how you manage these, not whether or not you have them. Couples have to learn to not only nourish their relationships when they are going well, but to heal them when they falter. To do one without the other is to miss half the recipe. Anything with only half the ingredients is doomed to failure.

Nourishing healthy relationships requires time, commitment, dedication and hard work. They do not just happen. Couples need to learn to make their relationship a priority, just as they do their job, their children or their taxes. Healthy relationships, just like children, require love, nurturing, guidance and limits and to have a relationship without one of these four necessary ingredients can wreak havoc not only in the life of a child, but in the life of your relationship as well.

Challenge: For the next week make a conscious effort to make your relationship a priority. Nurture it, pay attention to it and, if necessary, take special time to heal it (apologize, own your part, get help if needed).

December 16, 2005

TREAT LOVED ONES LOVINGLY (Cornerstone #1)

We have a tendency to treat strangers off the street better than we treat loved ones in our own homes. It’s as though we think we have the right to treat those close to us in any way we want. This is a crazy notion. It is not okay to tell your partner that you love him/her one minute and then the next minute yell, call him/her names or just be downright mean.
We seem to know not to be mean to a stranger who happens to be in our path, but if it is our spouse or child we act as if briefly running them over is the price they have to pay to be in our family. This price is way too steep for us, our families and our world. Running people over kills.

Loved ones in our life deserve to be treated as though we love them. It should be a privilege to be in our inner circle – not an emotional death sentence. Our “love” is not meant to be a neatly wrapped punching bag; it is meant to be a kind, authentic, enriching reminder that there is someone in this world who cares for our loved ones. Dare to live this reminder with your loved ones every day.

Challenge: Pay attention to how you are treating the loved ones in your life. Use your words and your actions to relay a healthy message of love. If you are angry then say so –- in a respectful way. If you had a bad day, talk to your partner rather than taking it out on him/her. If you are hurt, speak about your feelings in a non-hurtful way. Remember to treat loved ones in your life better than you treat strangers on the street.

December 13, 2005

WE TEACH OTHERS HOW TO TREAT US

I believe that we teach people everyday how to treat us; we do this with our words, our actions and even our silence. If we choose to stay in a conversation while someone is belittling us, swearing or calling us names, we teach them that this behavior is okay. If we repeatedly ask our partner to pick up their clothes and then we pick them up for them, we teach them to ignore our requests. If we sleep with our partner when s/he repeatedly treats us disrespectfully and in a cold-hearted way, we teach our partner that we do not need to be treated well… we just need to be thrown a few crumbs now and then.

I believe we have more control over how we are treated then many of us realize. There are often many steps we can take to teach those around us to treat us well. We can set a limit, make a request, get outside help or leave the situation or relationship if necessary. We can’t change our partner, however we can change what we put up with from our partner. The first place to look if your partner (or anyone else) is not treating you well is… at you. What is it that you are putting up with?

Challenge: Pay attention to how you are teaching others to treat you…and make sure it is the right lesson.

AUTHENTICITY AND INTIMACY

I am struck by how often women silence their voices under the guise of not wanting to “make waves,” “cause conflict” or be a “bitch.” So instead, they often tell people what they think the listeners want to hear to their face, and then either speak their true thoughts behind the person’s back or say nothing in an attempt to let it go.

I say “attempt” because thousands of unspoken words don’t simply go away -- they fester. In time they build into resentment, health problems, depression and the like. Rather than saving relationships, these unspoken words are the key parasites that destroy them.

Whether we are talking about partners, friends or co-workers, the idea that lying, sugar- coating or telling others what we think they want to hear is the best way to build relationships is a crazy idea. Although many people may disagree, I believe that being authentic not only doesn’t destroy intimacy -- it actually builds intimacy.

Challenge:
Pay attention to all the things you don’t say over the next couple weeks. Note what happened, what you thought, how you felt, what you did in response to your silencing yourself and why you chose to not speak. Finally, take a moment to think of how you could have spoken what you were thinking (…in a respectful and direct way of course).

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