Want to hear the 5 scariest words anyone in a relationship can hear?
“Honey we need to talk.” Yikes!!
Here it comes and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Your partner is surely going to hit you with something that they don’t like about you, your behavior, your attitude, or some need they have that you are obviously not fulfilling. Don’t fret, this doesn’t have to spell disaster.
When your partner brings up an issue, don’t hide or shift into defensive mode, see it as an opportunity. “An opportunity for what?” Good question. An opportunity for repair, here’s how it goes.
How to Repair
Once your partner has started talking your positions are set. They are the speaker. You are the listener. The one-way approach I am taking about starts right here. When your partner talks, you listen, you don’t interject with your thoughts and feelings, you continue to listen until they are finished.
Think of these conversations as one-way interactions meaning this is not a two-way street where you both share back and forth. That strategy is widely used, but stinks. “Babe I hear what you are saying about my schedule, but you know your schedule is partly to blame too!” Nope. That strategy won’t work, so don’t use it.
You may want to voice your issues, but now is not the time. Bring it up the next day or next week, but right now they need repair and you need to give it to them.
While listening you seek to understand your partner’s position as fully as possible. Look for these key areas: What do they see as the issue? What do they think about the issue (their perspective)? How to they feel about the issue? What do they need from you to help them here?
You will know your job as the listener has been completed when you can recite back the answers to the key questions above. When your partner says “yes, you’ve got it” you’ve done a good enough job.
The Last Piece
Once you know their position on the issue, your job is simple, give them as much of what they are asking for as you can. That’s it. You don’t have to completely agree with their perspective or even agree with what they want, but you can still be responsive and seek to meet their need to your best ability.
Repair has happened when your partner feels heard, understood, and sees you doing your best to give them what they want. You don’t have to be perfect here, do your best and stay connected.
If you keep getting stuck in two-way conversations that lead nowhere, you probably need professional help. You can keep trying on your own, but unless you drastically change your approach and tactics, you are signing up for some version of what you have been getting. If you are ready to re-shape your relationship and learn how to make repairs to the bond, please call Douglas Counseling and set up a free phone consultation.
Douglas Counseling can be reached by phone or text at (561) 207-1903 and please visit us online at www.DouglasCounseling.com.
Ever heard your partner utter these words? If so you probably felt hurt and angry that they would compare your actions to that of a baby. But wait, they may have a point. There is a connection between the way we connect as babies with our caregivers and the way we connect with our partners in adult relationships! Interested in how this works? Read on.
As newborns we move through 4 distinct phases in our first 2 years of life. The phases are:
The names of these stages may sound complex, but they are easy to understand. Think of each stage like this.
Symbiosis- the mother (or caregiver) and baby mutually respond to each other in a blissful way. There is no separation between the self and the relationship. Two are experienced as one.
Differentiation- the child begins to explore and starts to see herself as separate from her mother. The mother must move on from the previous blissful union to allow the child the room to develop.
Practicing- the child begins to establish her own personal identity and explores the world farther and farther away from mother yet returns home to the “safe base” when comfort is needed.
Rapprochement- the child discovers “self-sufficiency” and behaves in ways that both push the mother away and pull her back in. The child now sees themselves as a separate being with their own needs, desires, feelings, and thoughts.
Does any of this stuff sound familiar? Think about your relationship with your partner.
You likely started in the state of symbiosis where you spent hours and hours with each other and neither of you could do wrong in the eyes of the other. Everything was blissful, and you felt totally connected.
You then moved to the next state where you started to focus your time and attention outside of the relationship, but still had a clear goal on making the relational bond strong. At this stage you were in differentiation.
From there you began to see the need to pour your time and energy into outside pursuits such as raising kids, establishing a career, or taking up a new hobby. Your focus was not as much on the relationship, and you likely felt friction at the new distance created in your bond. This is the practicing stage.
If you are lucky enough to have gained the skills needed to address these issues and have found the ability to see yourself apart from the relationship, while still feeling connected to your partner, you have found rapprochement. This is where healthy long-term relationships end up.
How you attached to your mother or caregiver as a child is a great predictor in the way you will attach to partners as an adult. If your mother was distracted and your needs were not met you may find yourself with someone who is also distant that rekindles that familiar feeling.
If you were enmeshed with your caregiver and had no space to explore, you may find yourself smothering your partner with closeness. You may experience the connection as soothing because you are accustomed to this feeling, yet it is not healthy and causes problems in the relationship.
Do the Work
If you don’t feel the type of connection you would like with your partner, take a look at what style you bring forward. What was your family of origin like? What type of relationship did you have with your primary caregivers? Are you stuck in one stage of development/attachment while your partner has moved on? These are all important questions to ask and important work that needs to be done.
If you would like to more fully connect with your partner and need help in understanding how your past experiences are playing into your current position, reach out for help. This type of work is best done with an experienced professional and can lead to amazing insights and results.
Remember to contact Douglas Counseling for all your relationship needs. You can reach us by phone at (561) 207-1903 or visit us online at www.DouglasCounseling.com.
What types of issues can compel men to seek counseling?
Well, there are the usual favorites including relationship issues, substance abuse, anger management, stress, and work-life balance. While each of these areas is well worth while exploring, the underlying (and real) reason many men enter therapy is a lack of self-esteem.
The World According to Men
Men are notorious for judging themselves very harshly. As Master Therapist Terry Real states, “in the world of men you are either a hero or a zero.” This way of thinking leaves little room for error and causes men a great deal of distress. If you make a 6-figure paycheck, have a beautiful adoring wife, drive a luxury car, and have a full social calendar you are allowed to feel good. If not, you need to keep striving as you have yet to ‘make it.’
How the Illusion Starts
Most men use 3 major criteria to determine their self-worth.
Performance based esteem- “I have worth because of what I can do.”
Other based esteem- “I have worth because you think I do.”
Attribute based esteem- “I have worth because of what I have.”
The problem with using this set of criteria to determine self-esteem is the assumption that you can only feel adequate when you have achieved in these categories. This way of thinking leads men to believe that they are born deficient and must perform well, get others to like or approve of them, and acquire wealth and possessions to feel worthy and valuable.
What a load of bullshit!!
This way of thinking keeps men continually feeling ‘less than’ other men and prevents them from seeing themselves in a healthy way.
The illusion of self-esteem is that if one achieves highly in all these areas they can then feel worthy. The problem is that each of the 3 criteria men use to judge their worth is not in their control. These men are leaving their self-esteem up to outside factors that they have only slight influence over!
A True Story
What happens when the company you work for “restructures” and that high paying job you had no longer exists? This happened to one of my clients several months ago, here is his story.
Mark had a great job at a large corporation and had tied his sense of self to how well he performed at the job. Mark had very much lived his life buying into the notion that if he performed well at work and garnered the approval of those around him he could feel worthy.
It took only one day for Mark’s life to begin to unravel. My client got the news that his services were no longer needed due to a shift in company strategy. He tried to take this news in stride and used a part of his severance package to open his own consulting company. Unfortunately, Mark’s new venture didn’t pan out.
Mark tried to soldier on, but he just didn’t feel the same way about himself without the lofty job, peer approval, and fat paycheck. Mark began to self-medicate by hanging out in the local bars and drinking on an almost daily basis. The two-year long relationship with his girlfriend turned sour as she noticed his depression, lack of motivation, and disconnected state.
After a year of depression, sadness, suicidal thoughts, and imploding relationships Mark finally sought help.
After attending therapy for several months Mark has slowly started to put his life back together. He adopted a much healthier (and realistic) view of what self-esteem really is. Mark now sees that his worth as a person is not dictated by the job he has, the money he makes, or the company he keeps.
Mark has come to understand that he alone gets to determine his feelings about himself and he no longer uses the toxic view that most men share.
Look Out for Yourself or for the Men in Your Life
Men, pay close attention to how you judge your sense of self-esteem. Are you using the toxic criteria laid out at the beginning of this article? If so, don’t continue to fall for this illusion. You can break these patterns by learning to see yourself in a new and more functional way.
Women, if you have men in your life that are feeling down and you suspect may be depressed please pass this article along to them. Most men won’t admit to feeling depressed or having poor self-esteem, so you may need to push them to get help.
If you would like more information on how Counseling can help you feel better about yourself, please call Douglas Counseling at (561) 207-1903 or visit us online at www.DouglasCounseling.com.
*The name and all identifying facts about the client mentioned above were changed to protect his confidentiality.
“I just seem to attract the same type of guy, but I’m sick of getting hurt!”
“The women I have dated are all the same, but I’m ready for something different.”
This type of sentiment is all too common. My clients tell me about how they keep finding the same relationships over and over, but with different partners. While the partner changes, the dynamics remain the same.
A woman continues to find herself in relationships with narcissistic men.
A man notices that all his past girlfriends seem overly critical and withdrawn.
These relationships at best are not working out and at worst have become toxic. Despite knowing how unhealthy their relationships are some people seem stuck in their ways and feel powerless to change the pattern. There is a way out, but you must first understand why you’re stuck.
We all carry ‘baggage’ or emotional fallout from previous relationships/experiences. Most often we are not sure what it is, where it came from, or how to get rid of it. To change our ways, we must first understand where these patterns came from.
You Can Thank Your Family
Most of our parents/caregivers were doing the best they could, but very few people escape their childhood without at least a bit of emotional trauma. One of the most common threads I see in people stuck dating unhealthy partners is parents with boundary issues.
One or both parents operated in a way that either took power away or forced too much responsibility on the child at a young age. The result is a child that has little sense of healthy boundaries. This child then grows up and becomes engaged in adult relationships with no clue of what to reasonably expect from others. In other words, no boundaries!
Deeper and Deeper You Go
When our experiences in adult relationships further cement what we experienced as a child, we dig ourselves in deeper and deeper into these entrenched patterns.
Your mother expected perfection from you at all times, so is it surprising that you find yourself jumping to take care of your partner while your needs are shoved aside? No, if anything that is exactly what I would expect.
Stay Away from This!
Take a minute and ask yourself the following questions:
1. What does your current partner have in common with one or both of your parents?
2. How do you feel being with your current partner and does it feel at all similar to your relationships in your family of origin?
I often find that we pick our partners based on two distinct criteria.
First, they are similar enough to one of both of our parents that we can re-create the old familiar family drama.
Second, they are dissimilar enough from our parents that we feel we have a chance for a different outcome.
What happens is we attempt to heal the old wounds with a new partner. The problem is that our skill set has not significantly changed since our childhood and this leaves us with no real chance to heal. Instead we just continue to beat our heads against a wall and wonder why we keep feeling so bad.
Look, if you have been dating the same type of person and feel exhausted and ready to exit from the old patters, there is hope! You don’t have to keep dating the types of people that trigger the unfinished business from your childhood. Take control of your life and make the decision to do the work needed to heal yourself and find happiness in your relationships.
Ready to Ditch the Old Patterns?
If you are ready to stop dating (or marrying) the same types of people Douglas Counseling can help. We have developed a specialty in helping individuals break free from these old patterns.
For more information on how Douglas Counseling can help please call (561) 207-1903 for your free phone consultation.
Can feeling shame be healthy? Sounds like a simple question, right? Feeling shame can’t be a healthy thing, most of us feel like crap when shame shows up!
Not so fast. Like most things in life we must avoid the urge to view everything through a black and white lens. Feeling shame doesn’t have to be all bad. So, if feeling shame isn’t all bad when is it good?
Feeling shame is a normal part of the human experience. Some experts believe that the ability to feel shame is what sets us apart from all other species.
The ‘good’ kind of shame I speak of is called Healthy Shame. This type of shame helps us in several ways. Healthy shame helps us to contain ourselves when we would like to lash out and harm others or make a situation worse. Healthy shame helps us to feel a sense of guilt or remorse when we acted badly. Healthy shame allows us to remember our humanity and how truly imperfect we really are.
Healthy shame can be defined in this statement: “I made a mistake.”
Most of us try to avoid feeling shame at all costs. Even if we allow ourselves to feel shame, we have a nanoseconds worth of tolerance to remain in the shame position. So, what do we do?
We feel ‘less than’ when we feel shame so it makes perfect sense that we launch ourselves out of this state by seeking to feel ‘better than.’ We overcorrect from feeling shame to acting grandiose. This is a losing strategy that leads to a lack of willingness to acknowledge our real emotion of shame. When we can’t acknowledge our shame, we act out and cause damage to ourselves and to our relationships.
We refuse to look at ourselves and seek to ‘outsource’ our feelings by doing whatever necessary. In relationships this usually means attacking or blaming our partner.
Unhealthy Shame or ‘Bad’ Shame can be defined by this statement: “You made a mistake.”
The most harmful kind of shame is the kind that leaves us feeling like we are less than worthy human beings. This type of shame can best be described as Toxic Shame.
Toxic shame clouds our ability to see ourselves as worthy individuals and leads to chronic feelings of depression and low self-esteem. Toxic shame makes it impossible for us to connect with anyone else in a healthy way.
Toxic shame is most often passed down to us by our family members. Because they felt shameful and never dealt with it, they unknowingly pass it down to us.
Toxic shame can be defined by this statement: “I am a mistake.”
A Healthier Perspective
Learning to feel Healthy Shame is a crucial part of living a healthy life. When you understand the different ways in which you can feel shame, you gain the ability to regulate your emotions.
Pay close attention to your emotional state. The next time you feel shame, ask yourself which kind of shame it is. If you are launching out of shame into the grandiose position or if you are experiencing Toxic shame, please reach out for help.
Learning to experience shame in a healthier way won’t happen on its own and you will need help. If feeling shame has caused you personal discomfort or has impacted your relationships, don’t wait too long to act.
To learn how to properly view and respond to shame please call Douglas Counseling at (561) 207-1903 and set up an initial consultation.
Do you wish your partner was more engaged in your relationship or family life? Have you tried to get them more involved, yet nothing seems to really stick?
My guess is that if you answered yes to either of the previous questions you are almost certainly a woman. How am I so smart? Well, for starters I can’t remember the last time I had a male client drag his wife into therapy and state “I just need her to be more involved.” By-in-large women are involved, they are engaged, and they are the glue that holds most relationships and families together. This is not simply my opinion, this is fact.
The Woman’s Burden
So why have women solely been put in charge of looking after the relationship and the family? The reason is patriarchy. Centuries of male privilege have negatively impacted our lives and left many modern relationships on life support.
Let’s start with a fundamental difference in women and men. For women being engaged physically, emotionally, and logistically with the family has always been implied, for men being engaged in these areas is discretionary.
Women are expected to remain engaged all the time. Men can pick and chose when to become engaged and when to back away.
This huge difference between women and men lies at the heart of the issue of equality in modern relationships.
How can we expect both women and men to report feeling equal when one has privilege the other doesn’t? Very simple, we can’t! To have true equality in relationships we need both genders to be equally engaged and supportive of each other and the family.
A Hard Sell?
So how do you convince men who have benefited (as they see it) from this unearned privilege to just give it up? Sounds like a difficult proposition, but it’s doable with the right mindset.
The first thing that must happen is that women must pull their heads out of the sand and demand change. If women stop caving in and begin to demand their partner treat them as an equal, we have the scene set for potential change.
Next, the men must begin to see the benefit in living a more engaged and relational life.
Once these men fully understand the choice it becomes an obvious answer.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of men becoming more engaged:
Happier partnerBetter relationshipsIncreased mood/self-esteemImproved physical health
Unhappy partnerDistant relationshipsDecreased mood/lowered self-esteemWorsened physical health
Seems like a no-brainer to me! Most men also see these benefits, and many are willing to do the work needed to change.
By helping men see the consequences of their continued disengagement, combined with the obvious benefits for becoming more engaged, we can turn things around and find true equality.
How I Can Help
I specialize in helping men live more relational lives and have a proven system in place to help these men and their partners along their journey. If you would like to have a more engaged partner, please give me a call and we can begin the journey to create a more involved partner and equal relationship.
Please call Douglas Counseling at (561) 207-1903 or visit us online at www.DouglasCounseling.com.
I would bet good money that you or someone you know has uttered this line. I hear my clients say it on a daily basis. While saying “you make me feel _______” may seem harmless, it actually does a great deal of damage.
No one can “make” you feel anything. Agree? Most people don’t buy this at first glance and have trouble understanding how feelings work. The truth is that no one “makes” you feel anything. You chose your own feelings. Another person may have some slight influence on your feelings, but no real control.
Imagine if your emotional state was constantly at the whim of everyone around you. When they spoke to you their approach put you on edge, their tone dictated your mood, and their words caused your feelings to shift. Allowing others to dictate my emotional experience is not something I am interested in, and I don’t think you should be either.
For those of you who believe that others to truly “make” you feel certain ways, you need to begin to understand the idea of boundaries. Not just generic boundaries, but more specifically developing a functional internal boundary.
This internal boundary has two main functions: to protect and contain. Your internal boundary serves to protect and contain your psyche the same way your skin protects your body. It keeps you safe from the dangers of the world, while at the same time keeps you contained so you don’t spill out all over the place.
To build a solid relationship with yourself or anyone else you need this internal boundary. A great way to begin shaping this boundary is to refuse to give others the power to dictate your feelings.
Someone can say anything they want to you, you can’t stop them. At the same time, you do not have to allow what they have said to penetrate your boundary. Learn the limits for yourself and make sure what comes at you meets the following criteria for you to allow it in.
The 4 criteria for allowing in information:
It must me rationalIt must be realisticIt must be trueIt must be helpful
If something someone has said or how they have acted does not fully meet the criteria above, filter it out as information not worth your time. If what they have said does meet the criteria, then take it into consideration and make your decisions from there.
I coach my clients to switch from “you made me feel _______” to “when you said _____ I made myself feel __________.” To some this may seem like a subtle change, but the difference couldn’t me more of a stark contrast.
When we say someone “makes us feel _____” we are taking no ownership, and worse than that we are blaming them for our emotional state. This is a very unhealthy practice that leads to hurt feelings and a sense of helplessness.
When we take ownership by saying “I make myself feel ______” we are taking control of our emotions. This is a healthy practice that leads to healthy individuals and healthy relationships.
If someone you know makes a habit out of saying “you make me feel _____” please refer them to this article. You can’t change your actions until you change your beliefs, and this is a great place to start.
If you feel others have too much control over your emotions and would like to learn how to set healthy boundaries for yourself or in your relationship, please call Douglas Counseling at (561) 207-1903 or visit us online at www.DouglasCounseling.com.
“I have tried everything I can think of to get him to change!” “It doesn’t matter what I do, nothing makes a difference to him.”
These are the words of a fed-up wife who feels powerless to effect change in her marriage. She has tried every tactic she can think of to no avail. She has spoken politely requesting change, has become frustrated and demanded action, has acted out aggressively to show her anger, and is now slipping into resigned withdrawal and resentment.
This woman typically shows up at my office looking for more strategies to try on her husband. I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but she likely won’t find one. Not because I can’t give her dozens of strategies to use, but because none of them will work. This woman needs to apply the one tactic she has yet to try, she needs to stand up for herself.
Women in this position truly feel powerless to get what they really want in their marriages and fall victim to the toxic dilemma of Explode or Corrode.
Their behavior vacillates between exploding in fits of anger before resigning themselves to passive withdrawal, which over time causes harmful corrosion to the relationship. These women effectively reach a state of learned helplessness, where they come to believe no matter what they do, their partners won’t budge.
When these women voice their displeasure their husbands often respond with anger of their own accusing their wives of being critical or “bitchy.” Men also use the tactic of shutting down and withdrawing further which serves to push the wife to feel more helpless and leads to women voicing their feelings less and less.
Girls in our society are socialized to value connection over voicing their needs. The result is countless women who are unhappy in their relationships, but without the knowledge or skills to stand up and have a voice. This needs to change.
Bottom Line Needs
In many cases the women I work with seem unaware of just how little they are getting from their partner. These women work full time, provide 90% of the childcare, take care of the house, cook the meals, and watch their partners sit around and complain.
I educate these women about the idea of bottom line needs or needs that must be met for them to remain in the relationship. For most women, these are not outlandish needs and usually include being treated as an equal, being treated respectfully, and a request for the husband to become more engaged (physically, emotionally, or both.)
The New Strategy
When working with women who are stuck in in the Explode or Corrode dilemma I use a 3-step approach. Before using the new approach, I make a point to educate these women that there is much to be gained by sticking up for themselves. I also remind them that that there is much to lose. If they are truly at their wits end with their partner and require change to stay in the relationship, we start the wheels in motion.
Step 1.Report your current thoughts and feelings about the relationship and include what you need to change in a very clear and specific way. Example: “I am feeling so sad and alone right now and I am not willing to settle for this.” “I need you to treat me as an equal, treat me respectfully, and be supportive of my needs emotionally.” (The woman then goes on to give specific examples of how each of these needs can be fulfilled)
Step 2. Report what you will do if your needs are not met. The woman must make sure her partner is aware of what steps she will take if her needs go unmet. Example: “If you are not able to make the changes I need I will be taking the kids and going to stay at my mother’s house.” “I will contact an attorney and will start the process of filing for a formal separation.”
Step 3.Stick to your word. This is often the hardest step as it means a major disruption to your/the family’s life. While it may not be easy to stick to your promises, it is critical to show your partner that you mean business and are willing to follow through.
Keep in mind that no matter what you do, you have no control over your partner’s actions. It is important to understand that we are not seeking to control or coerce our partner here. We are simply standing up for ourselves and if our partner is unwilling to take that journey with us, then so be it. The end goal for many of these women stuck in Explode or Corrode is better individual health, regardless of what happens in the relationship.
If you or someone you know is stuck in an unhealthy relationship, please share this article with them. By gaining clarity on your bottom line needs and standing up for yourself you just might be able to effect the change you need to have a happy and fulfilling relationship.
For expert help in getting your relationship turned around callDouglas Counseling at (561) 207-1903 or visit us online at www.DouglasCounseling.com.
Every year on Father’s Day I find myself reflecting on what it means to be a father. Like many of the most difficult things in life, fatherhood does not come with a handbook. There are no clear directions provided for how to be a great father. Since there is no blueprint to follow, men are left with one of two choices; do what your dad did or try to figure it out on your own.
Most of us are still searching to unlock the true meaning of being a father. I know I’m not the only one taking time to think about this as I have many of my male clients bringing up the same questions. The following are some of the most popular:
How can I provide the most value to my family?What should my top priority be, making money or being present with my family?Am I spending enough time with my kids?Am I engaged in the way my family needs me to be?Can I possibly put in enough time in all the different areas of life to be successful at each?
The answers to these questions depends on your viewpoint. I will outline the old standard view of fatherhood, and then make the case for an updated definition that leaves fathers with a new way of looking at the most important job of their lives.
Putting an Old Myth to Rest (Financially Successful but Disconnected)
Most men are raised with the belief that you can either be successful in your career or closely connected to your wife and kids. This was and is thought of as strictly an either-or proposition. Even today, most men are socialized to value making a “successful” income over being connected in their relationships.
One of the largest issues with this old view is that many women have changed their expectations and their men have yet to catch up. Men are often left very confused by the treatment of their unhappy women. These women are almost never upset with their husband for not providing financially and are almost always angry with the lack of connection and time their man is spending with them and with the kids.
Finding a New Path (Relationally Successful and Connected)
The issue really starts with looking at and re-evaluating one’s value system. While most men are still expected to provide an income (and many the only income) for the family, their value as a father goes far beyond this narrow scope.
Men must begin to see themselves as having an equal amount of relational value as their wives. Why must the woman be solely in charge of the children’s relational education? If this is happening, the children are losing out as they would gain so much to see their fathers as more relational beings.
The True Value of an Engaged Father
The true value of what men can bring to the table for their children is to be seen and experienced as an engaged father. This means a father that prioritizes and follows through with the following:
Spends adequate time with the family- spending quality time being physically and emotionally engaged with the kids.
Shows his children an honest/vulnerable side- teaching and modeling a man who knows when to be soft and who makes the relational decision, even if it comes attached with more time and effort.
Engages in his children’s lives- knowing your child’s best friends at school, their favorite new stuffed animal, and their most newly developed fear.
Accepts himself and others for who they are- showing your child by example that you are accepting of yourself (and others) despite your own flaws and reminding them that they can do the same.
By embracing a new value system that places just as much emphasis on your capacity to build healthy relationships and bring home a healthy salary, you can show your children a more whole and developed role model.
There is no way to overstate the positive impact that this will have on your children and your marriage. By breaking down the old ways we used to look at fatherhood, we can move toward building a more engaged, connected, and happy family.
If you would like help learning how to live a more relational life and becoming the father you wish you had, please don’t hesitate to contact Douglas Counseling. One of our specialties is helping men to live more well-rounded and relational lives.
Douglas Counseling can be reached at (561) 207-1903 or visit us online at www.DouglasCounseling.com.
“What can I do to avoid the countless arguments we get sucked into?” I’ve heard this question more than a few times while working with couples. It never gets old to see the surprised faces of my clients when I tell them there actually is a way to avoid arguments!
The process is really quite simple and requires only a couple of prerequisite shifts in thought process and a simple 4-step guide for speaking. If this sounds too good to be true, read on and reap the rewards as you try it with your partner.
The underlying goal of speaking with your partner needs to be to make things better. Remember that your partner is not the enemy. In fact you love them very much and are speaking with them to improve your bond. Once the goal has been established and agreed upon by both partners, we are almost ready to go.
The only other thing we need to remember is to ask our partner if they will speak with us. It can be as simple as “Is this a good time to talk?” If they say no, ask them about a better time and agree to speak when both of you can be fully attentive.
Step 1. What I Experienced
This is where you articulate what you would like to address. Such as: “Yesterday morning you didn’t take out the trash…”
Report on the observable actions you saw/heard your partner take. Be particular and specific.This is your version of “The Facts and Nothing But the Facts”This is only what a video camera would see if the scene were being filmed.
Step 2: What I Made Up About It
This is where you state your perception of what happened. This is not in service of “finding the truth” but to show your partner what meaning you have assigned to the issue at hand. Such as: “The meaning I give to this is that you are not responsible and expect others to pick up after you.”
State your ideas/perception of what it meant to you.This is where your belief system comes in to help you make sense of what happened.
Step 3: How I Feel About It
This is where you own your feelings. Remember that no one “makes you” feel anything, you are in charge of your emotional experience. Such as: “I make myself feel hurt and frustrated. Hurt that you don’t listen to me, and frustrated that I have to pick up the slack.”
Focus on the primary feelings here, joy, pain, fear, shame, guilt, and love.Take ownership of your emotional experience.
Step 4: What I’d Like Now
This is where you ask for specific behaviors that would help you feel better right now. Such as: “What would help me to feel better is for you to reassure me that you do take this seriously, apologize, and make a real effort to do better about taking out the trash on time.”
This is where you make a request of your partner to help you feel better.Make sure you state your need in the form of a request and not as a compliant.Be as specific as you can about what you need from your partner, the more clear the action needed the better.
The great thing about adopting this strategy of talking is that it leaves your partner unable to argue with you. It may sound crazy, but it’s true. If you use this 4-Step process successfully, your partner has no reasonable grounds to argue.
Your partner can’t argue about the facts of what happened in Step 1.They can’t argue about the meaning you gave it in Step 2.They certainly can’t argue with you about your own emotional experience in Step 3.And they definitely can’t argue about what you need from them to feel better in Step 4.
Put it all together to form a dialogue regarding the incident you are trying to resolve. The more you practice this the easier it gets.
If you need help resolving arguments with your partner please call Douglas Counseling at (561) 207-1903 and visit us online at www.DouglasCounseling.com.