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Posts tagged ‘relationship’

Making Love Relationships Work

Making Love Relationships Work

John Gottman, PhD is the expert on why marriages succeed or fail. He conducts his research in his “love lab” in Seattle. He has observed thousands of couples and with his research he has been able to predict with great accuracy which couples stay together and which marriages end in divorce.

 

First of all, there are four troublesome issues that cause a marriage to be unhappy. Gottman calls these the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They are, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal.

 

The first horseman is criticism. There may not appear to be much difference between complaining and criticizing. Complaints are an important part of a healthy relationship and allow for discussing differing expectations whereas criticizing involves attacking someone’s personality or character – rather than a specific behavior. An example of criticism is, “Why did you buy that – when you know we’re trying to save money? You always do things like that – you just don’t care.” Criticism is more global rather than something specific. Another example from Gottman’s book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” shows clearly the difference between a complaint and criticism.

  • Complaint: We don’t go out as much as I’d like to.
  • Criticism: You never take me anywhere.

 

The second horseman is contempt. Contempt is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. It stems from negative thoughts about your partner – you no longer have respect for your partner. Signs of contempt include name-calling, hostile humor, mockery and body language such as rolling your eyes.

 

The third horseman is defensiveness. When contempt enters the relationship, people feel attacked. Often they respond with defending themselves. The self-defense can take several different forms.

  • Denying responsibility (I didn’t do anything wrong.)
  • Making excuses (Blaming external circumstances)
  • Cross-complaining (Countering a complaint with an immediate complaint of your own, totally ignoring what your partner has said.)
  • Yes-butting (Agreeing with the complaint, but having a reason that outweighs the transgression.)
  • Repeating yourself (Continue to restate your position without attempting to understand the other’s point of view.)

 

The forth horseman is withdrawal. When defensiveness isn’t getting anywhere, one spouse will often turn to silence or physically remove himself from the room. But that doesn’t work either. Instead of being neutral, withdrawal conveys disapproval, icy distance and smugness. The message is that I am disengaging from any meaningful interaction with you. If this does not result in divorce it will result in living lonely parallel lives.

 

What can you do if any of these four horsemen have invaded your marriage? Here are several suggestions.

  • Calm down. When you feel your heart rate escalate during an argument, take a time out. When you are both calm, you can continue the conversation. But don’t just ignore the problem; make specific plans to continue the conversation.
  • Speak non-defensively. If you can learn to listen to your spouse without becoming defensive and without triggering defensiveness in your partner, it will do wonders for your relationship.
  • Validate. Try to see things from your spouse’s point of view. Tell her that you understand what she is saying. Acknowledge when you are wrong or apologize. When appropriate compliment your spouse. Sincere appreciation of what your spouse is doing goes a long way to maintain harmony in the home.

 

If you can keep the four horsemen out of your relationship and practice the above suggestions, you have come a long way towards making your relationship work. Additional resources are available at www.gottman.com

 

What is the Quality of Your Life?

What is the Quality of Your Life?

This is a message from a dream: In the dream my aging mother asked me, “What is the quality of your life?” I woke up pondering how to answer. How does one answer that?

There are of course the physical qualities of life: here in the Chicago area we are just recovering from a short but devastating windstorm. So I am grateful for the electricity that has just returned: running water, warm showers, toilets that flush, light, air conditioning, refrigerated foods, and a roof over my head that doesn’t have a tree sticking out of it.

Going beyond the personal comfort, there is the convenience of roads free from fallen power lines and trees as well as stop and go lights that restore a more orderly flow of traffic.

Next is being instantaneously connected to the outside world with the internet: email, social media, news and anything you want to know at your fingertips, movies and books to download 24 hours a day.

Oh —- how 2 days without all these conveniences can give you a new perspective on what we take for granted.

But I don’t think that was what my mother was asking about in the dream. There is a different quality of life she was asking about. She was asking, “Are you happy?”

I’m so Bored – Life is so Easy

Just because I could, I have been catching up on reading some Facebook posts. The variety is astounding. Students out of school for the summer lamenting that they are bored and can’t wait to get back to school. A guy in Austria won a lawsuit against his government that allows him to wear a colander on his head for his driver’s license photo – for religious reasons. The French government has outlawed burka face veils. Someone is looking for a new apartment. Another person is relieved that she is once again single. Someone is proposing that extremely obese children be taken away from their parents – for their protection.

We live in an age of unprecedented ease and instant entertainment. But the entertainment may only cover a deeper longing. We are discontent. The moment we are not busy we are bored. I believe that many people are missing healthy and happy connections with others: meaningful and rewarding interdependent relationships: people valuing people. People being there for one another, to encourage and uplift one another. People are lonely, yet many would rather be alone than be in hurtful relationships. Staying busy keeps us from really noticing.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

Have you heard the idea that “where there is too much, there is something missing”? We have all the stuff, all the toys, yet deep down we may feel empty inside. What do advertisers really sell when they appear to be selling their latest product? They sell happiness: buy this and you will have friends, you will find love, you will be happy. If that is what we all want – to be happy – so much so that it is used to sell anything from pain relief to cars, then what is it that makes us happy? What makes us happy deep down inside? I believe it is relationships – the good ones. So how do we create those relationships?

1. Be respectful towards each other
2. Communicate: Listen
3. Communicate: Feel heard and understood
4. Spend quality time with each other
5. Create happy memories together
6. Develop a feeling of contentment with each other
7. Develop trust and interdependence – a well working team

I am blessed with a rich network of friends: some spanning over a decade of friendship, others more recent. We talk, we laugh, we cry, we make happy memories; we are content just being in each other’s company. We do simple things together: cooking, eating, going for a walk, going swimming or skating or kayaking, hanging out at the beach or pool, solving a computer problem or completing a sewing project, helping each other where a second pair of hands is needed. Most of all we are content in each other’s company. When issues arise, we talk about them calmly to resolve them. We learn from each other. We spend time doing things we each enjoy. We encourage, support, and uplift each other.

I encourage you to look at your life and the people in them: Who are the five people you spend the most time with? Are those relationships good for you? How can you make them better? Is there anyone who is not in the top five who you would like to spend more time with? Is there anyone in the top five who you would like to spend less time with? In which relationships do you feel happy, accepted and at ease?

Taking it Farther:

To have a friend – be a friend. Once you have identified the five people you most want to spend time with, look for ways to be together and reach out to them to see if that works for them as well. Find a balance with each person that works for both of you. Keep communication lines open so that issues are resolved as they come up and there is little opportunity for anger, resentment, blame or other destructive emotions to poison the relationship. In other words, just like in your home, take the garbage out on a regular basis.

Resources:

Book: “How to have that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend

Visual and Tape: “The communication map” by David Steele http://www.relationshipcoachinginstitute.com/resources.htm – then go to “Other Products”

Online: http://www.Meetup.com to find a group of like-minded people or start your own group. Almost any topic you can imagine.

Contact me:

If you would like to know about what energy you bring to your relationships and how to bring more positive energy into your life, call me to schedule an Energy Assessment and coaching. Live the life you choose. Be happy. Call Edith at 847.913.3900.

Are You in Control of Your Own Life or a Victim of Circumstances? You Can Change All That.

Are You in Control of Your Own Life or a Victim of Circumstances? You Can Change All That.

Many of us have “Good Days” and “Bad Days” and most of it is out of our control. Or is it?

Sometimes we get out of bed and something bad happens right away and we might say, “It’s gonna be a bad day.” The day has barely started and we have already written it off as hopeless.

On the other hand, after many days of rain, the sun is finally shining and we feel re-energized and ready to tackle anything.

How often do you feel like you are in charge of your own life and how often do you feel like a victim of circumstances? Did you know that you can change that? Did you know that your percentages can be measured with an Energy Assessment and the results also give you information on where your life view is preventing you from living the life you deserve?

Story: How is your energy?

Several years ago I found out about an assessment tool, which I now offer to my clients: the Energy Assessment. Here is my personal experience with it. The tool measures what percentage of our lives we live “below the line” in emotions of victimhood and anger, and how much time we spend “above the line” feeling in charge of our lives. Because I was so impressed with the results I decided to train to administer the assessment.

So, only a few months later, as part of the training, I took the assessment again. In the meanwhile, an event that was traumatic to me happened in my life. I was surprised that there was a noticeable change on the assessment. It certainly reflected the way I was feeling then. When I questioned the instructor, the creator of the assessment, he was only surprised that the event didn’t affect me even more profoundly. So I know first hand, that outside influences can change the way we view ourselves within the world and that the impact of a major event can be measured. Even more importantly, we can positively affect how we respond to life’s rollercoaster ride. We can change our energy and our worldview, so that the “downs” don’t get us down for as long and we can be “up” more of the time. Wouldn’t you like to be up more of the time? It is possible, despite whatever life dishes out for you.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

Knowing where you are now is always the first step to getting where you want to go. Knowing where you want to go from here is usually the second step. Reducing how often and for how long you feel like a victim, respond in anger, harbor resentments or similar emotions, will free you up to enjoy life more and take constructive actions on your behalf.

Make a list of where in your life you feel hurt, not in control, angry or resentful. Can you see patterns that repeat? Once you see a repeating pattern you have identified something in your life that doesn’t work for you. Think back of the last time a situation like that happened. What happened first? What happened before that? Oftentimes we can understand a situation better if we back up to what happened just before. That may be where we get the early warning sign that we are about to enter into a painful pattern.

Once you know the early warning sign, you can make some decisions. Next time that happens what will you do differently? It isn’t so important what you do, as long as you are willing to try something different until you find a new pattern that works better for you.

Example: You may be able to tell by the way your spouse enters the house after a day at work, whether they had a good day or a bad day, whether you can have a difficult conversation, whether they need your support or whether you need to stay clear of him or her.

Taking it Farther:

When you start on the path of changing the things that aren’t working for you in a relationship, it can get unstable for a time. We are creatures of habit and change is unsettling for most people. If your relationship (whether with spouse, kids, friends, or coworkers) is generally sound, you may be able to have a conversation about the patterns that don’t work for you and jointly come to a better way of interacting. Sometimes the other person truly doesn’t realize how painful a situation is for you. Then you have the opportunity to create a more loving relationship. On the other hand, if open communication is not possible, then all you can do is change your part of a situation. I guarantee that it’ll change things, but not necessarily for the better. Try different things. If the other person redoubles their efforts to maintain the status quo, you may eventually be faced with a choice: learn to accept them the way they are and heal as best as you can so you no longer hurt as much, or sever or minimize the relationship. Realize of course, that if it is you that needs to change, you will attract other people who will treat you badly until you change and heal. Once you heal, it is amazing how you attract more people who are nice and loving. From my experience, it is so worth the journey. Life definitely gets much easier and “in the flow” more often.

Contact me:

If you would like to know your current energy scores of how much negativity you have in your life and how to bring in more positives, call me to schedule an Energy Assessment. Start having the life you choose. Call Edith at 847.913.3900.

Relationship 202

Relationship 202

There are a million books out there on relationships – every conceivable kind of relationship. Many were probably written by authors about what they think should work. Some books are written by professionals based on the stories from their clients. Fewer still, like Dr John Gottman’s Love Lab, are based on scientific research.

On top of that, everyone has an opinion on what you should do to fix your relationship problems.

So what do you do and where do you turn?

In my experience, the people who have been where you are now and have found what worked for them and what didn’t, often have the most useful suggestions. Experts working in the field have seen a lot and may have lots of ideas to try. They also have insights, which can help you see your contribution to an issue.

Take something that you feel you can try, and with discernment and trial and error, take those suggestions that you find most useful and apply them to your situation. Chances are good that you will mess with the status quo. Something will shift in your relationship – better, worse or just different. Learn from the experience and make adjustments from that new relationship dynamic. Keep trying things until it is clear that the relationship is improving, is not likely to change, or it shouldn’t be continued.

An Inquiry: How was Mother’s Day for you?

Our first relationship is with our mothers. As humans we spend 9 months attached to her and then are traumatically expelled at birth. We know that the mother’s emotions during pregnancy affect us: are you wanted and lovingly conceived or are you the result of a less than loving union? Were you welcomed into this world and cared for, or were your needs not adequately met?

A very young child has a survival instinct. It takes its cues from the world around it. Being self centered the child assumes everything must be its fault. So very quickly it develops a view of the world that helps it survive the dependent years. If you are reading this – you are a survivor! Congratulations!

Now that you are no longer dependent in the same way you were as a small child, the rules have changed, but may be your beliefs about the world haven’t.

Example: As a small child you probably heard, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Well, if that still applied, you couldn’t survive as an adult: couldn’t hold a job, go to the grocery store, go to the bank or get your hair cut. We are surrounded by strangers. What we need instead is a way to discern who to trust with what: don’t trust your banker to give you a good hair cut; don’t trust the panhandler to choose your investment portfolio for you.

Do you trust that your mother loves you? Either she is capable of loving or not. Either she expresses it in a way you find loving or not. The book “Safe People” by Dr. Henry Cloud teaches us to see how our actions are sometimes safe and sometimes not safe for others – and what to do about it. He encourages us to find relationships that are good for us and do our best to make our existing relationships better. There is lots of useful advice in the book.

In the book “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, Randy tells his daughter some useful advice that may apply here. He tells her that when she is dating a guy, carefully observe his actions and his words. If there is a difference, always trust the actions – not the words. But I would take it a step further. Communicate. Ask: “you told me this but I observed that your actions seem to be saying something else”. Give him a chance to explain and tell you the truth, so that the words and the actions match. It is possible he wasn’t aware or you didn’t understand because of your different understanding about the world.

So, if your mother treats you differently than you think she should, watch her actions and her words, try to be open-minded and ask why she does what she does, and ask for changes you can both live with. Be willing to change as well. Above all, communicate, communicate, communicate.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

Take time to reflect on your primary relationships or a relationship you most want to heal. Often we treat those we love most, the worst. They don’t deserve that from you and you don’t deserve that from them. Consider learning the skills to talk about those things that make your relationship less than what it could be. What’s it worth to you to have truly loving relationships in your life? How would life be different if you felt loving and loved, and truly appreciate others and are appreciated by them?

Barbara Brennan, author of “Hands of Light” said during a workshop I attended that healing the relationship with your mother is one of the foundation pieces to healing your life. Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life” devotes a chapter to how she not only healed herself from cancer but also healed the relationship with her mother.

Taking it Farther:

If you really want to change your life for the better, learn how to be a non-blaming communicator and a non-defensive, curious listener. Have boundaries for those who violate your desire for healthy relationships. These skills are not easy to learn. They take know-how, courage, time, and practice. It is best to practice first with people who already have these skills, who are understanding and non-judgmental while you find your way. Over time, the results will amaze you. Know that you deserve to have healthy loving relationships in your life.

Contact me:

Want more help? I’m here for you. Tired of flunking Relationship 101? Get tutored! Call to get coached and learn in a non-judgmental setting how to create healthy relationships. We’ll go at a pace that is right for you. Call Edith at 847.913.3900

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