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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

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

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

What is Needed to Build a Fulfilling Relationship

I believe that to maintain a healthy relationship it requires you to be intentional about it. I avoid saying that your relationship takes work because that sounds arduous. I want you to enjoy the effort that you put into your relationship. You may ask; “What exactly is needed to build a relationship that brings each of us fulfillment?”

First off, it might be helpful to think of your relationship as a great adventure instead of a task to be worked on, this will create a more willing attitude. It requires us to be curious about each other, be vulnerable with your self and to venture outside your comfort zone. In order for this to happen there needs to be a foundation of trust. You will only be willing to be vulnerable and brave if you feel like you can trust your partner to be kind. 

When a partner shares a thought or concern they hope that they will be heard and will be shown a consideration of what they are sharing. If you are the one listening then you need to avoid judgement, contempt, criticism and anger. The interaction needs to be a positive one or over time the one sharing will avoid this type of openness. When you share a thought you want your partner to value you and you also wants to know that they care about what is happening in their life, your thoughts and your experiences. 

Here is a simple practical step that each of us can incorporate into our day. Start each day knowing something about what your partner’s day will be like. This requires you to take time to talk about each others day, either in the morning or the night before. Know what is stressing your partner or what they might be excited about in their day. Check in with them at some point and ask about that particular concern. The fact that you care enough to ask about some aspect of their day will build in your partner a feeling of being cared for and considered. This will also build a foundation of connection, like the two of you are on each other’s side and supporting each other through each day.

Dr. John Gottman a best selling author and researcher who studies relationships says; 

    “You’re writing your own love story every time you turn toward each other. Every time you offer comfort. Every time you really listen. Each and every time you put your partner’s interests above your own.”

These simple behaviors of showing comfort, listening and considering your partners interests will build the foundation of trust and care that each relationship needs to stay strong. I do recommend that you not think of it as work but it does take energy and a conscious effort. A healthy relationship is worth the investment. 

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

Written by Lisa Strong

How to Support Growth and Transition in Your Relationship.

If you have a relationship with a partner that has lasted for years than I expect that you each have grown and changed over that time period. If you met in your 20’s and now you are in your 30’s or beyond than you each are different people in many ways. Relationships are not just two people coming together and that’s it, they are stories of transformation and change and in a healthy relationship you have allowed this to happen and supported each other in it. 

The goal is that each person in the relationship accommodates the growth of the other person. Your partner will change at a different rate and in a different way than you do. They don’t see the world in the same way as you do and they don’t have the same needs but the goal is not to make them like you but to learn from them and support them as they grow. Ask yourself these questions;

  • Do you have a unique and specific way of connecting with your partner and refreshing the relationship when you feel burned out or distant?
  • During the time of connection do you feel safe and supported in your thoughts and beliefs?
  • Do you feel like your partner values and accepts your growth and ideas?
  • Are your life dreams similar and compatible? Or if they are different do you feel supported in yours?
  • When you are working through a struggle do you feel like your partner listens and helps you gain understanding, facing it with you?

One way to support growth is to build into your relationship rituals and behaviors that allow for change to happen. If you are only living parallel lives, and not making the time to connect and share in each others growth then you will eventually grow apart. The rituals that you create in your lives together are important and will keep you connected. 

Possible rituals could be a weekly date night, a shared meal at home or a time before bed to relax and connect after your day. During these times the objective is to learn about each others thoughts and feelings, be supportive and non-judgmental and listening well. It is not a time to correct your partner or fix their problems for them but just a time to find out what is happening with them. This time allows you too gently try to find out what is stressing your partner or making them fearful. Creating a safe space to share their interior world. It is important not to let too much time pass between checking in. 

I encourage you to commit to a ritual that will create space for you both to grow and learn together. Seeking understanding of each others inner world and sharing the growth and transitions together that supports your relationship.

Written by Lisa Strong

Unspoken Expectations Are The Seeds Of Resentment

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

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

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

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

Unrealistic expectations are;

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

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

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

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

Written by Lisa Strong

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

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

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

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