Unspoken Expectations Are The Seeds Of Resentment

With the COVID-19 our lives and daily routines have radically changed. If you are at home with a spouse, partner, family members or friend then it can be a time of tension and frustration if you lack communication. The title of this newsletter, Unspoken Expectations Are The Seeds Of Resentment, is a reminder to speak to your loved one about your expectations, your thoughts, your fears and your needs before you become resentful, angry or frustrated. 

We have experienced a lot of loss in this time, loss of finances, loss of our freedom, loss of community and the loss of feeling safe. How are each of us to manage this? Do not try to handle it on your own without talking to those in your home. We need to manage our day in a way that can bring back a feeling of control and security. We each have our own ideas of how to do this.

Unspoken expectations can be the silent killer of your relationship and your ability to cope with the changes. Do yourself and your loved one a favor: be honest about your expectations and ask yourself if they are realistic.

There is a difference between realistic and unrealistic expectations and the unrealistic expectations, even when spoken will still result in frustrations because they are unlikely to be fulfilled. 

Unrealistic expectations are;

  • Believing that an unverbalized expectation will bring you what you want, this is just  wishful thinking and making a false assumption. 
  • Expecting others to do what is in your interest, but not their interest, is unrealistic. We need to consider our partner. This is not a one sided discussion. After listening to each other you can work out a plan that is acceptable to each person.

How to discuss realistic expectations;
Don’t assume that your expectations are clear. Your partner can not read your mind. so you need to spell it out.

  1. Clearly state, discuss and agree upon the expectations. This involves actively listening and considering each others concerns without judgement. Then collaborating together to establish a plan. 
  2. Adhere to the expectations. There is no benefit if you make an agreement and then do not follow through. This again would result in frustrations. Your plan may need to be altered. For example, you may have decided that the family should all get up at 7:00 AM but after some time you realize this not realistic for your family so you renegotiate the terms of what is expected. That is OK as long as each of you is in agreement. This is all new territory for us so there will need to be modifications to our initial expectations. 
  3. Expecting life to always turn out as planned is guaranteed to lead to disappointment because as we can see today, life does not go as planned. None of us could have foreseen this shelter-in-place scenario or COVID-19 danger. So the disappointment and emotions you feel are understandable. Please continue to share with your love ones those emotions and support each other and working together. 

If you need extra support we at Save My Family Today are available to meet with you via Zoom, an online conferencing website, to give guidance, support and knowledge of how to navigate this uncertain time. It is imperative that you stay not only physically healthy but emotionally and relationally healthy as well. Give us a call at 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

How To Manage Shelter In Place With Those You Love?

Now is a time of extreme stress on many families and relationships. The COVID-19 shelter-in-place order has triggered a lot of fears and anxiety in each of us. If you are at home with your family, a friend or spouse then the tension between each of you may be high and that is what I want to address. 

Here are some reasons for the anxiety you or your family member may be experiencing.

  1. The life as we had been living it has changed and many of us do not do well with change. 
  2. There is uncertainty in the future and this uncertainty makes us nervous.
  3. There are financial concerns, will I loose my job or be furloughed or my pay be cut? How will we manage? 
  4. Will I or my loved one get the virus? Will they get sick and I won’t be able to help?
  5. Will I be left alone if I get sick, will it be painful and will the doctors be able to help me?

This list of concerns only touches on many of our deepest fears and we all respond to these triggers differently. On top of all that, you are now living in close quarters with other family members, trying to manage children or learn how to do your job remotely, this is a situation that can get ugly unless we make a conscious effort to manage it in a healthy way. 

We have been told to eat good food, exercise and isolate ourselves and all of these things are good practices and needed but I want to talk about how to communicate your anxiety and how to listen to the others in our home so that the tension will minimize. 

Here are some suggestions for your relationships.

  1. Be patient with each other. This is not a time to push each other to do something that is uncomfortable. Some of us might want to keep busy, others might want to be left alone, some might want to talk about their feeling and we each need support.
  2. Remember that this is not his problem or her problem, it is a problem you both need to share and find a solution that works for each of you. You are a team and need to work together. 
  3. Listen without judgement, do not shame your partner for feeling like they do, do not tell them to get over it or minimize their fears by saying “we will be fine, don’t worry” They want to feel heard and supported. 
  4. After listening, then show understanding. Acknowledge their fears, show that you understand them. Validate how they feel and let them know that their feelings are important.
  5. Ask how you can help and work together to find a strategy that will bring some relief. This might be a new routine, a time to share with each other and just verbally process feelings together, or it could be giving your partner some space. This will be individual to each of you. 

We all can acknowledge the severity of this situation and the extreme challenges that it brings. 

If you need extra support we at Save My Family Today are available to meet with you via Zoom, an online conferencing website, to give guidance, support and knowledge of how to navigate this uncertain time. It is imperative that you stay not only physically healthy but emotionally and relationally healthy as well. Give us a call at 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

How to Heal Shame

Shame is a powerful emotion. When you think back to the shaming experiences of your childhood it is likely that you are catapulted right back to those painful moments—almost as if you were experiencing them today. Shame is a feeling deep within us of being exposed and unworthy. When we feel shamed we want to hide. We hang our heads, stoop our shoulders and curve inward as if trying to make ourselves invisible.

Shame is the most destructive of human emotions. It can damage a person’s image of themselves in ways that no other emotion can, causing a person to feel deeply flawed, inferior, worthless and unlovable. If someone experiences enough shame he or she can become self-loathing to the point that he or she becomes self-destructive or even suicidal.

Fortunately, there may be a way of healing even our most painful shaming experiences. The answer—compassion. Compassion is the antidote to shame.

Compassion comes from the Latin roots com (with) and pati (suffer), or to “suffer with.” When we offer genuine compassion, we join a person in his or her suffering. Self-compassion then, begins with connecting with one’s own suffering. Unfortunately, most of us don’t want to do this. We want to forget about our past suffering and put it behind us. By doing so, however, we don’t heal the emotions that accompany the suffering—the pain, fear, anger, and especially, the shame. The same holds true for painful and shaming experiences in the present. Instead of stopping to acknowledge our suffering in the moment, we try to move past it as soon as possible.

Self-compassion encourages us to begin to treat ourselves and talk to ourselves with the same kindness, caring and compassion we would show a good friend or a beloved child. In addition, it helps us to feel less isolated and alienated from others. The more shame we feel, the more deficient we feel and in turn, the more separate we feel from others. But self-compassion helps us to recognize our common humanity—the fact that we have all done things that we feel ashamed about and that we all experience the same pain in difficult times.

I know… easier said than done.  But try these some of these things and notice the unbearable burden of shame slowly begin to lift:
– surround yourself with people who are willing to “suffer  
  with” you as you face your shame
– replace self-criticism with self-kindness
– speak aloud words that affirm your qualities and strengths.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Escape The Routine And Add Some Play Into Your Relationship

We all know the feeling of being in a rut in your relationship with your partner. All your time is consumed with going to work, taking care of family and maintaining the household. But if you can’t remember the last time you felt excited or curious with your partner about something that is going to happen then you need to add some play and adventure into your life. 

  • When was the last time you felt excited and shared that with your partner?
  • When was the last time you did something new together?

Play and adventure are critical to the success of your relationship yet it is usually at the bottom of our to-do list. When we experience something new and exciting it brings a pleasurable rush to the relationship and creates trust, intimacy and a deeper connection. 

A couple that tries something new together can bring a new interest to the relationship. Now you and your partner may have very different ideas of what is fun to do. One of you may be extremely daring and want to go river rafting or dirt bike riding when the other would prefer a cooking class or a nature walk. 

 According to Dr. John Gottman “It’s okay if you and your partner have different ideas about what constitutes play and adventure.The key is for you to respect each other’s sense of adventure and what it means to that partner”

There may be times when you experience the play separately and other times when it is something you choose to do together. If it is separate than it is wise to still make time to talk to your partner and let them share about their play, support them and encourage them because the joy that they get from that experience and knowing that you are encouraging them will create a trust and deeper connection.

It is important to also find a place where your different styles of play can connect. An activity that is new, challenging, fun and safe for both of you. The experience doesn’t have to be extreme, it simply has to be new and different, anything that pushes you outside the normal and stimulates you in a new way. There is something about facing the new challenge together, supporting each other, sharing a new experience and connecting in a new way. It could be trying a new restaurant, traveling to a new place, playing a board game or making new friends. Newness is the key, shake up the everyday with something new. We all need a spice of humor, laughter, fun and even silliness in our everyday life. 

Don’t allow your life to fall into a stagnant routine. We all need something to look forward to and to take our mind off the everyday responsibilities. I challenge you to be creative and make play a priority for the two of you. You will find it is worth it.

Written by Lisa Strong

5 Deadly Sins of Body Language

When the silent movies came out during the early part of the 19th century, actors conveyed love, anger, sadness and respect through body language. We do the same in our everyday life. There is aggressive body language, uninterested body language, closed body language and annoyed body language that can encapsulate other poor behaviors. Since communication is 50 percent nonverbal, we might want to be more cognizant of the use of body language to prevent friction. Here are 5 deadly sins of negative body language. 

Crossed Arms
The crossed arms across the chest are standard worldwide as being defensive. You are simply blocking out others and what they have to say. This is the opposite of what you want to do.  Until you unfold your arms or get the other person to unfold theirs, no one is listening. This invisible barrier is your signal to change the direction of the conversation as you will get nowhere. If you are notorious for crossing your arms, let your arms fall to the sides. This will feel uncomfortable but so what. And with some practice, you will master it. 

Avoiding Eye Contact
When someone avoids eye contact, it could mean that they fear rejection, are ashamed or they are hiding something. If someone is blinking more than normal, they could be apprehensive about something that they want to talk about. As difficult and awkward as it may feel, use direct eye contact.  This builds trust and shows true engagement in the conversation.

Finger Pointing and Arms Waving
You know when you’re enjoying a nice time with someone then one comment is made and boom…unsettling voices start to rise and it escalates to another level with finger wagging, finger pointing and a scowl. If there is lot of movement like a sweeping motion with the arms, it is clear that the person is being aggressive is more than just a little upset. It’s important to remain calm because if you feed into this anger, it will only become worse. Use empathy, as this can deescalate most heated conversations.  Always respect personal space and if needed take a time out.

Looking at Your Phone
This has to be the most aggravating thing on the planet when you are in a conversation. I’ve been known to just stop talking until the person puts the phone away. When we are having a conversation and the other person is looking at their phone it is dismissive and aggravating–all in one. “Tinkering with a mobile phone – however innocent your intention – whilst someone else is speaking gives the impression that you are both rude and disinterested,” reported Maguire Training. If you are engaged in a discussion or spending time with someone, please for the love of Pete–keep your phone out of reach. If you do, understand that you are conveying that you don’t care.

Resting Your Head
I’m guilty! If the person you are talking to is resting their head in their hands, it is a sign that they are bored, not interested or too tired to have the conversation. They want to be somewhere else and they are not engaged with you at the moment. This is always a bad sign since we all want to be paid attention to. I’m often tired so I often rest my head.  I’ve been made aware this makes other feel dismissed.  Be intentional about keeping your head up and eyes focused.

There are so many other examples of negative body language… snickering, eye rolling, walking away, and so on.  Body language is an interesting subject and a good way to gauge where people’s heads and hearts are. We all play a part in negative body language. However, it is up to us to counter these actions with positive forms of communication to prevent angst in our relationships.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Understanding Feelings of Guilt, Shame and Regret

We all make mistakes and no one is perfect but when something goes wrong, someone gets hurt or there is a missed opportunity and things don’t go as planned than how do you feel about that and how do you react? Do you feel guilt, shame or regret? These three terms can be confusing. Identifying how we feel and how we choose to move forward is important. Let’s look at the definitions;

Guilt is feeling bad about something you have done, a sense of legitimate condemnation in response to your own behavior. When you hurt someone else then guilt is a natural result. This feeling of guilt can be so uncomfortable that it motivates you to make things right if you can. To try to correct the hurt that you caused. You might apologize or accept responsibility. This is a healthy response to your guilt. A negative response to guilt would be to think about the action over and over, repeating it in your head and feeling worse each time. There is no correction only self condemnation. 

Shame is something different. It has more to do with how you see yourself, how you view your character.  It is less about the behavior. You have a negative evaluation of yourself, you may feel inadequate, flawed in some way or undeserving and this can result in depression and anxiety. You may withdraw from others or punish yourself in someway. This can lead to many harmful behaviors including feeling so bad about who you are that you no longer want to live. This feeling of shame often comes from a childhood where you were either outright told that you were bad and unworthy or you were made to feel this way by how you were treated.

The last term that is often confusing is regret. Regret means feeling bad about something that has happened but there is no moral judgement of right or wrong. Something happened and we just wish it had gone another way. We say “if only…”. We can look at what happened and learn from it and try to correct the outcome so it won’t happen in the future. Therefore, regret can again motivate us to learn from our behavior and make better choices in the future. 

Identifying what you are feeling is the first step. There is no reason to say you feel guilt when you haven’t done anything wrong. You may really be feeling sad or frustrated. Don’t give into feelings of shame when they are caused by your own false beliefs. Instead, choose compassion towards yourself and others. And there is no benefit in obsessively feeling regret when we can’t change the past. We can only choose to move forward with healthy behaviors. 

Understanding what you are feeling and why will help you change and choose behaviors that benefit you and your relationships. Don’t allow these feeling to block you from moving forward and growing in understanding.

Written by Lisa Strong

What is Compassion and Why You Need to Know

I read the newspaper.  Yes, the black and white printed paper that gets delivered to my door.  In every single issue, without fail, there are articles about crime, violence, hate speech, blame, conspiracies, and division.  And almost every morning I find myself wondering if it will ever be possible for us to relate to each other with compassion instead of blame and vengeance.  Then I wonder “what is compassion, exactly?”  So I did some reading.  

By definition, compassion is the sympathetic awareness of others’ distress, coupled with a desire to alleviate suffering. It’s empathy plus prosocial action to improve the condition of others. To be compassionate requires attention, insight, and engagement, says Joan Halifax, Ph.D., a Zen Buddhist nun and researcher. Interestingly, while the practice of compassion is inherently about helping others, emerging science shows that it can also help improve the physical health and psychological well-being of the person doing good.

In my line of work I hear about bullying, depression, anxiety, stress and health challenges starting in grade school.  Parents blame other parents and teachers.  Students blame their peers.  Families are riddled with strife and power struggles.  It’s quite overwhelming and sickening to me if I let it be. That’s when my roaming thoughts come back to compassion.  Let me be clear here… compassion does not excuse bad behavior.  But it does bring a new dynamic to the equation.  A dynamic of trying to understand and doing something to help the person who is hurting and acting out.  Instead of yelling at our kids let’s work to connect with their emotions and discover how we can help them and encourage them.  Instead of blaming your spouse, focus on what is troubling them and join forces to problem solve.  Compassion.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith

Holiday Stress Can Be Challenging To Any Relationship?

I wrote a very similar article last year at this time but I think we can all benefit from a reminder of how to deal with the challenges during this time of year. Is the holiday stress starting to crowd in on you and your spouse? This time of the year does bring some unique challenges. So what is so different about this month of December? Here are a few possibilities of what might be causing stress in your home.

  • Money, you are not in agreement over how much should be spent on the holiday.
  • There are still the usual demands at work but now your schedule is extra busy with holiday festivities at school, church or with friends and family. Shopping takes time too. How do you fit it all in?
  • Pressure from family and friends. How can we make everyone happy including the in-laws, extended family, grandparents, kids and friends. Who do we celebrate with?
  • Different expectations, each of you were raised with unique holiday traditions. What do you do now?

When you see your partner starting to stress out, what can you do? Well being quick to give advice is not the answer. According to Dr. Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, 

       “The cardinal rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice. You have to let your partner know that you fully understand and empathize with the dilemma before you suggest a solution,”

Usually the responsibility of juggling gift giving and parties falls on the wife. I know this is a stereotype but let’s just go with it for discussion sake. If the husband starts with the advice then it can put the wife on the defense. She needs to know that he understands her view before he can tell her what to do. This means being supportive. Give statements that show you get it.

Wives are not the only ones under stress, each of you need to be open to the other when they want to share what is stressing them out. If you see signs of your partners’ stress then come along side them, show support instead of judgement and let them know that you are a team together. The feeling of being alone in the stress is often what makes it worse. 

Also you may need to discuss holiday expectations. Each of you should think about what is important to you. You can write down a few things that are at the top of your list for the holiday season. I don’t mean gifts but instead talk about what makes the holiday special to you? Do you like to go as a family and pick out a live tree? Do you remember baking cookies or having a special meal? Do you have a family movie night or give gifts to children in need? Once you both share your ideas then work together to decide which you can make happen. 

I want you to have the best holiday possible so make your relationship the priority and care for each other. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need support or have questions for us!  We are always here to help. Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Strong

Healing From Betrayal In Your Relationship

When you can no longer count on your partner, a promise is broken or an expectation is not met then you may feel betrayed. When we are in a relationship we all have expectations. There are too many varied expectations to list but just think about what your expectations are in your own relationship. It may be for your partner to provide financially, to listen to your concerns, to show compassion and understanding, to be a support or to share activities with and to remain faithful.

When a relationship is healthy each partner feels that their needs are being met and their expectations are fulfilled. We trust our partner to meet these needs and expectations. Some of our needs could be time with a spouse, the need for validation and understanding or a partner who regularly gives affection or appreciation. Each of us have different needs and as our needs are being met we become more and more connected to that person. 

Each of you have a responsibility to stay tuned-in to your partner and to communicate openly when you feel things are slipping or you are disconnecting.

Over time things change and we must stay tuned-in to our partner. If this is not happening then the relationship begins to break down. Our attention and focus can begin to change and then your partner can move from a place of trust to a place of betrayal. For example if you become too busy that you have no more time to sit and listen, or you are struggling at work and your partner no longer shows you the admiration and support that you need, these types of experiences may leave you feeling betrayed. This is not what you expected and now you are frustrated and disconnected from your partner. It may get to the point where you turn to someone else to meet your needs. 

If you have allowed this slow erosion to break down the connection with your partner then it will take work to get back on track. The healing of the relationship will become the focus. It does take work to move past the pain of a betrayal and it is not easy but here are some basic suggestions that can refocus your attention back onto the relationship so that the erosion does not cause a permanent separation.

  1. You need to be committed to the process of healing. Looking at each persons behavior with honesty and a willingness to change. 
  2. Learn to share what you need and listen well. One of the things that may have gotten you to this point is the lack of honest, supportive communication. There were signs of the erosion in the relationship and either one person did not share what they needed or the other person did not listen well. 
  3. Re-establishing trust by showing that you are someone who can be counted on. When you were dating you were there to meet your partners needs for support, encouragement, understanding and affection. Your partner wants to be able to count on you to meet their needs and keep your word.
  4. Your partner is human and life can be very demanding. I am not excusing bad behavior but I know that focusing on who is to blame will not move you forward and doing so can be toxic to the relationship.

If you are struggling to regain the trust and connection in your relationship I encourage you to not loose hope. Relationships take work and continual fine tuning but a healthy relationship can bring you great joy. If you need further help then give me a call at 562-260-4796 and I can help you reconnect and enjoy each other again.

Written by Lisa Strong

Kids to College: Survival Guide for Parents

Parenthood has two big transitions, when your children arrive and when they leave.  Both can be terrifying.  And after saying goodbye to your college student on move-in day, one of the hardest things to come to grips with at home is the sudden lack of information. You’re excluded from your student’s experience in a new way, and no one can invite you in except your student — and that’s only if they want to. That doesn’t mean you disappear from their lives.  But it does mean you play a different role.  You’re going from manager to consultant and supporter.

Here are some things parents and other professionals suggest to make the transition better and healthier for everyone.  The following tips have been collected from several articles and books that are proven to be effective and trustworthy.  Give these ideas a try.  

Give them space. College students need a grace period to meet people, get involved in campus life and focus on their new environment without constant reminders of home. No matter how eager they are for college, it’s not easy to get used to new surroundings and sleeping in a new bed. This is hard for some, extremely hard for others and super easy for a few.  Give them the space to figure it out. That doesn’t mean you don’t have conversations, but follow their lead. One of your kids may text constantly, while the other might not touch base for weeks on end.  

Be prepared to listen then let go. Often kids call or text when they’re feeling low, and trust me, you’ll hear about the roommate drama, the rotten exam or the malfunctioning laundry machines. But once kids have unloaded, they move on, leaving you to worry into the night about a problem that likely doesn’t exist for them the next day. Or if it does, it’s their issue to solve. Try not to let their download ruin your day. It’s probably not ruining theirs.

Offer guidance, not a quick fix. If your child is struggling with a normal issue, such as not finding people they like, hear them out (see above), because a sympathetic ear is helpful. But don’t leap to offer a fix, such as contacting a resident adviser on their behalf. We want our kids to become competent and independent, and they need to develop problem-solving skills. They also won’t learn to get comfortable with discomfort and build resilience if we handle things for them.

Point them to resources. When your student complains about homework or a dorm challenge, ask them about resources on campus, and nudge them to pursue those avenues. You should no longer be their one stop shop when it comes to solutions.  They need to seek out other avenues.  Colleges have staff ready to help students. Resist the urge to micromanage. If students don’t know where to start, suggest they check with their resident adviser. Resources include the tutoring center, academic advising, career services center, student health clinic, financial aid office, multicultural center, first-generation center and more. Engaging with other students and professional staff is the best way to adjust. Keep pointing them back to campus.

Ordering groceries for them? Stop. You’re paying for a meal plan, after all. And no, your student doesn’t need a laundry service. Campuses provide washing machines. Students need to develop life skills, and now’s the time to start. Their roommates and future partner will appreciate your not making life too easy for them. Hold back on all the extras.

Know when to get involved. You know your child best, and no one is paying attention like you are. If you suspect a mental-health condition is sending your student into a tailspin, or if they’re experiencing a recurring illness or unfamiliar allergy that doesn’t sound normal, it’s okay to ask questions and follow up. When a health or safety issue isn’t being addressed in a timely way, a phone call from a parent can make a difference.

I understand that this sounds simple but it’s not easy.  I am always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  

Written by Lisa Smith