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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

What Your Teen and Child Needs From You During Pandemic

Are you concerned about your child or teenager during this time of social distancing? I am sure you are and I want to offer some support. As a child grows there is a need to assert their autonomy, to become independent of their parents. This is a good thing and as their parent it is your job to help them transition into an independent functioning adult. But now, during this time of Covid-19 your family may be challenged by extreme inter-dependence. Families have been thrown together 24/7 and it may not be going well for you. Children no longer can get away, they don’t go to school, they can’t visit friends, they can’t play sports or other extra curricular activities. Instead they are stuck at home with parents who may be stressed, fearful, and challenged in their own ways. Parents face new work demands, financial stresses and a complete change of routine. 

How can families manage this challenge and continue to be sensitive to a child’s need for a growing independence? How do we care for young people whose wings have been clipped? I have a few suggestions to consider.

Nurture the relationship. 

As the parent it is easy to focus on your role as the one who sets the rules and keeps things running but don’t forget that parenting is not only about the managing aspect but it is about a relationship and you don’t want to loose sight of this. I suggest making time for one-on-one interaction with each of your children. It makes your child feel secure and important. Listen to them, offer empathy, your child has a right to be sad, angry and frustrated about their losses. Make space for the disappointments. Kids are giving up a lot. School is not only about lessons and learning, it is about social interaction, fun and activities. Kids may feel like what is left is the vegetables with none of the dessert.but there also may feel some relief or even joy because they can avoid some challenges that  they were facing at school. A hard group project, peer pressure, or awkward and embarrassing social interactions. Don’t shame them for feeling this relief. Recognize that for them there may be an upside of the disruption as well. Whatever it is that they are feeling, you want to give them time and let them know you care and you’re listening. 

Recognize comparison. 

You may be requiring social distancing while other parents are still allowing their kids to hang out as usual. Talk to your child about this discrepancy, you could say, “I know that other parents are still having kids over, but we can’t support that choice, we want to support what the experts are recommending.” Tell them that when they have to turn down an invite that they are fee to blame you, the parents. When your teenager can’t see their friends in person, it seems only fair to loosen the rules on how much time they spend connecting online. But all bets aren’t off. There still needs to be clear guidelines so that other concerns are considered like school assignments, physical activity, sleep, and face-to-face interactions.

Treat Teenagers as Problem-Solving Partners

Don’t hesitate to recruit teenagers’ help. Instead of presenting them with a suggested daily program, Talk to them about what you see as important and then ask for their input as well. Once you each share your concerns then negotiate with your teen and show them that you are considering their needs as well. When doing this remember to be realistic and keep it positive. Being realistic involves looking at your child as an individual and knowing what they are capable of. If they are not a reader then it would be unrealistic for them to read a book quietly in their room for an hour each day. Think about who they are.

Allow Privacy and Time Alone

Teenagers are going to need some privacy and alone time. Don’t take it personally if your teenager wants to close themselves off in their room for some time. While you are free to request or require your teenager’s presence, think about approaching your teenager with an extra measure of consideration when making requests. For example, saying, “We’re going to need you to supervise your sister for a couple of hours, but we know that you have plans too. How should we do this?” might be a good place to start.

It is a lot to handle right now and these are challenges that none of us could have predicted. Let us know at Save My Family Today if we can help.

Written by Lisa Strong

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

If Your Partner Says There’s a Problem, What Should You Do?

If your partner comes to you with a problem or concern about the relationship, how do you respond? Maybe they are unhappy with you or something you are doing. Does it make you feel under pressure, defensive or frustrated. You can respond in many ways, some more productive than others. The typical fight, flight or freeze response can be seen in relationships but are not healthy choices. If your partner has a problem and wants to discuss it with you they would hope that you would listen to their concern and work with them to find a solution but that is not always the case.

The fight response results in anger, arguments and hurt feelings. This breaks down the emotional connection and the ability to be honest and vulnerable in the relationship. When your partner shares their concern they don’t want to then have to deal with you becoming angry and fighting with them. This only increases your stress level.

The flight response results in a feeling of abandonment. If when your partner shares their concern, you leave the room or slams the door and walks away tyou might feel safe because you have avoided the stress but they feel alone with their problem with no partner to stand with them and solve it together. 

The freeze response usually results in frustration. Again they share their concern which causes stress in you because you don’t want to hear that they are unhappy with you or something that you have done. You  may feel attacked and you don’t know how to respond so you just freeze or listen quietly, maybe even agreeing but in the long run nothing changes. There is not action taken. The problem remains which is frustrating.

There needs to be freedom and safety in your relationship to share a concern. One of the basic relationship needs is compassion which means that if your partner has a problem then you need to be concerned and want to help them. When they share their concern they want to know that you are listening, that you understand and that you are not being judgmental or dismissive. At his moment it is not about you, try to think of how they are feeling and how you can help. 

I know that this is not easy, your own insecurities surface, you want to defend your behavior but dismissing their concern and focusing on your own defense or stress level will not solve the problem. Try not to see it as a battle which involves you on one side and your partner on the other. Instead look at it as both of you on the same side, standing together to battle the thing that is causing the stress. You are united, working together to build a relationship that works for each of you. 

Communicating your concerns in a safe environment, listening to each other and avoiding the fight, flight or freeze response will build a healthy foundation for each of you. It takes practice and if you need help then give me a call at 562-260-4796. I would be happy to support you.

Written by Lisa Strong

4 Reasons Your Partner May Be Shutting Down Communication

How tragic it is when listening breaks down to the point where a person gives up trying to be heard! This can happen in a relationship after a period of time when that person has repeatedly tried to share their feelings or concern and never feels heard. Let’s look at what they may be experiencing and what the listener may be doing to send that message.

  1. The listener is more concerned with how they are going to respond than listening to understand what is said. They might assume they already know what is going to be said so they stop listening all together and mentally work on their response. This is a very selfish way to listen because it shows more concerned about making a point than understanding.
  2. The listener is judgmental so the person no longer shares their feelings about painful and difficult subjects because they are criticized. They feel like they have to defend themselves instead of feeling supported.
  3. The listener continually tries to solve the problem. But before someone is open to listening to a solution they need to know that they are being heard and if this step is skipped than they may not be open to a solution.
  4. The listener is focused on the details instead of the feelings. The listener may hear a fact that they believe is not accurate and so they feel the need to correct it, when really the facts are not the point and correcting facts just frustrates the person speaking.

Here are two simple tips to improve your listening.

  1. Showing genuine caring: Show attentiveness with eye contact, head nods and words of compassion. Also giving your undivided attention by putting the phone down or turning off the T.V. 
  2. Give brief summary statements once in a while as you listen: This assures the person that you’re hearing and comprehending his message. You can ask for clarification to make sure you do understand.

If we are talking about a marriage relationship or your significant other than that person should be held at a higher regard than others, they deserve this attention and it shows love and respect for them. Don’t let your partner shut down because they no longer feel like they are heard. Put your own needs and ideas aside and invest in the relationship. 

Written by Lisa Strong

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What Is Your Communication Style? What Makes You Feel Safe?

Do you feel safe when communicating with your spouse or friend? I don’t mean fear of physical harm. What I mean is that you may wonder, why am I feeling stressed right now, they don’t seem to be? It may be because you and that person have different communication styles. Drs Les and Leslie Parrot wrote about safety in communication and they identified 4 categories. 

The first one they labeled Time. Do you get stressed if you feel like your time is not being used well? I am one of these people and once I sense the conversation has slowed then I am ready to move on to the next thing. No use wasting time right? Well if you are not like this then you might be more comfortable with a slower pace, you like to just slow down and it takes you time to process as we are communicating. 

The second is called Approval. If this is you then you are influenced by emotions and feelings. If you sense that the person you are communicating with you is not approving of you then this is stressful. Some people really don’t care how you respond to what they are saying, they are more concerned with facts and information, not feelings. That may sound harsh but it is true. You also might use feelings to influence people, in your persuasion you include feeling words not just facts.

The third is Loyalty. This title is a little confusing to me but it has to do with a predictable routine. Does change and spontaneity cause you to be fearful or anxious? Are you resistant to change? When your friend or spouse drops a surprise change on you does this cause you to feel unsafe and it is hard to communicate at that time? You need a warning so I think the word loyalty is about being consistent and reliable this brings you safety.

The last is Quality. If this is you then you want to do things well and you have a process so when your process is interrupted then it causes you stress. For example if you were buying luggage do you need to shop around, test them out, check for discounts and possibly return it because you eventually found a better deal? Or do you just go to one store, see what you need and get it, job done? Well if you are the first type then you fit in this category, you are cautious, you need to be sure and if someone rushes you through this it causes you stress. 

It is good to consider these types of communication syles. Look at yourself, where do you fit. You may fit into more than one category. It is also good to consider where the other person fits because you don’t want to cause stress in them. So if your partner is in the Loyalty category then don’t spring things on them, give them advanced warning so they have time to process the new information and get comfortable. Or if you have to make a last minute change then show compassion for who they are, don’t get frustrated this only adds to their stress. 

Learning about your own communication needs and your partners can add to the understanding and compassion in the relationship. I hope this is useful. If you need more help and support please call 562-260-4796.

Written by Lisa Strong