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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

Build Trust and Security Into Your Relationship

Trust and security are the foundation for a healthy relationship. But how do we nurture these feelings in our relationship? I believe that we do this by letting our partner know that they are a priority in our life and we are committed to them. When we are committed we are all in and we are not coming from a place of self-interest but we are considering the cost of any choice for our partner too. 

You don’t want your partner wondering “How important am I to you?” or “Do I come first in your life?” These acts cause a sense of doubt that can grow into insecurity and fear. A healthy relationship needs trust, a knowledge that you can count on each other and that your concerns are important to each of you.

Can your partner count on your word? Do you stand by your word by saying what you mean and meaning what you say. To build this trust you need to stop saying things that you won’t follow through on, or that don’t represent your true feelings. If you continue to not follow through then your partner will learn not to count on you.

Here are a few examples of behaviors that break trust in a relationship;

  • Not showing up on time
  • Not making your partner a priority
  • Keeping secrets
  • Lying
  • Humiliating or putting down your partner in public or private. 
  • Not being there when your partner is hurting or sick

We can show commitment to our partner in the small acts that respond to their needs. When our partner sees us listening and supporting them then they feel the commitment but if we dismiss them or turn away during their time of need then this is seen as a betrayal. I am not referring to a significant betrayals like infidelity, it could be something small like looking at your phone instead of listening to a concern. These small betrayals build up and diminish the sense of security and trust in the relationship.

When you have learned that your partner is trustworthy and committed then you are able to give them the benefit of the doubt instead of always coming from a place of suspicion and questioning. Doesn’t that sound nice? When we are repeatedly challenging and questioning our partner this is exhausting for both parties. No one wants to have to doubt their partner and I certainly would get frustrated if I feel like my partner is always doubting me. So to avoid this dynamic we have to make it a priority to build trust and let your partner know that you have their back and you can be relied on. 

This takes work and can be challenging because once you are in a relationship and you are committed to your partner then it is no longer all about you and your needs. But the sacrifice is worth it to have a partner in life that you can trust. 

Written by Lisa Strong

Balancing Relationship Needs During This Time Of Pandemic

In my last newsletter I wrote about a child or teenager’s need for autonomy and how making room for that can be a challenge during Covid-19. Well this is also true in any relationship, how to find a balance between our own autonomy and our dependency. In our everyday lives we manage this balance, we have our work, our friends and connections outside our relationship with our significant other. This separateness allows for independence and autonomy. But as partners we also have agreed to a dependence in the relationship. We accept the fact that we need to consider the other persons wants, needs, values and beliefs. Now with Covid-19 the demand to consider our partner and release some of our independence is required and this can be very challenging. 

We as Americans like our independence and we are used to getting what we want and it is not usually a challenge for us. So now we are all at home, possibly 24/7 with our partner. We need to achieve that balance again as best we can during this challenging time. If we don’t take proactive steps to keep our relationships healthy, it could buckle under the pressure. Here are seven actionable tips that you can begin using today to help your marriage or partnership through this stressful time.

Be open and vulnerable.
Instead of demanding your way or dictating your rules and yelling instructions. Recognizing and communicating that you’re afraid can change the conversation, and it’s a lot easier to be compassionate toward a worried partner than an angry one.

Be kind to yourself
When you’re feeling triggered or anxious, Try to notice when you speak to yourself harshly, and experiment with saying something kinder. Imagine what you might say to a close friend who was stressed. Bringing more kindness to your own fear and anxiety will help you bring more kindness to your partner’s as well. The first priority is to notice when you might need space and create it for yourself. This might mean noticing irritability, fear, tension, or tiredness and deciding to go for a walk, agreeing to have some not-talking time before returning to a difficult conversation, calling a friend or family member, or doing something on your own at home, like reading a book or working on your own project.

Instead of criticism share observations.
Next time you’re tempted to tell your partner what they should do or criticize what they might have already done, try instead talking about the concrete behaviors you’re observing and your feelings, wants, needs, and beliefs about them. Instead of barking “Wash your hands,” perhaps try “I’m feeling nervous that you interacted with the delivery person. I would feel more comfortable if you would please wash your hands before you keep making lunch.”

Remember to be understanding.
If your partner’s behavior has been unusual, give extra attention to their mood, and remember not to internalize it or read into it. If you’re concerned you’ve somehow triggered them emotionally, simply ask directly and calmly. If they say their mood has nothing to do with you, believe it. Remind yourself that your partner is doing their best amid the chaos, just as you are. Make it a point to say please or thank you to each other, even for the littlest things. Tell jokes, laugh when you can, enjoy things together including intimacy both emotional and physical.  The goal is to weather this storm together, as a team and above all, be kind to each other.

Acknowledge and accept your differences
Talking about and naming the differences in how you are responding to the coronavirus is an important step to de-escalating any coronavirus conflict. Freshen up on your active listening skills so you can hear the other person’s viewpoint and have them feel understood for their differences. You don’t have to agree with how they see the situation, but having them feel heard and understood will go a long way to creating more harmony at home.

Carve Out Alone Time
Couples thrive when there’s a healthy balance between time spent together and time spent apart. No matter your living situation, the essential ingredient is communicating when you need alone time, as this is likely to be different every day. And when your partner requests a similar break, honor it. This is the independence that many of us may need to feel.

Routine
For many people, anxiety is fed by two main things: fear of the unknown and wanting to control the future. One tool that is helpful with this fear is setting up a routine for yourself and your family. Planning meals, scheduling exercise times, devoting specific hours to work or outlining a plan of attack for a DIY project, can restore some semblance of normalcy to your otherwise-upended life. Our brains love structure, and the grounding effects of routines are powerful. The COVID-19 situation is evolving, and new developments may require tweaks to these plans, but by getting a handle on the day-to-day you can minimize your anxieties while fostering teamwork.

As I have said before it’s 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

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

Escape The Routine And Add Some Play Into Your Relationship

We all know the feeling of being in a rut in your relationship with your partner. All your time is consumed with going to work, taking care of family and maintaining the household. But if you can’t remember the last time you felt excited or curious with your partner about something that is going to happen then you need to add some play and adventure into your life. 

  • When was the last time you felt excited and shared that with your partner?
  • When was the last time you did something new together?

Play and adventure are critical to the success of your relationship yet it is usually at the bottom of our to-do list. When we experience something new and exciting it brings a pleasurable rush to the relationship and creates trust, intimacy and a deeper connection. 

A couple that tries something new together can bring a new interest to the relationship. Now you and your partner may have very different ideas of what is fun to do. One of you may be extremely daring and want to go river rafting or dirt bike riding when the other would prefer a cooking class or a nature walk. 

 According to Dr. John Gottman “It’s okay if you and your partner have different ideas about what constitutes play and adventure.The key is for you to respect each other’s sense of adventure and what it means to that partner”

There may be times when you experience the play separately and other times when it is something you choose to do together. If it is separate than it is wise to still make time to talk to your partner and let them share about their play, support them and encourage them because the joy that they get from that experience and knowing that you are encouraging them will create a trust and deeper connection.

It is important to also find a place where your different styles of play can connect. An activity that is new, challenging, fun and safe for both of you. The experience doesn’t have to be extreme, it simply has to be new and different, anything that pushes you outside the normal and stimulates you in a new way. There is something about facing the new challenge together, supporting each other, sharing a new experience and connecting in a new way. It could be trying a new restaurant, traveling to a new place, playing a board game or making new friends. Newness is the key, shake up the everyday with something new. We all need a spice of humor, laughter, fun and even silliness in our everyday life. 

Don’t allow your life to fall into a stagnant routine. We all need something to look forward to and to take our mind off the everyday responsibilities. I challenge you to be creative and make play a priority for the two of you. You will find it is worth it.

Written by Lisa Strong

Healing From Betrayal In Your Relationship

When you can no longer count on your partner, a promise is broken or an expectation is not met then you may feel betrayed. When we are in a relationship we all have expectations. There are too many varied expectations to list but just think about what your expectations are in your own relationship. It may be for your partner to provide financially, to listen to your concerns, to show compassion and understanding, to be a support or to share activities with and to remain faithful.

When a relationship is healthy each partner feels that their needs are being met and their expectations are fulfilled. We trust our partner to meet these needs and expectations. Some of our needs could be time with a spouse, the need for validation and understanding or a partner who regularly gives affection or appreciation. Each of us have different needs and as our needs are being met we become more and more connected to that person. 

Each of you have a responsibility to stay tuned-in to your partner and to communicate openly when you feel things are slipping or you are disconnecting.

Over time things change and we must stay tuned-in to our partner. If this is not happening then the relationship begins to break down. Our attention and focus can begin to change and then your partner can move from a place of trust to a place of betrayal. For example if you become too busy that you have no more time to sit and listen, or you are struggling at work and your partner no longer shows you the admiration and support that you need, these types of experiences may leave you feeling betrayed. This is not what you expected and now you are frustrated and disconnected from your partner. It may get to the point where you turn to someone else to meet your needs. 

If you have allowed this slow erosion to break down the connection with your partner then it will take work to get back on track. The healing of the relationship will become the focus. It does take work to move past the pain of a betrayal and it is not easy but here are some basic suggestions that can refocus your attention back onto the relationship so that the erosion does not cause a permanent separation.

  1. You need to be committed to the process of healing. Looking at each persons behavior with honesty and a willingness to change. 
  2. Learn to share what you need and listen well. One of the things that may have gotten you to this point is the lack of honest, supportive communication. There were signs of the erosion in the relationship and either one person did not share what they needed or the other person did not listen well. 
  3. Re-establishing trust by showing that you are someone who can be counted on. When you were dating you were there to meet your partners needs for support, encouragement, understanding and affection. Your partner wants to be able to count on you to meet their needs and keep your word.
  4. Your partner is human and life can be very demanding. I am not excusing bad behavior but I know that focusing on who is to blame will not move you forward and doing so can be toxic to the relationship.

If you are struggling to regain the trust and connection in your relationship I encourage you to not loose hope. Relationships take work and continual fine tuning but a healthy relationship can bring you great joy. If you need further help then give me a call at 562-260-4796 and I can help you reconnect and enjoy each other again.

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

4 Habits to Support a Healthy Relationship

Do you ever feel like relationships are hard?  Sometimes it can feel like there’s one thing after another that causes tension or gets in the way of the connection we are looking for with the other person.  

Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship does take effort. I understand that you as an individual have pressures put on you each day and the immediate demands often press in on you and distract you from the fundamental foundational goals of maintaining your relationship. Here are 4 things that will help your relationship to stay strong.

  1. Build on the knowledge of your partner. This means make it a priority to check in with your partner, catch up and talk. Know what are their daily habits, likes, dislikes, fears, stresses, joys, worries and hopes. This is something that continually needs to be revisited and this is achieved by communication and asking open ended questions. This is not a time for judgement or criticism it is a time to listen. 
  2. Build your fondness and admiration for your partner. This is the antidote for contempt. If your mind is always focused on the negative your behaviors will follow. It is fundamental that you feel your partner is worthy of being respected and liked. A way to rekindle this fondness and admiration is to scan for qualities and actions that you can appreciate. Let your partner know what you observe and express your appreciation. Refocus your thoughts on the positive.
  1. Turn towards your partner instead of away. There are many times in your relationship when your partner will reach out for support. It may be as simple as them expressing concern about their job or moaning about the laundry. When these things happen do you ignore them or give unsolicited advice or do you show understanding and empathize? Coming to their support shows your partner that you are their teammate and partner in life. Validate their feelings and show you care.
  2. Let your partner influence you. Couples that allow their partner to influence them will have happier relationships. This is when each is willing to share the power. Each person is showing the other respect and honor while listening to their partner’s feelings and opinions and taking those opinions into account. Your partner and you should work together to solve conflict and sharing the power is the first step to compromise and coming up with a win/win solution.  There has to be the feeling that each person has an influence for a compromise to work. 

Being aware of these building blocks and keeping them in the forefront of your mind will help you maintain the health of your relationship. Don’t let the demands of each day distract you from the goal of maintaining your relationship.

We understand that all of this is easier said than done.  It takes practice.  We can help you improve the relationships in your life and gain the tools and skills that will help you achieve  that.
Call us today at 562-537-2947 to find out more about how we can help you.

Written by Lisa Strong

How Positive Words Can Strengthen Your Marriage

“Marrying you was the biggest mistake of my life!” 

“I told God that I’d rather be dead than stay married to you!” 

“I’m absolutely certain that I married the wrong person.” 

“Come back here and fight me like a man, you chicken!” 

“To be completely honest, I’ve lost my feelings for you.”

Words have the power to start wars, scar hearts, lacerate a person’s soul, create enemies and incite fear. Our words can actually damage a person’s identity for life. That’s how powerful words are!  Believe me.  And if we aren’t careful with our language, we can destroy our marriage.  

I understand that sometimes we use negative words with the intention of motivating the other person to step up, to get their attention and to convey how hurt and disappointed we are.  But it’s important to understand, really wrap your head around, that this may bring momentary change but it will not bring a change of heart, the kind of change you are looking for.  

“I can see this is hard for you but I also see the effort you are making.”

“I appreciate what you are doing for our family.”

“You look nice today.”

“I know we will work through this hard time as long as we stick together.”

These are the words that will actually bring real, lasting change.  These are the words that will motivate your spouse, cause them to listen and to keep trying.  I hear some couples say that they are afraid to say anything nice to their spouse because they are afraid it will lead their spouse to believe that everything in their marriage is going ok and that all the pain and resentment have been resolved.  This isn’t usually the case.  If you truly want your marriage to turn a corner, become more enjoyable and you really want your partner as your lover and your best friend you have to build them up.  There is no other way around it.  

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