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7 posts from January 2010

January 31, 2010

WHAT DO HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS LOOK LIKE?

A reader asked: Are there really any healthy relationships?  If so, what do they look like?

Rather than just listing the characteristics of a healthy relationship, below is a glimpse of the day-to-day interactions of a healthy relationship.

Sally and Dan have been married 15 years and have two children, ages 12 and 10.  Both Sally and Dan work full-time jobs and thus share many of the household chores.  On Monday, Sally picked up the children from school, helped them with their homework and started to cook dinner.  Dan came home while Sally was cooking, greeted her with a kiss, said hello to the kids and asked if he could help with anything.  She said it would be great if he could throw together a salad -- which he did.  Throughout dinner everyone shared a little about their day and gave updates where warranted.  After dinner everyone helped clean the kitchen.  Later, both Dan and Sally chatted with the kids before their bedtime and kissed them goodnight.

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January 23, 2010

WOMEN’S STRUGGLE: STRONG FOR OTHERS, NOT FOR SELF

When Karen told me she had no problem speaking up at work, I absolutely believed her.  I've heard this statement too often to not believe.  Three days prior, Sarah had said she was a great advocate for her sales team.  A week earlier, Janet swore that her co-workers would barely recognize her at home.  In the book Women Don't Ask, the director of a day care center, Geri, is quoted as saying, "I am a fierce tigress for others and a lamb for myself."

Women are masterful at standing up for others.  We will put our lives on the line to protect our children.  We'll go to bat for our employees if we believe they're being paid or treated unfairly.  We'll fight for human rights, children's rights and even women's rights. 

Where we falter is in fighting for our own rights.  Asking our boss, lover, parent or friend to treat us better...is beyond difficult for many women.

Standing up for others is nurturing, loving and compassionate.  Standing up for ourselves, many believe, is selfish.  I believe that not standing up for ourselves is harmful.  By not standing up for ourselves we keep all women down--especially our daughters.  If we don't protect ourselves, relationally fight for ourselves and stand up for ourselves--how in the world can we teach our daughters to stand up for themselves?  When we fight for the welfare of those around us, yet grow silent regarding our own welfare, we pass on that silence to the next generation.  That legacy will not serve us or our daughters well.

Every human being deserves to be treated well at home, work, school and in life.  Know this and dare to stand up for yourself with the same passion, respect and sense of purpose you would for those in your inner circle.  Standing up for yourself is one of the greatest gifts you can give to others...and yourself.

CHALLENGE:  If you're more skilled at standing up for others rather than yourself, commit to work on this.  Get conscious of the skills you use for others and write them down.  Choose one of those skills each week and put it to use to stand up for you.  Pay attention to your negative self talk and STOP IT every time.  Remember that it is a privilege to be in your inner circle and only those who treat you well get to enter that circle and remain in that circle.

 

January 20, 2010

TRUSTING YOUR INSTINCTS IS VITAL IN RELATIONSHIPS

Have you ever noticed how often people ignore their gut?

•    Tony’s girlfriend tells him she’s going to leave him if he doesn’t marry her.  His first thought is it would be a relief.  He quickly feels bad for having that thought and stuffs it down.
•    Joan finds out her husband has been talking on sex chat rooms.  Three years ago she caught him doing the same thing.  For a split second she wonders if he’s a sex addict.  She pushes the thought away.

Regardless of whether the topic is marriage, affairs, addictions or trust—too many people ignore their instincts.  And it costs them.

People ignore their instinct for many reasons: not wanting to feel bad, fear it may be true, fear it may break up the relationship, self doubt, the other person’s explanations, etc.  Too often we are too scared and don’t want to rock the boat.

The problem, however, is that boat is going to rock at some point if we don’t address the issue.  Pia Mellody has a great saying: “Hug your demons or they’re going to bite you in the ass.”  This is true for your gut as well.

When your gut is telling you something, it behooves you to listen.  Pretending something’s not there, doesn’t make it go away.  If anything, pretending gives the issue the time, space and freedom to grow.  Eventually, it will be too big to ignore and perhaps too big to move past.

If your instincts are telling you something’s off—check it out, don’t block it out.  Facing the issue up front is the best move you can make for your relationships—at any stage.

CHALLENGE:  Is there something your gut has been trying to tell you?  If so, have the courage to address the issue directly.  Listen to your gut when you hear the other person’s response.

January 14, 2010

THE ART OF GOOD LISTENING: HUMILITY VERSUS DEFENSIVENESS

Defensiveness can be the death of a relationship.  There are few things more frustrating than having a partner who gets defensive the moment you dare to speak about anything that might be upsetting to you.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  It sounds something like this:

Jody:  Honey, can we talk about the other night?
 
John:  What?  What’s wrong now?  Jeez—are you EVER happy?

Jody:  I haven’t even said anything yet.  Why are you getting so upset?

John:  Because I already know it’s going to be something about what you don’t like.  I haven’t even done anything.  Forget this--I’m going to the gym.

Ugh, I’m getting frustrated just writing about it!  For anyone who has been on the receiving end of defensiveness, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The other person is either defending what they did, explaining to you that they didn’t really do what you said they did, accusing you of being too sensitive or turning the entire story around so that you look like the one who was in the wrong.  Sound familiar?  By the end of the conversation you’re either wishing you had never said anything or wondering if perhaps you were the one in the wrong. 

Let me help relieve your sense of sanity for a minute.  If your partner becomes defensive about feedback you’re giving them—they are off.  Defensiveness stifles growth and shuts down relationships, period.  Do not begin to question yourself just because your partner gets what I call BIG.  When someone becomes defensive, in essence they are puffing themselves up and going on the attack, thinking the best defense is a great offense.  People use this technique because...it works.  It gets people off their back and they don’t have to look at their own behaviors.  Unfortunately, it only works in the short run.  In the long run, the damage is very costly.

If you struggle with defensiveness, you need to learn the art of humility.  Who are you to think you would never make a mistake?  We all make mistakes—that’s what makes us human.  When your partner has the courage to tell you that they’re upset with you, step up and have the courage to listen.  Listen with humility.  Listen for truth in what your partner is saying and have the strength and integrity to cop to it and repair it. 

Making mistakes does not ruin relationships.  Refusing to be accountable for the mistakes we make absolutely does ruin relationships.  The reality is that defensiveness gets people off your back temporarily.  Your loved ones will eventually begin to stop sharing their upsets with you.  They will no longer tell you when they are hurt by your actions.  They eventually will truly get off your back – and then you will need to worry.

The cost of listening with humility and owning your imperfections is far less than the cost of defensiveness.  Defensiveness will erode your relationship.  Apologizing for your mistakes and doing things differently will save it. 

CHALLENGE: When people in your life dare to be honest with you about their upsets, dare to be mature enough to hear them.  Practice humility and remember that we all make mistakes along our journey.  Mistakes are human.  Refusing to acknowledge and learn from them is a weakness that will hurt you in life and relationships.  Dare to step up and be accountable—it’s freeing for you and healing for your partner.



January 12, 2010

A NOTE ABOUT AFFAIRS: REMORSE IS MANDATORY FOR HEALING TO OCCUR

 
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 I’ve been receiving e-mails from men regarding their partners having affairs.  The message to men is the same as it is for women: you deserve to be in a loving relationship with someone who treats you well.  If your partner has an affair, the only way to begin the healing is if your partner is willing to repair the damage. 

Repairing the damage requires that the person who had the affair first and foremost is remorseful.  Yikes—do I really have to say this?  Please—men and women alike—if your partner is not remorseful after having an affair, your relationship is dead unless they get remorseful.  Partners who justify or blame their partners for their straying will NOT make good partners.  That is ludicrous. 

Here’s the rule: no remorse—no healing.  If your partner is not remorseful for the pain they caused DO NOT TRUST THEM.  Get into couples work.  If your partner is not remorseful and refuses couples work--then walk.  Really--walk fast. 

Lack of remorse is a major indicator of an on-going affair or a high probability of another affair in the future.  Do not allow your fear and/or desperation to keep you in a relationship that is unhealthy. 

There must be remorse for any healing to take place.  Learn to recognize what is and is not remorse.  True remorse can be seen and felt.  You will also see it through their actions.  When someone is remorseful, they are willing to do whatever’s necessary to repair the damage they did.  They will make sure to answer your calls to help reassure you that they are where they said they would be.  They’re willing to talk to a professional to help you process what happened.  They’re willing to open their e-mail and cell phone to you for a period of time, if that’s what you need.  They’re willing to sit with you and hold you when you get triggered about the affair. 

Are you getting the gist of what remorse looks like?  Hearing the words I’m sorry is not remorse.  You should FEEL it.  Do not settle for just the words.

If your partner is not remorseful for betraying you—your relationship is in trouble.  If they’re justifying their affair because of how you are as a spouse—your relationship is in trouble.

CHALLENGE:  If your partner is not remorseful for their affair or justifies it because of your behavior, insist on seeing a professional who is strong enough to hold your partner (and yourself, when necessary) accountable directly and unequivocally.  If they refuse, know that the future of your relationship does not look bright.  Have the strength to take care of yourself and get the help you need to do that.

January 07, 2010

WHAT PARENTS NEED TO TEACH THEIR TEENS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS (a guest post)

Because so many relationship habits are formed well before adulthood and because so many of my readers are parents themselves, I believe this is a great post for parents to read.  The author is Annie Fox and her site www.anniefox.com is a great resource for parents of tweens and teens.  Enjoy.

For Parents: A Relationship Bill of Rights

March 6, 2009


You have the right to have fun

As the parent of a young teen you may believe that your son or daughter is years away from a “relationship.” You might also believe that acai juice has the power to reverse global warming and fix the economy. Face it, most middle schoolers are totally focused on the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone. What do you think all that IMing and texting is about?! I’m not suggesting that they’re ready to create and maintain healthy romantic relationships. Geez no! Many of them are still sorely challenged in the friendship department. Most tweens and teens are naturally curious about sex and relationships (two very different endeavors which our culture has regrettably collapsed into one).  And they’re under tremendous social pressure to couple up. There’s pressure from peers, from the media and well, yes, even from some parents who not so secretly get off on the reflected glory of their 7th grader’s popularity with the opposite sex. So they’re going to experiment with relationships – that’s a good thing and it’s how they learn. But there’s no reason they need to stumble through the Bf/Gf Zone totally clueless.  We should provide them with some ground rules (and I’m not necessarily talking about purity pledges).

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January 05, 2010

RESENTMENT AND RELATIONSHIPS: WHAT THAT RESENTMENT COULD BE TELLING YOU

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Sally walked into my office, sat down and sighed, “I’m so resentful.  It feels like I’m always angry, but I can’t figure out why.”  She then proceeded to tell me:
•    Her husband had been out until 2 a.m. for the third weekend in a row.  When she asked why he came home so late, he said he was having fun with his friends.  She did not say anything more because she didn’t want him to become upset with her.
•    Her friend asked her to come over and help her paint for the third week in a row.  Sally was exhausted, but didn’t want to say no.  When Sally asked her friend to help her with some computer questions she had, her friend said she would love to, but she’s just too busy – something she often said when Sally would ask for help.
•    Sally’s mother called to get advice about her father.  When Sally asked her mother for some help, her mother did what she always did—she steered the conversation back to herself and ignored Sally’s requests.

After hearing story after story about Sally’s life, I informed Sally that the reason she is so resentful is because she is not getting her own needs met.  She’s so busy taking care of the needs of others that she’s getting angry that no one (including Sally) is watching out for her needs.  When we don’t take care of our own needs—we get resentful.

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