Tips For Managing Relationship Conflict

Let’s imagine that you and your partner just got into a heated discussion and you are all worked up and frustrated because you can’t see eye to eye and your partner seems so unreasonable. You are thinking, “They are just so wrong” and “Why can’t they see it my way?” So what do you do now? Here are a few suggestions. 

First take a time out. You are so worked up at this moment that you can’t think straight. Take a 15-20 minute timeout so you can calm yourself down. Maybe take a short walk around the block, take deep breaths and try to sooth yourself. Don’t just stomp out the door instead tell your partner, “I need a break, I know this is important but I need time to calm down. I will be back so we can finish”. This helps your partner know that they are not alone in the problem, you have not just abandoned them and you will come back to help them work this out. 

Then when you come back to try again, try to use a soft start. The first few minutes of the conversation sets the tone. Try to objectively describe what you see is the problem. Don’t evaluate, judge or blame. Be respectful, share how you are feeling and don’t point the finger at your partner and criticism them, making them the problem. Put the problem in front of the two of you. It is something that you are going to work on together. It is not you pointing fingers or blaming. 

You want to repair and de-escalate. It is important to minimize tension and express support. You can do this by letting your partner know that you are trying to understand them. For example, say “I hear you” or “I think I understand”.  Listen well and show that you are paying attention, make eye contact and nod your head. Take responsibility for your part. Say for example, “I was too harsh when I spoke to you” or “I was stressed all day and took it out on you.”

Most importantly, accept influence from them. Try to find common ground, show them that you understand their point of view and it makes sense. You have to yield a little bit, accept their influence, you want to find a solution that you can both feel good about.  By identifying and empathizing with your partners point of view, you are more likely to find a solution that honors both partners. That’s the secret.

In order to find that solution that honors both partners you cannot have a closed mind to your spouse’s opinions and desires. You do not have to agree with everything your partner says or believes, but you have to be open to his or her position. That is what accepting your partner’s influence is all about. If you find yourself sitting with your arms folded and shaking your head when your partner is trying to talk about a problem with you, your discussion will never get anywhere.

If one of you feels like they want to just give in to get the argument over with, this is not a good solution either. This is a win/loose solution and will result in resentment over time. Instead brainstorm with your partner possible solutions that you can both live with. Saying things like “How would that be for you?” and “What do you think of that idea?” Once a possible solution is chosen then test it out for a week and then revisit it and ask “How is this working for you?” and “Do we need to make any changes?” Continue the testing until you find a solution that works for both of you.

Give this a try the next time there is conflict.  Share with your partner and together work to solve your concern.

Written by Lisa Strong

Healthy Relationships Accept Influence.

One of the signs of a health and respectful relationship and a relationship that is going to succeed is that each partner allows the other to influence them. That means that they listen, ask questions and take into consideration the ideas of their partner when they are making a decision. It is the opposite of “My way or the highway”. 

When you are sharing an idea with your partner and they have a different view point, what is your response? Do you get defensive, do you dismiss them? Maybe you get angry or just walk away. I hope that is not the reaction that you have. But I know that it is not always easy to accept feedback or change directions. 

Can you stay open to the other perspective? You need to look at your own reaction, you may not be aware that you are shutting your partner down. So you need to check yourself. When your partner shares their idea can you ask curious questions. These are questions that don’t sound like an attack. You are asking them to get clarification so that you will truly understand their viewpoint. You are not gathering information and forming a counter argument. It is better to try to understand them and show them that understanding. You do not have to “give in” when you don’t agree. But they do need to know that they were heard. 

From Dr. Gottman’s research we know that the more that you accept influence, the more influential you can be. If you can try to show your partner that their idea has validity, that can be helpful. You don’t need to agree 100% but they need to know that you don’t think they are 100% wrong either. Show them that they have some valid points.  

When you are open to influence from your partner, this says to them that you are a team that functions together. Not an individual who only considers their own concerns. It is not as black and white as win-loose or right-wrong. It is in the best interest of the relationship and each other to accept influence so it can be a satisfying decision for both of you. This is a win-win decision. 

Accepting influence also tells the other person that they are important to you. That you respect them and their ideas. It takes a secure person to not be threatened by a different viewpoint. It is not easy for many people but it is so important. If you need help then just give me a call at 562-260-4796

Written by Lisa Strong

Why You Need to Know Your Values Now, Not During

What’s the first thing you do when you open up a new game that you’ve never played before?  Read the directions!  We want to know how to win, what rules to follow and any tips and tools the creator of the game is willing to give us.  This is what life is supposed to be like but often is not.
Most of us go into brand new life situations without a set of directions… or core values.  We don’t identify and commit ourselves to the things we say we want and believe in most.  Whether it be parenting, dating, marriage, looking for a job, choosing a hobby, making a close friend we need to know what our must-haves are and what our deal breakers are BEFORE we go in to it.
Many people think of an idea, decide it’s a good idea then jump in.  While there are qualities to jumping in versus talking about something to death and never jumping in having a guide that we commit to (our list of values) is critical for any new life decision to be a pleasant experience let alone a success.

If you’re parenting you don’t just hand over the keys to your teen and say “have fun!”  No way.  You have a conversation and lay out expectations, boundaries, and safety protocols.  If you’re looking for a job you know how much money you need to earn, what hours you can work and sure it can sustain you before accepting.  When going into a relationship, or even thinking about a relationship you need a list of must-haves and deal breakers.  

The reason for identifying core values before making a decision or starting a new life chapter is to ensure your own happiness and success.  The problem though is that many people don’t want to hold themselves accountable to these values.  It’s harder this way.  It takes intention and requires time, sometimes sacrifice, forethought, and even self-discipline.  But it usually keeps us out of trouble.

The other side of this coin is not identifying core values and allowing people and circumstances to influence your decisions.  If there are no convictions there at the very beginning then there doesn’t need to be follow through.  We can do what feels good and what seems easy.

But here’s the thing… while living life according to a set of values does take discipline, intention and forethought it protects us.  For example, when we consider parenting it’s critical we consider what kind of home we will raise our kids in, what kind of example we want to be, what expectations will we have for our kids.  If we don’t consider these values we end up in a home of confusion, chaos, miscommunication and tension.  We end up thinking “how did my family get here?!”  It’s because you didn’t start out with your values to lead the way.

If we go in to life situations with our set of directions (just like playing a brand new game) we have a much better chance of figuring things out and knowing how to end on the winning side. 

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

Keeping Your Conversation on Track.

Why do our conversations with our partner sometimes end up going sideways? In the end you feel frustrated, like you didn’t get your idea across and that you were not understood. How does this keep happening? I want to give you some suggestions that will help you get a more positive end result. Think of these 5 pillars of communication that should help you stay on track. 

  1. Build on a positive foundation of friendship and partnership: This is something you should always be working on in the relationship. Show appreciation for your partner, share a compliment. This sets a tone of connection and being a team. So when you are ready to share a concern it can be helpful to start with a statement of admiration or respect. Then your partner does not feel under attack but feels like a teammate is coming with a concern. 
  2. Accept influence: Your way is not always the only way or the right way. You and your partner are different people who see the world differently. You need to work within your differences and adapt. So try to understand a different perspective. You might need to look beneath the surface and ask questions to uncover what is behind the concern. Each of you can show vulnerability, this can only be achieved through trust and consideration. 
  3. When sharing your concern identify the pressing issue: It is helpful if you can be clear and keep things short and to the point. You want to avoid overwhelming your partner with too much challenging information that they can’t take in. It is better to keep it simple.    
  4. Talk about yourself: What I mean is that what you know best is how you feel and how this is affecting you. So share that. How could you be contributing to this problem? What is your responsibility? It might be helpful to talk about your fears and what is important to you and why.
  5. What is your goal: What is your hope that the future will look like? What are the changes you are looking for and how will this change make you feel? Then you can make some suggestions for how you think you can implement these changes. Make your suggestions and then ask “Does that work for you ?”

So many times we do the opposite of this and the result is we get off track. We start out with words that feel like an attack, we blame and criticize our partner. Then we state what needs to be done without being open to any other ideas. We talk about everything that is bothering us instead of keeping it simple and clear. We talk about what the other persons’ mistakes are and what we believe their thoughts and motives are and lastly we are unclear of what exactly we want to achieve. This is very confusing. I hope you can think about some of these suggestions and keep your conversations on track so you can work together as a partnership.

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

Written by Lisa Strong

The 3 gifts of Healthy Active Listening

I am sure we all have had times when we have shared our thought or concerns with our partner and it ends up either in an argument, a standoff, or they walk away and it just never gets resolved. This is extremely frustrating and results in a separation in the relationship. I hope that each relationship can learn to listen in a way that encourages more honest and open communication. Healthy, active listening can be a gift in your relationship. Let me explain what I mean. The gift can be received in 3 ways.

  1. It is a gift to the other person. By taking the time to really listen and understand your partners ideas, you validate them and allow them to feel safe and secure in sharing their ideas with you. This minimizes their stress and anxiety about sharing with you and being vulnerable and honest.
  2. It is a gift to the relationship. Without trust and honesty in your relationship you are working on a foundation of dishonesty and separateness. The relationship can grow and be strengthened when each partner feels they can share their concerns and be heard. 
  3. It is a gift to yourself. This is true because you will grow in your understanding of the person you are sharing your life with, you will also learn the truth about how your behavior may be affecting the other person. This will allow you to base your feelings and behavior on something you know is true and not on manipulation or fear based conversations

In order to give these gifts we need to use tools that may feel counter intuitive. When someone comes to us with their hurt, a different perspective or a challenging accusation our reaction is to become defensive and to show them that they are wrong. This response is not going to result in any of the 3 gifts. Instead let’s look at some of the different options that may result in these gifts.

  1.  Be curious. Ask questions about what they are sharing. Not in a challenging, interrogation way but in a way that shows you are really interested in their view and thoughts. You might say, “I really want to understand what you are telling me, let me ask you…”
  2. Block defensiveness. Listen to learn and not to challenge. When they are telling you their concern do not look for their misinformation or their errors. Listen for the heart of what they are telling you and don’t nit pick their concerns apart. 
  3. Show understanding. Let the person know that you heard them and understand by saying something like, “Is this what you mean …” or “What I think you’re saying is…” This way you are checking with them, asking if you have it right and showing that you heard them. 
  4. Be open to further conversations. Let them know that you are not silencing them. You want to hear their thoughts and this does not need to be the end of hearing their concerns. 

If you are able to stick to these strategies and avoid the pitfalls of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, anger and avoidance then you will be giving the gift of support to the other person, the gift of commitment to the relationship and the gift of growth to your self. This is not easy but it can bring about great benefit to the relationship and each of you.  

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

Written by Lisa Strong

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