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9 posts from April 2006

April 29, 2006

CHANGES IN RELATIONSHIPS

A common thing I see in couples is one partner minimizing or dismissing the change their partner makes. It’s quite an interesting phenomenon. For example a woman will complain about how emotionally unavailable her partner is and be clear that if he doesn’t change she will end the marriage. Her partner hears the message, makes significant changes, and she dismisses the changes saying, “So what if he’s talking more, he should’ve been doing that all along.”

I see this behavior in both men and women and what I believe is going on, is the partner is so resentful for not getting what s/he wanted for so many years that by the time their partner actually changes, it may be too late. Often people won’t change unless they have to; chances are your partner is suddenly changing now because you have put your foot down or they have too much to lose if they don’t. Either way, if your partner has been behaving horribly for years and s/he finally begins to change, the worst thing you can do is minimize or dismiss the changes.

If you find that no matter how hard you try you cannot let go of the resentment, then it’s time to look at you. Before you ask your partner to jump through a thousand hoops, you have to first ask yourself if you are willing to let her/him back into your heart if s/he changes. If not, then perhaps there has been too much pain for too long. You may have put your foot down too late. If this is the case, then be honest with your partner and begin to work on relationally ending the relationship.

If, on the other hand, you can forgive and are willing to work the relationship, then allowing your partner to repair requires that you not only offer your partner a solution, but you then open your heart enough to take in her/his efforts to change. If you see your partner trying – thank him/her and know that change is a process not an event.

Challenge: If your partner has been changing, allow yourself to take it in. Pay attention over the next week to even the smallest efforts your partner makes to do things differently; change your lens from a negative to a positive focus. Make a commitment to yourself to not sit in resentment; it is a no-win place for all involved.

April 25, 2006

LOVE AND APOLOGIES

Let me start out by saying that we all make mistakes--it’s just a part of being human. I make more mistakes than I care to admit, and I’m sure many of you can say the same…if you are being honest.

So if every one of us (yes, I do mean everyone) makes mistakes, then why is it so hard to apologize? It’s as though people think that if they don’t mention the mistake, their partner won’t notice it. I can’t tell you how wrong that thinking is. Trust me: your partner notices!

Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes from forgetting to put the garbage out, to calling your partner a jerk, to yelling at your child things you swore you would never say. Some mistakes are oversights; some are hurtful, toxic daggers that damage relationships. All warrant an apology.

If you have a hard time apologizing, you have two choices if you want to be relational.
You can either learn to apologize, or you can stop doing behaviors that warrant an apology.

Learning to apologize is the easier solution because… it is do-able. I will teach you how to apologize right now--ready? Take a deep breath, remember that you are human, go to your partner, open your mouth, and in a loving, sincere voice form the words “I am sorry.” It will go a long way if you also let your partner know that you will do your best to not do that behavior again. Once you are done, pat yourself on the back for being a grown-up and taking responsibility for your mistakes.

The saying, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry” is the sentiment of an entitled human being, not a loving partner. It’s absurd to think that you could hurt people who love you and not apologize…because they love you. That’s crazy. Listen, we are human beings, not God. As long as that is the case, we will be making mistakes. It is time we all learned how to mend those mistakes and give our loved ones the healing--from us-- they deserve. If you refuse to say you’re sorry, you’re re-injuring your partner and compounding your mistake by not owning it. Step up and own it--your partner will feel better and so will you.

Challenge: Step up and apologize when you make a mistake and see what happens.

April 23, 2006

STEP ONE OF CHANGING ME

In one of my recent posts I emphasized the concept of “Changing Me, Changes We.” Today I’m going to begin to filter that out a bit.

Because “changing me” is such a broad concept, I’ve decided to break it down into two vital parts: changing what we’re giving and changing what we’re accepting. Everything else, I believe, will take care of itself.

The first part goes along with one of my cornerstones: Ask for nothing more than you are willing to give. Many people want their partners to be respectful, yet when their partners become disrespectful--so do they. Similarly, they want their partners to be loving. Yet when they are unhappy with their partners, they are anything but loving. The examples could go on and on but the bottom line is: Are you respectful, honest, loving and responsible in this relationship…even when your partner is not?

Being respectful means no yelling, shaming, name-calling, or put-downs (even when angry). Honesty requires that you say what you mean even when it is a difficult conversation to have; you don’t silence yourself or brush things under the rug to avoid a conflict. Being loving means you are able to give compliments, affection, and emotional support to your partner on a steady basis. And finally, being responsible/accountable means that you follow through on your promises, acknowledge when you are in the wrong and apologize when appropriate.

Look over this list and think about how you are in this relationship, at all times, and then ask yourself if you would want to be in a relationship with you. Once you can honestly say you would love to be in a relationship with you then you’re ready to look at step two. (one of my next postsJ).

If we don't like what we're getting, then first we need to look at what we're giving...

Challenge: Look over the descriptions of being honest, respectful, loving, and responsible, and decide what you need to work on the most. Choose two behaviors in this area that you would like to change. Change them. Note what happens.

April 18, 2006

DEFENSIVENESS IN COUPLES

A key killer in relationships is defensiveness. If I get defensive every time my partner comes to me about something he doesn’t like, eventually he’s going to give up, blow up or bubble over with frustration and resentment. The same is true if he gets defensive with me. It is a recipe for divorce.

Being defensive is detrimental because it allows no room for repair, compromise or solutions. It‘s a way of walling ourselves off to our partner. Ironically the things we get the most defensive about are the things we need to hear the most. Who are we to think that we never do anything wrong? Perhaps if we learned to be more open to hear about our faults, our partner would be more willing to talk about our strengths.

If our partners are struggling with something we did, then it’s our job to hear them and try to help. We all want to be heard and listened to; this is no different for our partners. We certainly are not going to help the relationship by defending, rationalizing and minimizing our mistakes - - that only results in our partners being more adamant about our faults.

Continue reading "DEFENSIVENESS IN COUPLES" »

April 14, 2006

COMMUNICATION TOOL FOR COUPLES

Below is a quick tool for communicating in a clean, respectful way: the feedback wheel. This tool has been around in various forms for many years. The form I use is adapted from Pia Mellody and Terrence Real.

Note: I add one step to their feedback wheel: Open with a gift.

Prior to using the feedback wheel, be sure to ask your partner if now is a good time to talk. This insures that your partner is in a good space for listening which increases the odds of a more positive experience.

The steps are:
· Open with a gift: Start with a compliment or something that shows you care.

1. Describe the behavior: State just the facts not your interpretation of them. For example, don’t say, “When you were angry”. Instead state, “When you slammed your fist on the table”. If I can’t see or hear it on a video camera, then don’t say it.

2. State what you make up about this: Explain what meaning you gave it or how you interpreted the behavior. Do not say things like: “What that showed me is”, or “What that made me think was..” etc.

3. State your feeling: Simply state feeling words: joy/pain, anger/fear, lust/love, shame/guilt. Don’t say what you think, state only what you feel.

4. State your request: State exactly what you want. Be concrete and clear so your partner knows how to give it to you. Don’t just complain without giving your partner a chance to fix it.

This is how it would sound if I wanted to talk to my husband about being on the computer every night...

Continue reading "COMMUNICATION TOOL FOR COUPLES" »

April 12, 2006

“CHANGING ME, CHANGES WE”

“Changing me, changes we” is a strong conviction I have. I believe that we, as a society, have become so skilled at pointing the finger at others that we have become blind to ourselves. We don’t realize that changing ourselves is the only way to open the door to healthy relationships. Instead we will go down kicking and screaming about our partner’s screw-ups, all the while we excuse our own.

I believe that change starts with me and goes out from there. In other words, "Changing me, changes we". This means the healthier I become, the healthier those around me will become - - either of their own choosing or of mine. If the people in my life don’t choose to become healthier with me, I will choose to be around healthier people. Either way my life improves in the long run.

Okay so no rocket science here, but I can’t tell you how many people will fight this tooth and nail. Every day I hear comments like: “I’m only like this with her, if she weren’t so emotional, I wouldn’t act the way I do”; “He’s so irresponsible, I can’t help but to complain; “If he would stop groping me, I wouldn’t be so cold”; “If she would stop nagging, I would be home more”. All of these are ways we deflect the responsibility we have in creating healthier relationships. They are also ways we keep our relationships stuck.

“Changing me, changes we” is relevant in every relationship we are in. Changing me changes my children, my friendships, and my romantic relationship. Although I’d love to change my partner…it doesn’t work; changing me does.

Challenge: I realize many people will fight me on this and I’m open to feedback, however before people tell me how untrue this is, I have one request: First focus on one thing you can change - - change it - - and then tell me what you noticed.

April 10, 2006

SETTING LIMITS

Women often ask me what they’re supposed to do when their partners do something they don’t like. If they say something, their partner accuses them of nagging; if they don’t say anything then the women get angry and resentful.

So, what do you do? The short answer is don’t do either. Don’t nag and don’t silence. Instead set healthy limits. When you nag, you are ineffective, and when you silence your subsequent resentment will rot away at the relationship. When setting healthy limits you must be moderate, have resolve and be determined to follow through.

Moderation means you don’t get too big and bully, nor do you stay too small and silence. You stay respectful, clear, calm and firm- - all at the same time. Resolve means being clear this is a behavior you "will not" accept rather than a behavior you "don’t want" to accept. Not wanting to accept a behavior leads to nagging, pleading and whining. Not being willing to accept a behavior leads to limits, follow through and self-care.

Continue reading "SETTING LIMITS" »

April 06, 2006

RELATIONSHIP SKILLS

I just returned from facilitating a three-day workshop with Terry Real. It was quite powerful. I wanted to share this resource with couples and individuals who are struggling in their relationships, wanting to start new relationships with healthier skills, or just wanting to hone the skills they have.

This workshop helps people get clear on what their losing moves are, discover why they are making these moves - - even when they are obviously not working - - and to learn and practice new skills that will bring them into connection rather then distance.

If you are looking for something to give your relationship a jump-start, this is an excellent resource. Go to Terryreal.com for more information and look up the skills workshop, it may be the thing you’ve been looking for.

Challenge: If things aren’t going well in your relationships dare to take a step toward changing it; go to a workshop, seek help, talk to your partner…do something. It seldom will fix itself.

April 04, 2006

LISTENING IS A SKILL FEW PEOPLE HAVE

Have you ever had this experience: you’re talking to someone, they are aware of the words you are speaking, but they don’t seem to be listening?

I’ve often had that experience. I’m sorry to say, so has my husband (yes, with me…).

We human beings are often so caught up in our own world we forget we are also a part of other people’s worlds. We get excited, stressed, worried, or elated. about what’s happening with us. And we don’t realize what’s important in the lives of our loved ones.

Listening requires that we step out of our bubble. It asks us to step into the lives of others. This means more than just poking our ears out. We have to truly shut out the things going on in our life that keep us distracted. For just a little while we need to step into the life of another.

Continue reading "LISTENING IS A SKILL FEW PEOPLE HAVE" »

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