Relationship Teamwork for 2021

We have finally come to the end of 2020 and are now facing a new year, 2021, and we all hope for a better year. I realize that we each have had different experiences in 2020. Some of us have struggled with unemployment or business losses and these are serious concerns. But I can not help with finding employment or helping to manage your business or finances.  What I can speak to though are relationships and you may be experiencing some stress and tension with your partner. That tense relationship needs to change because being in a healthy supportive relationship can help carry you through some of these other trials.

How can you create that healthy supportive relationship? It is important to communicate in a way that is honest, respectful, and open to input. It is working as a team. It may be helpful to sit down with your partner and reflect of the state of your relationship. What has been working for you and bringing you satisfaction and what had been frustrating or challenging to you. It is best to not point fingers at each other and complain but to make suggestions of what you can do differently to improve the relationship for both of you. When you do this it feels more hopeful and positive. Also it feels like you are working as a team instead of being on opposite sides. If you say things like “ It might be helpful if we…. what do you think?” or “Maybe we could…. what are your thoughts?” In this way you are making suggestions that are specific but also asking for your partners input so it doesn’t sound bossy. 

When you explain your concerns it is also helpful to say how the current situations makes you feel. Here is an example of how you might bring up a concern without blaming or shaming your partner. You might say, “I noticed that after dinner you go into the other room and work until bedtime, I realize you’re under a lot of pressure at work but I miss our time together. How about if we set aside two nights a week to spend some time together? Would that work for you?” In this example you point out your concern and how you feel, you show understanding of your partner and make a positive suggestion and then ask for their input. 

What you avoid is criticism, sarcasm, comparison to others, complaining with no solution and shaming your partner for their behavior. You are open with your feelings without making your partner feel like they have to come up with a way to fix your problem. You are not making your partner out to be the bad guy but instead you are addressing your concern with a team mentality, choosing to work on the solution together. 

I hope you can make time to check in with each other each day and work together to make the new year one where you can lean on each other for support during any tough and stressful times. I hope you can be your best for each other. 

If you need any help, just call me at 562-260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong

Re-assessing Life’s Choices in 2020

What a year, many of you are spending a lot of time with your partner, as well as handling external pressures such as money concerns, possible job loss, maybe parenting stress and of course the fear of catching the virus. How are you holding up?

With the end of the year in sight some of us might reflect on what this year has meant to themselves and to their relationship. Some of you are re-assessing what is important and learning more about how you as a couple handle challenges.

When I say that some of you are re-assessing what is important, I mean you are questioning how things were done before and what is important to you now. Asking questions like… 

  • Why was I willing to spend so much time driving to work? 
  • Why do we live where we do?
  • Why do I spend so much money on things and clothes? 
  • What do I really get my enjoyment from? 
  • Who is important to me? 
  • How do I want to spend my time?

That is a lot to think about and without life’s usual distractions and hurried schedule many of you are taking the time to think about these things. When you do ponder these questions you may find that you and your partner do not always come to the same conclusions. I suggest that you continue to discuss your new ideas but be slow to make any big changes. 

Each of you in the relationship are processing these challenges differently and may be answering questions differently. This time of Covid is so unusual. Life is very different than anything we expected and when our expectations do not come to fruition this can bring challenges to any relationship. 

I suggest that you make time to listen to each other. Remember that your views are evolving so don’t get to adamant about anything but stay curious and open. Like I said don’t make any life changing decisions if you can avoid them. Your outlook may change in 6 months. 

Continue to ask questions and try to listen without judgement and fear of the unknown. There is always new things to learn about your partner, their ideas, their concerns and fears. It may expose some things that are positive and some negative but we are always learning and this can better our relationship. Remember to be patient with each other, walk lightly and be forgiving. 

This period of history is different than any we have seen in our lives. I ask that you remember the things you love about each other and look to support each other through this time. It can be scary, challenging and frustrating but having a partner to go through this with can bring support and encouragement. I hope you can be your best for each other. 

If you need any help, just call me at 562-260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong

4 Errors That Derail Communication

When we communicate with our partner we often jump ahead to the solution that we think is best instead of slowing the conversation down in order to gain the information needed to get to a solution that will be pleasing to each of you. Here is a list of 4 errors that can cause havoc in a relationship when trying to solve a problem with our partner. 

Error #1; We jump to a solution before really gaining all the information. For example, your partner starts to tell you their thoughts about something that is bothering them and we make assumptions of the meaning of what they are saying and what their intentions are. This is the time to be curious, asking questions to gain clarity and to try to see it from their perspective. The goal is to gain understanding. Your partner will not listen to your input unless they first feel like you understand their perspective, 

Error #2;  We sometimes react emotionally instead of showing empathy. This is the time to ask about their feelings and try to put yourself in their shoes. This is another way to show understanding but on an emotional level. Again being curious but not interrogating them with cold questions. You could ask “How did that feel when that happened to you?” and then validate their emotions by saying “That must have been sad for you, or frustrating” This does not mean that you agree with everything they say but only that you are trying to understand. If you find that your own emotions are being triggered then be honest about that too. When you each can feel safe sharing your feelings then you can make progress. You might have to take a timeout to regain your emotional balance.

Error #3;  We sometimes throw a solution at our partner which may not be what they need at all. Instead ask your partner how you can help, don’t assume what is needed. They may just want to vent their feeling to you and not really need anything done. You won’t know exactly how you can help unless you ask. 

Error #4;  Forcing the solution that you think is best onto your partner without considering them. This is not going to work. It would be better if we do something that Dr. Gottman calls “yield to win”

Yielding to win means accepting, understanding, and allowing your partner’s perspective, feelings, and needs into your decision-making process as a couple. It means really listening to your partner and forming compromises so that you both feel satisfied.”

If one of you is not happy with the solution but still goes along with it they will become resentful and frustrated. It is best to suggest a solution and then ask “How would that work for you?”. This shows that you are considering your partners viewpoint and honoring and respecting them in the decision making process. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions! Give me a call at (562) 260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong

Send The Message, “You Matter To Me”.

Small repetitive rituals can connect us to our partner in a positive way. They can show our partner “You matter to me”. We want to continue to send that message and not fall into the trap of assuming that our partner already knows this or thinking “I am too busy, it’s not important.”

The times of meeting and separation are key attachment moments. When you meet in the kitchen in the morning or when you enter a room after a period of time away do you let your partner know that you are happy to see them. You can give a kiss, ask “How are you doing?”, give a pat on the backside or say “Good morning Sunshine”. These small gestures send a loving message. 
                                  
Other ways to send this message could be leaving a short note in their lunch or on their desk. Calling during the day to check in or sending a loving text message letting them know you are thinking of them. Even if you tend to get distracted during the day you could put a reminder on your phone to help you remember.

Creating a time when you and your partner can share your thoughts and connect without problem solving is another way to tell your partner that you care about their ideas and concerns. Some couples do this at the end of the week, others might do it at the end or beginning of each day. This allows the relationship to stay connected. It requires active listening skills, being non-distracted and non-judgmental. It shows that you are interested in your partners struggles and victories and you are able and willing to validate them often. This validation of their effort or successes will be encouraging.

Rituals can also be called family traditions such as how you recognize birthdays and holidays. Some couples might be tempted to play down these events and see them as less important but to some people these moments are a symbol of the fact that they are important and provide a sense of security. 

All of these actions take an effort and a conscious decision, it may require changes in your day. In order to make time for this you may have to give up something else but I know that it will put deposits in your relationship account and this will pay dividends to you. When your partner feels supported and loved and knows that they matter to you then they can become more positive themselves, less defensive and the home environment will be less tense.  Another benefit is that these actions send a message that your relationship is a safe emotional place. This helps couples to feel like a team instead of advisories and supports problem solving together. 

I encourage you to think over your behavior and ask yourself “What are the behaviors I do to acknowledge our times of meeting and separation and what do I do to show my partner that they matter to me and that I am interested in their thoughts and concerns?” and “How do I let them know that they are more to me than a roommate or business partner?”.  Put in the effort, it’s worth it.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions! Give me a call at (562) 260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong

How to Survive in an Introvert-Extrovert Relationship.

Can two people who’s needs are very different survive and even thrive in a relationship? Introvert and Extrovert qualities are not about world views, goals or family history, it is not something that we choose but a quality we are born with. So in a relationship it is about what makes a person feel comfortable and satisfied. This is important to remember because you can’t convince an introvert through argument or persuasion that your way is better. Persuasion is not the point. The goal is to understand each other and discover together solutions that can work for each of you.

So I think the first step is to listen well. To find out what each partner needs that will allow them to feel comfortable and not anxious. Not all introverts and extroverts are the same. There are varying degrees of what each person might need so if you can be curious about each other and not be judgmental then that opens the dialogue to gain understanding.

It is helpful to ask specific questions so you can understand what each of you wants. Does the introvert want to avoid all parties and gatherings or is it just very large parties? Is a small dinner party okay? Would they be fine if the extrovert went to the party without them? Does the extrovert want to meet with others after work or is it just on the weekends? Is it enough to just be around other people for example going to a museum or the zoo, or does the extrovert want to interact with others? Asking specifics helps to get clarity. 

Being respectful of each other and what they need is also important. One does not always have to give in to the other. One way is not better or more healthy than the other. No one has to give up their rights, what needs to happen is to find a solution that can be a win-win for both of you. 

Having these challenging conversations can feel awkward and one or both of you may want to avoid the topic but this is only going to lead to resentment and frustration. Avoiding a problem is not the answer so jump in and trust it will be worth it. The reason why many of us avoid talking about difficult topics is because in the past it has not gone well. So learning to listen, be respectful and showing care for the unique needs of each person will lead to a solution. 

If one or both of you continues to refuse to address this topic or is unable to discuss it without judgement, contempt, defensiveness or anger then the problem is not just that you have very different introvert-extrovert needs, it is a relationship issue. When your partner has a need and you can not address it without tension then there are probably other topics that are off limits or result in arguments. So learning to communicate with each other without this tension needs to be addressed. 

In a relationship with an introvert and an extrovert I believe with understanding and care that solutions to specific concerns can be resolved. Being different in this way is not a relationship deal breaker. It is simply a challenge that can be addressed and a solution can be worked out.

Be patient with each other, you are on the same team. If you are struggling, 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 Strong

Tips To Finding A Solution Without A Fight.

When couple face a disagreement all they can see are the two opposing choices. For example, Paul wants to spend money on a luxury vacation in Hawaii, for just he and Jena. She wants to go camping with the kids in the mountains and save the extra money for remodeling the bathroom. All they see is the differences and they make assumptions about the other’s intentions or reasoning. This leaves them stuck in conflict and anger and they are only looking at the tip of the iceberg. 

Both Paul and Jena have made judgements and assumptions about their partners intentions. These assumptions are created in their own heads and are probably false. They are based on little information and end up making the other person defensive. Because of these assumptions they listen selectively and only hear evidence that supports their belief.

In order to facilitate a shift we need to let go of our judgement and try to explore the other persons choice. At this step each person needs to listen with openness, to put aside judgement and their own interpretations and rebuttals. Not an easy thing to do. 

After gathering information about what each persons idea is truly about, then it is helpful to go deeper into the feelings behind their choice. This can be uncomfortable for some of us who want to jump to a solution, but unless your partner feels that their feelings are heard and understood they are not likely to listen to the solution. So at this point learning what feelings motivated their choice will move you forward. You may learn that what was assumed about the others needs and intentions was false and come to a better understanding of your partners underlying intentions and desires.

In understanding your partners true intentions and reasoning it is then helpful to empathize with them. This does not mean that you are in agreement with their choice but it does help you connect with them, see things from the other persons vantage point and feel what they feel. If you can share this new understanding with your partner you will be closer to finding a solution that brings you together. This also lowers defensiveness and allows each of you to open up to new ideas.

So now you have a better understanding of what is on the table. At this point it is not just a choice between the two original choices but it is time to brainstorm other solutions and ideas that may be a win-win solution for both of you. During brainstorming though each person needs to remain open and non-judgmental about the new ideas. Avoiding sabotaging new solutions, this is a time of creating ideas that are possibilities, not finding the solution yet. This is not a time to persuade each other to your side, it is a time to be creative and listen well to new possibilities. 

After many possibilities are on the table you are ready to pick a solution and one strategy to choosing which solution is best is to play the “Flash Forward Game” suggested by Shirzad Chamine author of Positive Intelligence. This requires each of you to think of your self at the end of __________. At the end of your life, at the end of the year, at the end of the kids’ time at home? Looking back, how do you wish you had conducted yourself? This helps narrow and prioritize your choices. 

This is not an easy process and it does take a great deal of self awareness and control. It is easy to fall into judgement, avoidance, defensiveness, anger or frustration. It helps to remind yourselves that if you work together you will be able to find a solutions that will please each of you. Be patient with each other, you are on the same team. If you are struggling, 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 Strong

The Deadliest Mindset of All and the Cure

It’s the worst disease a human being or an entire society can catch. It’s a disease that rips the soul out of a person yet leaves the heart still beating. It leaves people alive physically but broken mentally. It leaves weakness instead of strength. It leaves dependent individuals instead of independent ones. It results in playing a game of “pass the blame” when things don’t go as planned. It’s a disease I would not wish on anyone. It’s called “entitlement mentality.”

The online definition states, “An entitlement mentality is a state of mind in which an individual comes to believe that privileges are instead rights, and that they are to be expected as a matter of course.”

It just sucks the initiative, the self-determination and self-esteem right out of a person!  I have seen it in many of the thousands of families I have worked with.  And it just kills me!

A hardworking, self-made person pulls themselves up by the bootstraps. They work hard. They never give up. They fail many times before they succeed. They have a family. And, often driven by love, blinded by love, these parents desire to ensure that “my kids don’t go through what I had to go through.” They seek to shield their kids from the pains they had to endure. 

But what many parents fail to realize is that by depriving children of hardship, we deprive them of the very experiences and learnings that shaped the parents! If a child grows up getting everything they want, having every sharp corner in life covered by Mommy and Daddy, then suddenly this is how life really is in their belief system. A good life is no longer a privilege, but a God-given right. They shouldn’t have to work for it. Living in luxury is an expectation. And there is anger if one doesn’t get it, and get it easily.

So what is the vaccine for this deadly entitlement mindset? Adversity. Many people who suffer from entitlement simply don’t understand reality — the reality of how the world lives. That life is about largely suffering and overcoming that suffering. That life’s greatest moments are in the achievement of something that took effort. There is no lasting joy in getting everything in life handed to you.

The role of adversity in developing a person’s full potential has been well documented. Renowned blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer (the only blind man to summit Everest) even wrote a book on it called The Adversity Advantage.  

So, what’s my point?  Let your kids suffer!  Allow them to feel pain, disappointment and even regret.  (Don’t confuse this with inflicting suffering or pain, the world and life do enough of that.)  Remember that need is the greatest motivator of all.  If they need something, get out of the way and let them figure out how to get it.  Don’t give it to them.  Raising happy kids is not the goal!  This leads to entitlement.  Raising resilient, content, responsible kids is the goal and by default they will be happy in life because they will be happy with themselves.

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

Why Some Apologies Don’t Seem To Help

Have you ever received an apology from someone but it doesn’t make things better? That may be because their apology misses the mark. What we really want from an apology is for the other person to accept our version of reality and to see the hurt that they caused and take responsibility for their words and/or actions that caused the hurt. 

Here are some examples of how an apology can miss the mark;

Some apologies skirt the issue by avoiding the responsibility or making excuses. One example of this is when the person says “I’m sorry but…” When you add on the “but” what you are really saying is that my rude behavior is understandable considering the circumstances. An example of this would be if someone said “I am really sorry for yelling at you but when you roll your eyes at my suggestion I get so angry” The words after the “but” really negates the apology and is used as a justification for the bad behavior. The person is not taking full responsibility.

An apology that puts the focus on the hurt persons feelings instead of the hurtful behavior is another way people avoid taking responsibility. An example of this might be “I’m sorry you got so upset when I borrowed your jacket without asking you. I didn’t know you were sensitive about things like that” This is not an apology that accepts responsibility for the rude behavior of taking something without asking. It really feels more like a dig at the person for being so uptight. An apology that starts with “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not going in the right direction. The focus should not be on the hurt persons feelings but on your specific behavior that caused the hurt.

An apology should not be used to get something back from the injured party like forgiveness or a change of mood. The focus should be on your behavior and not requiring something from the injured party. When a request is added to the apology it can ruin the apology. If we say, “I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you that I went out with some friends last night, will you forgive me?” or “I’m sorry I spent so much time talking to Jim and left you out, can you put it behind you so we can have a nice time tonight?” The problem is that the request comes too quickly and the injured party may not be ready to move on and when you attach that requirement to the apology it sounds more like something for you than a gift for the other person. An apology should not ask the hurt party for anything.

Then what should an apology look like? The person apologizing should take responsibility for the behavior. The apology should be short and not go overboard and should offer some type of corrective action if possible. What I mean is that if you took the persons jacket and then lost it, it would be expected that you replace it, if possible. Also let the other person know that you will do your best to not repeat the behavior. If you can do these things the apology will be healing. 

Many of these ideas came from Dr. Harriet Lerner’s book Why Won’t You Apologize? I highly recommend it to better understand the importance of an apology and the healing a good apology can bring to your relationship. 

Written by Lisa Strong

Teach Your Child To Apologize

We have all seen parents in a standoff with their child saying, “Now Peter, I need you to say you’re sorry” and the child just silently stands there or states in an angry voice “I’m sorry”. Is this how it is supposed to be? Can’t we do better than this? How is it done?

One reason why children don’t like to apologize is because it doesn’t make things better and it is miserable. Often times the parent will hear the apology and then follow up with a lecture about what the child did wrong. They may say, “That’s good that you apologized but I want you to think about …” and “Are you really sorry? I’m not sure you are.” It goes on and on. The child may feel like it is a sermon about the them being thoughtless or selfish. Children will try to avoid this experience if possible. 

What a parent can do to improve this experience;

Let your child calm down. It is hard for a child to see the hurt they have caused when they are emotional themselves. Allow them to take a timeout and then talk about what happened after.

Help your child see the experience from the hurt parties perspective. I think this could be the key to a true apology. Can your child learn to empathize? You could say, “How do you think you would feel if that happened to you?” This would be a start. 

Ask your child, “What can you do next time that would be better? Maybe instead of hitting they could come to a parent or teacher for help or they could walk away, for example.

Accept the child’s apology. Once they do apologize then let’s move on. You can get to other teaching points at a different time. 

Be a role model.  Some parents hesitate to apologize because they feel the child will see them as weak or lacking authority but this is not the case. It shows your child that it is OK to admit that we have made a mistake. Children can see that something is not right and if the parents can acknowledge that a mistake has been made and they are going to fix it, the child will actually see the parent as being fair and honest. Someone to be trusted and respected. 

Praise them. As an adult we know that an apology is not always a pleasant experience but in order to encourage our child to do something that is unpleasant we can praise them. 

Each child is different so these points are suggestions and something for a parent to consider. You each know your child, some are very sensitive and others may be strong willed, some are young while others are older.  Yet teaching your child the importance of a sincere apology will help them to maintain healthy relationships so it is a valuable skill for them to understand. 

If you need any guidance or support, you can call us at Save My Family Today, 562-537-2947.

Written by Lisa Strong

The Secret Every Parent Needs to Know

Here’s the one thing every parent of every child needs to know.  Are you ready for it?  Your kid wants to be validated.  That’s it.  

Validating the feelings of your children helps them to feel understood. To help your child feel understood, it means you keeping your ego and desire to lecture in check. Validating your child’s feelings also means that you don’t judge him or her. Instead, you simply acknowledge his or her feelings. This takes focus and discipline as parents. As I share with my clients, the best discipline you can give your child is having the self-discipline to be patient, empathetic, and loving—especially when he or she is not acting lovable. Contrary to what many frustrated parents may think, particularly during those stressful times of conflicts, validating feelings is not condoning bad choices or giving in to defiant behavior.

“Validating” means giving your child or teen that all important, and seemingly elusive, message that “Your feelings make sense. I not only am giving you permission to feel what you feel but I am also welcoming and accepting your feelings in a non-judgmental way.” Validating your child coveys deep empathy. This will help build your child’s self-esteem and reduce his or her defiant behavior, which is often the languange choice of children who do not feel understood.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein lists the following three most effective ways to validate your kids.

-Communicate your intent to listen without judging or blaming or shaming and calling yourself out if you stray from this empathetic stance.

-Be sensitive to, and acknowledge how difficult and even embarrassing it is to be “different” when he/she wants to be like everyone else.

Acknowledge the problems in his/her life and that they matter. Many children and teens I counsel repeatedly share that their parents minimize or dismiss their struggles.

To do these things you must be intentional.  You must want to grow closer to your kids.  You must have a desire to build them up.  No matter what age.  Start now, be consistent and observe the change.

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