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 Avoid Letting Jealousy Poison Your Relationship

Jealous behaviors such as asking to be in touch continually, requiring a detailed account of your partners day or suspecting the worst of your partner can poison your relationship. It establishes an environment of suspicion and insecurity which is the opposite of a healthy relationship which needs to be based on trust and respect. In this article I am going to make the assumption that your partner is not cheating on you or looking to replace you but they are feeling the effects of your jealousy.

First I want to define jealousy which at its core is a byproduct of fear, fear of not being good enough, fear of loss. It is the feeling that someone might try to take what is yours. For example, your husband becomes close friends with an attractive co-worker, and you may feel jealous of — and threatened by — their relationship.

This is not to be confused with envy which is not fear based but is a reaction to lacking something and wanting what someone else has. You might be envious of someone’s good looks, or their beautiful home, etc.

Having a fear based emotion continually raising its head in your relationship is going to cause you problems. If you are jealous you may be constantly looking for reassurance because you are afraid that you are going to be replaced. Or you may resort to trying to control your partner so that you can feel reassured by checking on them, calling often or demanding behaviors that they are not comfortable with. Any of these behaviors can be exhausting for your partner.

Jealousy is an emotion that could be connected to some or all of these feelings 1. Insecurity, 2. Fear of being replaced and rejected or 3. Low self-esteem

Healing starts with awareness. The stories you are telling yourself are not true. Examining the origin of your fears will bring healing. Did something happen in a past relationship or in your childhood? The fear of being replaced may come from a past experience but you are carrying it over to this one and you are going to sabotage it. Remind yourself that your partner choose you because of your positive qualities that they like. Your insecurity and low self-esteem are not qualities that promote respect and trust. 

You need to talk to your partner about your feelings in a way that is non-accusatory. It will be helpful if you can be honest with how you feel and take responsibility for those feelings. One suggestion is to work to establish a set of ground rules that can establish trust. For example each of you honoring your word, be home on time, explain what is happening if you are running late. I find that open relationships create an environment of trust. Both of you need to agree to the guidelines.

If you are in a committed relationship or marriage then you can be open with your phone, email or any social media. If you are not ready for this level of openness then you may not be “all in” and if that is the case then talk about it. But once you have established commitment it is best to be transparent. This is not the same as allowing someone to be controlling, there is a difference and each of us can have behavioral boundaries that make us comfortable and working together to agree on these requires respect and consideration.

Don’t let your jealous feeling control your behaviors. It will bring pain to your relationship and that is not fair to either 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

Is It Time To Talk To My Partner About What’s Bothering Me?

In a relationship when something is not right we have options as to how to handle it. We can avoid it and push away our concern but this usually results in frustration, resentment and a possible angry outburst. We could jump right in and tell our partner how their behavior irritates us but this could result in defensiveness on their part, hurt feelings and more anger. So how do we bring up the things that are bugging us and when is the right time. 

You need to be in the right frame of mind. You are ready to share your concern when you can…

  1. Be clear on what do you want to achieve? Before you approach the other person think about what you want to achieve. The goal is not to always get your way but it can be to come to a solution that will work for both of you. The relationship is more important than getting your way. Get clear in your own head what you want to share.
  2. 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. 
  3. Be ready to listen, ask questions and accept that you may not fully understand the issue so you are open to new understanding.
  4. No shaming or blaming but you can hold each other accountable Be open to owning your own part in the concern.
  5. Model vulnerability and openness that you would like to see in your partner.
  6. Be ready to genuinely thank your partner for their efforts and what they do rather than only criticizing them for their failings or picking apart their mistakes.

When you are ready to share the specifics I suggest keeping it simple and concise so that it can be understood and received. State the facts of what is happening and how it is making you feel. It is easy to get sidetracked and bring up the past, other concerns or exaggerate. This is not a good idea, it confuses things and gives opportunity for rebuttal. In the end it is helpful to state what you need from them. Provide a possible solution and then ask “what do you think?”. This way you are not dictating but asking your partner to work with you to find a solution. 

Unless you and your spouse change your habits and activities so that they make you both happy, instead of only making one of you happy, you will eventually find that your relationship is broken down.

You are not always going to agree but I want you to respectfully disagree. Try to understand your spouse’s reasoning. Present the information that brought you to your opinion and listen to the information your spouse brings. You are working together to find a solution.

This is not always easy and may take time to learn to communicate in this way but it is worth it. If you need help then give me a call.

Written by Lisa Strong


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

Is My Relationship Breaking Down?

Is My Relationship Breaking Down?

In the early stages of your relationship each partner is highly attentive, spending a lot of time together sharing interests, talking about concerns, thoughts and feelings as well as showing appreciation for each other. When these things start to disappear couples can feel disconnected and discouraged in the relationship. It starts to feel like things are breaking down.

One sign of a breakdown can be a shift in focus which can happen when one person redirects their attention from the relationship to something else, this can be work, a hobby, friends or another social activity. The two people start to live parallel lives and it may feel like you are becoming roommates and loosing the connection.

Having separate interests can be healthy for a relationship but there also needs to be quality time together. Don’t overreact and shame your partner for branching out to do something new, you want to still support each other, encouraging new interests and ambitions but it is also ok to share that you are feeling alone or that you miss the time together. Don’t wait too long to say something or else resentment builds up and it becomes harder to reconnect. Be proactive and initiate a date night or other time to connect.

A lack of intimate conversations can also feel like a loss of connection. There is a difference between simply talking which is just giving information without the need for a response and intimate conversations which is enjoyed by both persons. An intimate conversations is used to pull the two of you together and learn about each other. There can be a focus of attention on something of mutual interest, or a sharing of feelings and concerns. There is a give and take from each partner and undivided attention with no TV, cell phone or other distraction.

This type of communication brings a connection. You can make an effort to make this happen by simply making time, setting aside the distractions and focusing on each other without judgement. Ask questions about their day, their concerns and interests or what is causing stress. Then come along side and show that you are a team and you are there to support.

The last breakdown I will address here can be a waning of appreciation. Early in a relationship we like to do nice things for each other because they are appreciated and acknowledged but when these loving gestures become expected without acknowledgment they become more of a chore. We all want to hear some gratitude and acknowledgement for what we do without this we begin to get resentful and irritated with each other.

Take time to show you are thinking of your partner and you appreciate them. This can be done with a text, a simple gift or note, stepping up and helping out and lightening your partners load. Doing something that shows you see them and have been listening and that you care.

We are always here to help.  Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions for us!  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  Also, visit our Facebook page for ongoing resources.
Written by Lisa Strong

How to Keep the Friendship in Your Marriage.

When couples are dating I often hear them say that they are like best friends.  A friend it is someone you can share your life with in an honest way. You enjoy each other and spend time together. Webster defines friendship as “a state of mutual trust and support between two people”. This is all well and good but once a couple is married and the stresses of life come crashing in, I see couples become more like survivors than friends. Sometime it is unclear if they are even on the same team.

What do we need to do to maintain a friendship? Why does the friendship breakdown?

I mentioned that once married the friendship is swallowed up by the pressures of life, work, children, home and family. We realize that the person we married is very different than we are and handles these stresses differently. This causes us even more stress because there is now conflict about how to handle life stress. So we pull away and start working independently instead of as a team. We don’t know how to work with this person who sees life with a different perspective. One of you may be an organizer and perfectionist while the other is social and fun loving. Each quality has its benefits but they deal with life very differently.

The way to avoid pulling away from each other is to learn to maintain the friendship.

Accept that your partner is different from you. Listen to their ideas and consider an alternative solution. Show respect for the person that they are by learning how they think and supporting them. Loyalty is an important aspect of friendship.

Friendship requires a vulnerability and we are not vulnerable unless we feel safe. If we feel like we will be judged or dismissed then we will not feel safe and supported. One of you may say, “My partner never shares his/her feelings with me”. That may be because they do not feel accepted for who they are or for their ideas and that is what a friend needs to feel. You need to draw your partner in without demands or judgements.

Give of yourself by listening. Friends share themselves, their time, their focus and their support and this shows itself when you truly listen to their ideas.

Remember to have fun together. This mean you may need to lighten up a bit. The stress will remain but it can be minimized by your change of attitude. It may help if we take life a little less seriously. Laugh at yourself and the situation, don’t be so adamant about your opinions and remember to take time to have fun, this can relieve stress.

Don’t let the friendship break down, remember to make it a priority to maintain. A marriage without friendship is more like a business arrangement. Don’t let that happen. If you need help then give us a call at Save My Family Today.

Written by Lisa Strong

What Kind of Team Player Are You?

Are you and your partner on the same team? Do you feel like you are working toward the same goal? Let’s talk about how a couple can resolve conflict as a team.

Team work; In a healthy relationship the two people are working together to find a solution. They share their ideas, they make suggestions, they explain their perspective and share their desires. Each of them listens to the others perspective and considers it. Then together they bat around ideas as to how to solve this conflict. They say things like; “how would you feel if we…” or “What do you think about this”. In asking these questions it shows a desire to consider the other persons opinion and work together to find a solution. This couple is on the same team. If we think of this as a sport then they are a soccer team kicking the ball down the field in order to make a goal.

The passer; Sometimes the two players continually pass off the ball instead of taking it to the goal. It’s as if they are tying to solve a conflict but play on opposite teams. The first person criticizes and blames the other person, this is like continually passing the ball. This is not helpful because then the receiver of the criticism, instead of working towards a solution, finds that they are busy defending themselves. It would have been more healthy for the first person to talk about their own feelings instead of pointing the finger and blaming. The two people criticize and defend but don’t work towards the goal or a solution.

Show off; This is when the person takes a superior attitude and shows disrespect towards their partner. In keeping with our sports analogy, this would be the ball hog or show off. Without respect in the relationship we loose the desire or ability to work as a team.

Quitter; This is when the player walks off the field. In a relationship it shows itself when someone gives you the silent treatment and will no longer talk. Or they walk out of the room and disappear for a period of time. Not in order to cool off but in order to avoid the conflict or punish the person with the problem. This is not productive in trying to resolve a conflict or solve a problem.

A coach of a team often starts with team building. This applies to relationships too, in order to work together as a team there has to be a foundation of friendship, appreciation, respect and consideration. Building these qualities in a relationship takes effort but allows for a partnership that is resilient and positive rather that gridlocked and negative. It is worth the effort.

If you need help establishing the foundation of teamwork and friendship than give me a call, I can help you.

Unconditional Love: What It Is and What It Isn’t

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the eight things parents need to stop doing for their kids if they want to raise an adult.  The blog reached over 7, 000 people and most people seemed to benefit from its content.  But there was one comment on social media that has stuck with me and I want to address it in today’s blog.  The comment said “this list is lame and sound like it was written by an unloving parent.”  Really?  Let’s talk about that.

Someone, somewhere, some time ago started an unhelpful rumor that led parents everywhere to believe that if they didn’t do everything for their kids all the time, have warm, fuzzy, super affectionate feelings everyday all day towards their children, that they didn’t have unconditional love for them.

Parents everywhere began and continue to feel guilty when they have any negative feelings towards their children or ask their children to do things for themselves rather than doing it for them. To combat this they began spoiling them, trying to make them happy at all costs, and let feelings of guilt (or the idea that they were somehow inadequate) govern their parenting decisions.

Love is so much more than making your kids happy. Love is more than being a service provider.  Love is more than giving gifts or hugs. Love is an attitude, a way of life, and something that is long-term and far reaching. You love your kids because they are your kids. Nothing they do will change that. You will love them no matter what. But does that mean you let them do what they want even to their own detriment? Does it mean you do everything for them to buffer them from discomfort or inconvenience? No!

Let’s dispel some common myths of unconditional love right here, right now.

Unconditional love is not dictated by feelings.

Feelings can be unhelpful, untrue and unproductive.  Feelings, though very true to us, should not dictate our actions and do not always accurately tell us what is going on.

If you are exhausted you may feel resentful toward your children because, quite frankly, you are letting them run you in to the ground. If your teenager is rebelling and taking the whole family down with him, you may feel anger, confusion and the intense desire to kick him out. Do these feelings mean you don’t love your child?  Do these feelings tell you that you aren’t capable of unconditional love and that you are a bad parent because of it? No. Absolutely not. If we let feelings govern our actions and decisions we’ll end up in a world of hurt because our feelings change like shifting shadows.

Unconditional love does not mean happy, fuzzy, service providing all the time.

There will be times when your decisions, and the decisions of your children, make everyone upset. They are upset they have to eat vegetables, do their chores and go to bed while you are upset they threw the vegetables on the floor, haven’t done their chores and keep getting out of bed. Children, because they are learning stage by stage to exercise their independence, will constantly defy, try and even mystify us.

Just because we get angry doesn’t mean we don’t love them. Just because we want to sell them to gypsies sometimes does not mean we don’t love them. It simply means we are humans and our emotions flare up in reaction to our environment. Because they make you angry, and particularly if you have fairly disobedient, ungrateful and entitled children, you may feel these negative emotions often. Just because you don’t look at your children and feel overcome with happiness at every moment of the day does not mean anything. Oh wait, yes it does. It simply means that you are human and you don’t have to compensate for that.

Unconditional love is long-term not short-term sighted.

When you discipline your kids, hold them accountable or make a hard decision and feel like a bad parent, the bad cop, the one who ruined your child’s life just remember, unconditional love works for the ultimate, not temporary, good. Selling everyone short in the long run to instantly gratify your children is not actually an act of love. It’s an act of laziness, and sometimes, even cowardice.

Unconditional love protects

Unconditional love says “you make me angry and you are ruining our family and I am going to do something about it. It puts rules in place, it helps find remedies, help, intervention, etc.”

Discipline and boundaries have wonderful effects on children long term. That does not mean, in their childlike minds, that they appreciate them. Love is much more profound than simply making someone happy and comfortable. It looks out for a person’s best interests and seeks to help them flourish in the long run.

Letting a child continue in a self-destructive pattern, sprint down the road of entitlement or remain lazy by enabling them is not love at all, some might even say it is hate. There’s a saying that what we sow we later reap. If we let our children sow seeds of destruction, rebellion, apathy, entitlement, dependency and chaos then they will later reap it. Playing the ‘bad cop’ for a while to protect your child’s future may be an act of unconditional love. Outside of your emotions you make a decisions and, even when you grow weary of doing what’s right and best, you stick by it. That is unconditional love.

Does that sound impossible?  It’s not.  But sometimes we need support.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help!  

Written by Lisa Smith

Reasons Why We Choose Not To Listen.

Many relationships break down because we loose an honest connection with our partner. We stop listening. Busyness and stress are some reasons that we choose not to listen. When our partner comes to us to talk we often feel like we have no time to listen. In our head are the other pressures of our day, work stress, the needs of the children, tasks that need to be done, activities to go to or prepare for and because our lives are so full we drift away from connecting with those in our life who are supposed to be most important.

The tension builds and then we start to view our partner not as a support but as a person who adds more stress in our lives. You may start to think, “ If only they would do this or that, then my life would be so much easier. Why can’t they just cooperate?” When your partner starts to look like the enemy instead of your teammate then there is a problem. 

Learning to be an active listener increases the health of your relationship. When you or your partner feel understood and considered then you start to feel like you have a relationship with someone who cares for you. Listening is not just passively waiting for your turn to speak it involves being open to someone else and their viewpoint and willingly considering it. You may even need to adjust your view so you can work together.

Here are some common mistakes we make when listening to other people:

1. Daydreaming or thinking of something else while the other person is speaking
2. Thinking of what to say next
3. Judging what the other person is saying
4. Listening with a specific goal or outcome in mind

When you do these things then there is no longer an openness to receiving the new information, you have already predetermined your response. You and your partner are different in how your view situations but hopefully there is a foundation of care that we need to get back to.

No matter what relationship we are talking about, marriage, friendship or parent and child, the basis is that you value them and want to connect and this takes effort. It may involve prioritizing what is of value in your life and eliminating other things. It requires a vulnerability and courage to not defend yourself and to receive what your partner is trying to share. 

When they see your openness, vulnerability and willingness to listen without judgement then you will be creating a connection with the other person that establishes them as someone you care about and not the enemy.

Written by Lisa Strong

8 Reasons to Say “I’m Sorry”

We all know someone who would practically rather die than say they are sorry (you’re probably thinking of that person right now).  Saying “I’m sorry” can be much easier than it sometimes seems. Here are eight empowering reasons to say “I’m sorry”—and really mean it.

1. Builds Respect.  Relationships are built on respect, and saying “I’m sorry” shows that you respect another person’s feelings.

2. Helps you move on. We all make mistakes. #truthbomb It’s more difficult for some of us to admit that, I know.  Harboring guilt and anger toward yourself has adverse physical and emotional repercussions  Acknowledging your mistakes helps you grow and move forward.

3. Provides a strong foundation. Sometimes foundations crack and need repairing. Ignoring the cracks only makes them bigger—and the foundation weaker. However, moving past problems in a healthy manner can actually strengthen your relationship.

4. It gets easier. Saying “I’m sorry” is just like your time on your yoga mat. It gets more comfortable and familiar the more you practice it.

5. Integrity. If you don’t apologize, it doesn’t make your mistake disappear. Now it’s an elephant in the room. I love elephants but not in my room.  Owning your mistakes only makes you a better person—and it makes you more trustworthy.

6. Sincerity. On the other hand, don’t apologize just to get past an issue. No one appreciates this.  You may be thinking “how will anyone know if I’m sincere in my apology or not?”  Well, revisit point 5.  And…trust me when I say that almost everyone can sniff out a bologna apology so don’t even try it.

7. Relief. Say “I’m sorry” for you as much as for others. You’ll feel better. I promise. Even if your apology falls on deaf ears, you’ll know you did the right thing—and sometimes that’s all that counts.

8. Sets an example for kids. Saying “I’m sorry” to your children or in front of your children shows them how to make mistakes and deal with them appropriately. Need I say more?

Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t come naturally to everyone but it can be a learned behavior that takes time and practice just like everything else. You will grow and so will the relationships that you say are important to you.

Apologies and forgiveness can sometimes be difficult to understand and the conversations can be challenging to navigate.  We can help with that.  Give us a call at (562) 537-2947.  We’d love to hear your story and see how we can help.

Written by Lisa Smith