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3 Steps to End That Recurring Fight


Nobody goes into a relationship looking for a fight.  We want love, we want someone who values us, we want safety and a partner we can share with.  We don’t want a fight.

Yet, fights are common with most couples.  We’re human, after all, so frustration and the occasional miscommunication is unavoidable.

What is avoidable, however, are those recurring fights that drain our emotional energy and make us question why we’re even in the relationship. Revisiting the same old fights with the same old outcomes of hurt, drama and emotional disconnection can be a cancer on our relationship.

Thankfully, we can stop these recurring fights by tackling the root cause of the problem.Couples who get stuck in the same fight over and over again is something I see all the time in my relationship coaching practice, but there’s a pretty easy solution: Focus on emotional triggers.

A lot of couples say, “I just don’t know how to communicate RIGHT.”  They think it’s about a structure: “If I just get the right structure of how to say things, the right words, then things will go well.”

There are tools for communication out there, really great tools, but when it comes to a heated moment, couples don’t actually use them.  So, we have to look a little deeper.  The real cause of communication problems is not the way you talk, it’s the emotional triggers that get evoked.

Understanding Emotional Triggers

Couples fight over a million different issues.  It could be taking out the garbage, it could be not doing the dishes, it could be too much time in the office or how best to raise the kids.  What you and your partner fight over I can’t say, because there’s an infinite number of possibilities. But what’s more certain is that these issues probably aren’t the real reason for the fight.

Relationships evoke some of our deepest longings and needs, such as wanting to feel loved, wanting to feel appreciated, wanting to be heard, wanting to feel safe.  These are important issues for us, so when our partner does or says something that threatens these needs, we react strongly.

These strong reactions are our emotional triggers, and each of us usually has a few of these triggers that set us off pretty quickly.

The problem isn’t that we have emotional triggers or that we care what our partner thinks.  The reason many of us live through recurring fights is because we misunderstand the real reason for the fight and add fuel to the conflict by getting defensive and setting off each other’s emotional triggers once the fight has begun.

You get some kind of negative message that for you is sensitive, which then causes you to act strongly emotionally in a defensive way.  That then triggers your partner to react defensively in a negative way because they just got triggered by something sensitive you said.

The cycle repeats itself during the fight and things usually end badly.  And because most of us don’t understand the real reason we’re fighting, these proxy issues like washing the dishes confuse us and keep us from addressing the real problem.  The fight repeats again later because we never actually resolved the underlying issue.

How to End the Fight

Getting out of this negative cycle takes work, but the process is simple and straightforward.  It’s something we all can do, whether the argument is a recurring fight that keeps happening over the course of 20 years or a one-off dispute that emerges out of nowhere one day at the breakfast table.

There are three basic steps: understand the cycle, discover the real issue, and communicate what’s really got you upset.

Step 1: Understand the Negative Cycle

The first step for resolving that recurring fight is recognizing that you’ve gotten into a negative cycle and emotional triggers are in play.  Start by recognizing that you’ve gotten defensive, you’ve been emotionally triggered, and now you’re hurt or frustrated.  Also realize that you’re probably activating the emotional triggers of your partner by criticizing, withdrawing, demeaning or not listening to them, which perpetuates the negative atmosphere.

Step 2: Find the Real Issue

Once you see the dynamics and how things have gotten out of control, the second step is figuring out the real issue that has caused the argument.

Begin this by recognizing that you’re getting defensive.  That helps you stop the cycle.  Then you have to ask yourself what just happened to you.  What just caused you to get hurt, and what is the real issue that caused the problem?  If we’re honest with ourselves, we probably know our emotional triggers.  So, start there, and see if you can make the connection between your triggers and the proxy issue that caused your high emotions.

Step 3: Communicate What’s Really Bothering You

The third and most important step is then communicating your real issue and disarming your partner by disarming yourself through humility and vulnerability.

Once you know what’s really bothering you, you can take communication to a whole new level and stop the negative cycle that has caused the argument.

Instead of saying “You didn’t do the dishes yesterday,” for instance, you might instead communicate the real issue in an open, vulnerable way: “When you don’t do the dishes, I feel like I can’t count on you.  That’s difficult for me, and that’s scary for me.  If you’re my partner and I can’t count on you, that’s a huge issue and I feel horrible and worried!”

When we address the real issue directly and from a place of vulnerability, we do more than just make the real issue known; we change the whole tenor of the conversation, and both we and our partner start to disarm.

By finding and focusing on the real issue in a vulnerable way, you start working together as a couple again and move away from oppositional, me vs. them thinking.  This has an almost instant effect on the fight, and don’t be surprised if there’s a magical change in your partner within seconds of you focusing on the real issue in a vulnerable way instead of a defensive, accusatory tone.

Stopping a recurring fight in our relationship is something we all can do with this three-step technique, but it can take time and practice before we successfully pull ourselves out of our longstanding tension points.  If you need help putting this technique into practice, please reach out to me for one-on-one guidance and support.

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WHY YOU AND YOUR PARTNER HAVE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF YOUR LAST ARGUMENT


My client Steve (not his real name) arrived at a recent coaching session obviously tense. “So, what happened?” I ask. Steve proceeded to tell me about an argument he had with his wife, Jen, that morning. Steve sighed and shared the following with me:

Jen: “You were so mean to me last night! You were angry and raised your voice and told me you didn’t want to talk to me.”
Steve: “What? I was just busy. I tried to tell you I can’t do our vacation planning right now because I have to finish something for work. I even remember being calm about it. But then you got really upset and yelled at me!”

Have you and your partner had a similar experience? Do each of you remember a situation quite differently and then argue about who’s right or wrong? Once you get sucked down that rabbit hole, you’re not even talking about the issue itself anymore—you’re just trying to prove whose version of what happened is the right one.

Strong Emotions Are Sticky
Why does this happen? Well, we’re not computers, and our memories are deeply affected by the emotions we’re feeling. If something feels emotionally neutral, we might not remember it—because we don’t need to. It doesn’t threaten our sense of self, and so it doesn’t affect how we approach future events. Can you remember what you ate for lunch two days ago? Maybe you can (if it was intensely good or bad), but otherwise, remembering what you ate probably took some effort. We tend to remember an event more easily when it carries a strong emotional charge. These include the fun times as well as the unpleasant, but unfortunately, negative, painful situations can be especially memorable. (This is what psychologists and neuroscientists call the brain’s “negativity bias.”)

Our Interpretations Determine Our Emotions
Here’s the thing: our emotions are a result of our interpretations of the situation, not the situation itself. The process can be described sequentially, like this:
• An activating event triggers your
• interpretation of what happened, with a resulting
• emotion that creates your particular
• memory of the event.

So, when Jen heard what Steve said to her that night, she interpreted it as him blowing her off. That interpretation created a hurt feeling, which then colored her memory and therefore her reaction to him. As a result, the details she remembered were of him being unavailable and angry. Steve, however, had a neutral interpretation of his own behavior, but later felt upset when he saw Jen flare up. What he brought to our coaching session was his interpretation of her upset feelings.

How to Break the Cycle
So, what can you do about this? Here are my tips:

1. Stop arguing about whose recollection of the event is correct. Both partners usually have some version of the truth, but not the whole truth. It’s likely that you’re missing some key pieces of information about the other person’s experience (or intentions).
2. Try to understand what your partner felt and why, even if you don’t agree with it. Accept that it’s their version of the situation, and what they need is for you to listen to how they feel and show that you understand it.
3. Try to understand how they might have gathered this impression (even if you didn’t mean it) and help them understand that your intention was different than what they received. If you both reframe these arguments to try to understand each other’s experience rather than proving you’re right and they’re wrong, you’ll go a long way toward dissolving your relationship conflicts.

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THE SIMPLE TECHNIQUE THAT WILL INSTANTLY IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP


In fairy tales, lasting love just happens.  But in the real world, the key to happiness resides in building healthy long-term habits with our partner.  More specifically, consider this: When we actively seek out strengths in one another rather than focusing on weaknesses, we continue growing both individually and together.

In the beginning of a relationship, this idea seems easy.  Naturally curious to find out what makes our partner tick, we ask tons of questions (think back to those marathon conversations that lasted into the wee hours of the night).  We’re intrigued by our partner and find his/her stark differences fascinating.  We want to know everything about them.

Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever.  All too often, it’s only a matter of time before we fall into a rut: We stop asking questions, assuming we know all there is to know about our partner.  This habit is incredibly detrimental to a relationship, causing it to stagnate.  Soon enough, we start perceiving the differences that initially intrigued us as defects.

For example, say you initially loved your partner’s deliberate, analytical way of thinking because it helped you organize your own unwieldy thoughts and helped you make logical decisions.  But now, you see him as defiantly dragging his feet with every decision to intentionally exasperate you.  Or perhaps you found her high energy refreshing, as it motivated you to try new activities and get your ideas out the door. But now it seems like she’s purposely trying to irritate you by speeding up the pace on every important project you tackle together.

At this point in a relationship, we’re at an important crossroads.  If we continue to go down this path, our relationship likely won’t survive.  However, if we shift our thinking and see our partner through a lens of strengths, we increase the chances of our relationship not only surviving but thriving.

An exercise in focusing on strengths.

Think back to the beginning of your relationship and reflect on the positive aspects of your partner that initially attracted you.  Are those qualities no longer there, or did we just stop noticing them?  How might we better understand our partner and shift from criticizing to celebrating his/her strengths?

Of course, this isn’t automatic—it takes practice.  With time and effort, however, it becomes easier to develop this healthy habit.  Fortunately, positive psychology, the science of what makes individuals and communities thrive, can help us out. Positive psychology researchers discovered 24 strengths that have been valued across time and cultures.  Qualities like kindness, creativity, love of learning, and leadership are the things that naturally make us who we are.  These are things that we’re just naturally good at and make us … well, us.  We all have strengths and in various configurations.

Using your strengths every day is associated with increased individual and relational well-being.  You and your partner can each find out your top five strengths, commonly referred to as your “signature strengths” by taking this survey.

It’s time to go on “strength dates.” 

Once you’ve both discovered your top five strengths, you’re ready to put them into practice in your daily life.  Seek out opportunities to leverage your unique strengths as individuals and as a couple.  One way to apply them to your romantic relationships is by going on “strengths dates,” a concept that entails selecting one of your top strengths and one of your partner’s and organizing an outing that enables each of you to put that strength into practice.

For example, if you have a top strength of kindness and your partner’s strength is humor, do something together that helps people and simultaneously makes them laugh.  Plenty of volunteer opportunities provide this point!  Or if you have a strength of creativity and your partner has an appreciation of beauty and excellence, spend an afternoon outdoors marveling at nature’s wonders and capturing what you see in words or drawings.

It’s much better than taking your partner on a date to a foreign movie that makes him feel about as happy as getting his teeth drilled or going to a heavy metal concert when Mozart is more your musical taste.  A strength date is intrinsically motivated in that it involves and celebrates natural aspects at the core of each person.  After the date, debrief to discuss what worked well for each of you.  Ask each other what you learned from this activity as a way to help you plan your next strength date.  What can you do differently to enhance your experience?

Take turns arranging the dates, or if you prefer, plan them together.  Look at your list of strengths and come up with a variety of ideas for future dates—the possibilities are endless, and your relationship will be a happier, healthier one as a result.

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AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION IS LIKE TRAVELING THE WORLD


Every intimate conversation is an adventure into a person’s inner world – their needs, passions, hardships, and unique view of the world.

The problem is many of us can be terrible travelers.  We don’t listen well, don’t ask questions, and sometimes wander off on our own adventure in our head, abandoning our talking partners.

We act like tourists in a foreign land.  We visit someplace new but only associate with the components most similar to the familiar world we know by staying in an “all inclusive” resort.

Traveling into Your Partner’s Heart

“Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like a study.” – Paul Fussel

When couples start dating, they ask questions and intimately explore each other’s personal values, worldviews, and interests.  They playfully study each other and remember what they learned.  Think back to the beginning of your relationship: do you recall spending nights awake in bed just asking each other question after question, and feeling like you’d never know everything you want to know about this person?

Unfortunately, most of us forget to continue this practice as the months turn into years turn into decades.  Before you know it, you’re saying, “I feel disconnected from her.  She never cares about my feelings,” and, “She never asks me about the things I care about.  Everything that comes out of her mouth is about what I have to do around the house.”

Many couples who are disconnected have lost the art of traveling into each other’s hearts. Sometimes this is because they don’t prioritize the relationship and neglect to make time for talking and learning more about each other.  Another reason is they believe they already know everything there is to know about each other.

The famous couples’ therapist Esther Perel reminds us that “[m]ystery is not about traveling to new places, it is about looking with new eyes.”  The truth is that your partner is constantly changing and will forever be a mystery.  Psychologist Dan Gilbert states in his TED talk that “the only constant in life is change.”

The problem then isn’t so much our partners, but rather our own attitudes and limited knowledge on how to explore our partner’s inner world with the same spontaneity and fun that caused us to fall in love in the first place.  Maintaining that passion requires intentionally making an effort to take time to talk and explore each other’s inner world with curiosity.

Barriers to an Intimate Conversation

Your ability to have an intimately connecting conversation is a reflection of your own experiences of other people exploring your inner world.  Some of my clients have told me some version of “I don’t do empathy.” Which really tells me they’ve rarely experienced someone being empathic towards them.  They likely grew up in a family that discounted feelings and focused on action, blocking them from developing the emotional intelligence to understand their inner emotional world and the inner emotional worlds of the people around them.

In particular, hyper-masculine attitudes are built on the idea of fixing things.  This mindset blocks the person (man or woman) from seeking to understanding feelings first.  Often these individuals fail to recognize and accept feelings of fear and helplessness in themselves and may therefore have difficulty recognizing them in others.

So, the moment they feel their difficult feelings, they numb and go into “fix it” mode or get angry and try to control their partner.  They become colonialists who conquer the land and try to instill their cultural values on its inhabitants instead of understanding the beauty of the native culture that was already there.

You Are Responsible for Your Emotional Development

If you’re the emotionally unavailable partner, you may have a “nagging” partner who’s pushing you to be more emotional, and you’re frustrated because it’s a foreign language to you.  You have to reach a point where you take on the responsibility for your emotional development.

The Art of Intimate Listening

Below are the seven listening skills to have an emotionally intimate conversation.  Consider it your passport into your partner’s inner world.

Skill One: The Body Language of Intimate Listening
Having an intimate conversation is having an intentional conversation.  Being completely present with your lover implies total immersion in what they’re sharing.  This means no multitasking by checking your cell phone, watching TV, etc.  Essentially, your body language is saying, “You’re the most important person in the world right now and I want to truly hear what you have to say.”

Skill Two: Enjoy the Journey and Truly Listen
When you’re listening to your partner, you’re going to have thoughts come into your mind.  You need to let them come and go like clouds in the sky.  Stay with the conversation.  If you ask a question about something from three minutes ago, it’s a sign you’re not truly listening.  Don’t listen just to reply. Listen to understand.

One reason we don’t listen is because most of us would rather talk.  Another reason is we become distracted.  Our brains can listen at a speed of 500 words per minute, but most people only talk about 225 words per minute, leaving space for our mind to fill in the blanks.  Being completely present during the intimate conversation requires intentionality and energy to be attentive.  If you’re not understanding each other, you’re just two people talking over each other.

Skill Three: Immerse Yourself on the Journey
Demonstrate that you’re listening and following the conversation by using minimal encouragements, such as nodding your head and making sounds like “mmm,” “mhm,” or “uh-huh.”  Doing this tells your partner that you’re listening to them and tracking what they’re sharing, thus encouraging them to share more.

Skill Four: Ask Exploring Questions That Deepen Emotional Connection
You stop exploring when you ask closed-ended questions that lead to “yes” or “no” answers.  Instead, you want to ask questions that continue exploring your partner’s thoughts and feelings. These exploratory questions help your partner open up.  Here are some examples:

  • How does this impact you?
  • What are you seeking here?
  • How are you feeling about this?
  • What is so meaningful about this event?
  • What do you wish you could do?

 Skill Five: Reflect to Clarify You Understand
It’s easy to misinterpret what your partner said, or to assume what your partner feels. Reflecting is a great way to make sure you understand exactly what your partner is expressing and feeling.  It also leads to greater exploration because your partner feels like you’re next to them on their inner journey.

Reflecting is a way of summarizing what your partner said.  Here are some examples:

  • “If I’m hearing you correctly, your boss rejected your proposal and you feel disappointed because you put a lot of effort into it.”
  • “You’re excited because you get to spend time with your best friends from college.”
  • “You feel annoyed because you value being organized and sometimes our child is rather messy.” 

If you do this correctly, your partner will say, “YES!” and then continue expressing more.

Skill Six: Express Empathy and Validate Feelings
Empathy is attempting to step into your partner’s inner world and validate how they feel about something.  Empathy is saying,

  • “Understanding things from your perspective, it makes sense why you’re so upset about this.”
  • “That’s terrible. This must be really hard for you to deal with.”
  • “Wow.  You must be so proud of getting that promotion.  I know I’m proud of you!”

Empathy requires being with your partner in their feelings.  This is deeply intimate.  We all want to feel like our feelings are valid, even if we think they may be irrational.  It’s often whenwe feel validated that we then go on to solve our own problems.  The biggest obstacle to partners doing this is a result of not being raised to accept all their feelings.

Skill Seven: Pausing the Guide When Lost
Since your partner is more familiar with their inner world than you are, it’s very easy for them to miss sharing something.  If you feel confused, listen for a little longer (10-30 seconds) and if you’re still lost, kindly interrupt your partner and reflect what they’ve shared: “Hey.  I want to make sure I’m understanding you.  You said, [summarize], am I understanding that correctly?”

Speaking Skills

As a speaker, you have a responsibility to guide your partner through your inner world in such a way that your partner can follow you.  Below are three skills to help you speak in a way that encourages your partner to listen. 

Skill One: Share Your Feelings and Perspective
Focus on sharing your feelings and speaking from your experience.

  • “I felt excited when John offered me the promotion at work.”
  • “I feel alone in taking care of my father.  Everyone else is so far away.”
  • “I have mixed feelings about what to do.”

Skill Two: Be Brief
“A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.” – Celeste Headlee

Avoid offering play-by-play enactments of your experience unless the story warrants it.  Going on and on about the details for 20 minutes will lose your partner.  They care less about the details and more about how the situation impacted you.  So, focus on your feelings and what your experiences meant to you.

Moreover, going on and on and on doesn’t allow your partner the space to be a part of the conversation, to ask questions, or to engage.  Eventually they disengage and stop listening.  As the sharer of your intimate world, you have to be aware of your audience.

Skill Three: Check in, Don’t Repeat
People who don’t feel understood will often repeat themselves to try to get the point across. This can come across as contemptuous and disrespectful.  Rather than repeat yourself, check in with your partner.

Professional guides often do this.  They share a story and then ask, “Do you have any questions about this?”  Or “Is that clear?”  They want to make sure the listener completely understands them before they share more.

The Challenge of Improving Emotional Intelligence

Like improving your ability to read and write, one doesn’t simply become emotionally intelligent overnight.  Recognizing and normalizing where you are at this moment—whether an emotionally experienced journeyman or novice—can help you focus on becoming good at one skill at a time, alleviating some of this self-criticism and enabling you to swiftly ascend to higher levels of emotional intelligence.

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10 TIPS FOR A STRONG, VIBRANT RELATIONSHIP


Emotionally focused couples therapy (or EFT) teaches that the way to enhance – or save – a relationship is to re-establish a secure emotional attachment and preserve the “bond” between you.

In the last several years, social scientists and therapists who practice EFT have cracked the code on love and debunked common misconceptions that love is illogical, mysterious, and random. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, here’s some of what we know:

1. We’re born to need each other. The human brain is wired for close connection with a few irreplaceable others. Accepting your need for this special kind of emotional connection isn’t a sign of weakness, but maturity and strength.

So, don’t feel ashamed of this need for a safe loving bond.

2. In love relationships emotional hurt is a mixture of anger, sadness but most of all, fear. Fear of being abandoned and rejected. This hurt registers in the same part of our brain as physical hurt. It’s too hard to push these feelings aside or ignore them. The first step to dealing with injuries in love is to pinpoint the feeling and then to send clear messages about this hurt to the one you love.

So, don’t just “ignore hurts” with the idea that they’ll up and go away.

3. The strongest among us are those who can reach for others. Love is the best survival strategy of all. We all long for a safe haven love relationship. Self-sufficiency is just another word for loneliness.

So, risk reaching out and fighting for this safe haven. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.

4. Relationships can survive partners being very different. Even if you think you’re from different planets … it’s okay. The one thing love can’t survive is constant emotional disconnection. Conflict is often less dangerous for your love than distance.

So, after a fight, put it right. Repair it, heal the rift between you.

5. There is no perfect lover. That only exists in the movies. We shut down when we think we’ve failed as lovers, when we’ve disappointed our partner. But our lover doesn’t want perfect performance. In the end he/she needs our emotional presence.

So, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to do or say.” Just stay open and present.

6. The fights that matter are never about sex, money or the kids. That’s just the ripple on the surface of the sea. They’re about someone protesting, often in an indirect way that’s hard to understand, the loss of safe emotional connection. The most terrible trap in a love relationship is when one person really wants to say, “Where are you? Do I matter to you?” but instead becomes critical and demanding and the other person feels hopeless and inadequate and moves away. The lovers then get caught in emotional starvation, stalemate and more and more disconnection.

So, try to tell each other when you feel lonely and like you’re failing at being the perfect partner, especially if you’re having lots of fights about tasks. Look beneath the surface.

7. We only have two ways to deal with the vulnerability of love when we can’t connect: (1) Get mad and move in fast to break down the other’s walls, or (2) Try not to care so much and build a wall to protect yourself. Which one do you do? You probably learned it at a very young age.

So, try to listen to your longings and risk reaching to connect. The other two options are traps that drive your partner away from you.

8. A loving relationship is the best recipe that exists for a long and happy life. Holding your partner tight is the ultimate antidote to stress. Cuddle hormones turn off stress hormones!

So, take time to hold and cuddle each other.

9. Lasting passion is entirely possible in love. Infatuation is just the prelude. An attuned loving bond is the symphony. This kind of bond allows sex to become a safe adventure.

So, don’t give up when sex goes into a temporary slump. Talk about it. Get honest. Making love without candid conversation is like landing a 747 without help from the control tower!

10. The key moments in love are when partners open up and ask for what they need, and the other partner responds. This demands courage, but this is the moment of magic and transformation.

So, take a deep breath and really listen into your emotions. Let them tell you what you need. Then tell your partner that they’re so special to you that you want to take a risk and tell them what you need from them most. Keep it simple and honest.

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Why Does She Keep Bringing Up the Past?


“Why does she keep bringing up the past? It never stops.”
“She never lets things go.”
“She’s so negative.”
“She never sees my attempts at making things better.”
“I am always wrong.”
“She is always nagging at me for something.”

Sound familiar?

These are iterations of a recurring theme I hear from many of my clients.

So, I’m sure you want an objective understanding to help you better understand her, right? Here are some common reasons why she may keep bringing up the past and holding grudges:

Reason 1: You aren’t validating her in the way she needs it.
The biggest reason anyone holds onto the past is because they don’t feel heard and/or fully understood by the person they perceived hurt them. You can do this by naming her emotion, not putting yourself into the situation for a moment and just hearing her experience. Ask yourself, What is she saying? And just reflect it back. It’s that easy!

For example, you say: “I can understand that I really upset you when I did X.”

NOTHING ELSE is required in that exact moment! Once she feels validated and like you understand why she upset, she can come back to the logical and her defensive and/or emotional state becomes more regulated and soothed. When she’s no longer stuck in the emotion, you can then explain the misunderstanding from more of a logical perspective (i.e., your experience). “That wasn’t my intention at all and I can see how we misunderstood each other. I meant to do _________. I never intended to hurt you and I’m sorry it felt that way.”

The power of validation is tremendous!

Reason 2: You keep trying to “fix” the problem.
If your partner keeps bringing up reoccurring issues, it may be because you’re trying too hard to fix it, rather than just acknowledge it. Women tend to emotionally process while they externally express; men tend to internally process, then choose to emotionally/externally express. TOTALLY OPPOSITE. Not that one is right or wrong, but we typically go about working through issues completely different.

No wonder you perceive her as incredibly negative!

She’s not “negative,” she’s just working through her emotion in the innate way she knows how; to feel it, then to think about. You may perceive her as negative because you don’t typically feel an experience first in order to process it. Her “negativity” is actually just unprocessed emotions and all you need to do is try your hardest not to take it personally and allow her the space to have emotional reactions while she works through it.

(For the record, she needs to do her best at not projecting them onto you! Just because she’s more emotionally expressive doesn’t give her the right to be aggressive toward you without taking accountability or considering how her emotional reaction impacts you).

Here’s an example: Let’s say she comes home and her energy is off. She storms in, throws her purse down and yells, “I hate my job! It’s awful! No one is nice to me in the office and I F** hate it! I’m just so done!” You may innately feel triggered, want to crawl into your shell and turn the TV up. You may think to yourself, “Ugh, here we go again! I wish she was just happy.” You may traditionally react by saying, “You need to look at the positive sides. Look how great your commute is, how much money you make, how early you get off! Who cares what your co-workers think about you.”

Unfortunately, you trying to “fix her issue” is actually you trying to “fix her mood,” because her mood makes you feel uncomfortable. She internalizes that as feeling dismissed. She may potentially get angrier and then you both get into an argument. You then feed your narrative, “See, she’s always so negative! Nothing will make her happy,” and she feeds her narrative, “See, he never listens, and he doesn’t care about me or how I feel.”

Reason 3: She doesn’t feel the past was fully repaired.
The bulk of repairing conflict (in a healthy way) is mostly about validating each other’s perspectives without trying to win the argument. If your intention is to be right, then you’ve lost the ability to repair anything with your partner effectively. Your intention should be to deepen your understanding of each other. This helps you continue to respect each other and feel secure with one another in your relationship. If your partner feels hurt by you, try to understand why instead of getting defensive. It’s natural to then tell them they’re “wrong” because you don’t agree or your intention was perceived differently. This then becomes about being “right,” verses validating each other and understanding the misunderstanding. You can clear up any and all misunderstandings by validating each other, and work on creating consistency and awareness for future issues together.

She needs to learn to validate you objectively, too.

Reason 4: You take her moods personally.
Going back to the emotional processing piece, women tend to be more emotionally expressive by nature (or nurture). You may be making the assumption that every time she’s emotional or having a reaction that it’s PERSONALLY targeted toward you. I know her reactions may seem scary and you don’t want to make an even bigger issue by saying the “wrong” thing but try to reassure yourself in those moments that “she may not even be upset with me.” Ask her for clarity without being defensive. For example: “Are you upset with me?” verses “What the hell did I do to you?” or “What’s your problem?”

At times, she’ll express that she’s struggling with things external to you and your relationship. At this moment, you know it’s not personal, which helps you better support her instead of getting into a huge argument. Ask her, “What do you need in this moment?” or “How can I help?” Possibly, by just giving her permission to be a little emotional without getting defensive, may help her de-escalate and calm down.

Reason 5: She’s feels insecure and needs something from you.
Most likely, when a partner keeps bringing up past issues defensively, they’re feeling extremely insecure in the relationship and they aren’t getting something significant that they’re needing. Maybe your partner doesn’t know what’s missing, but something may be causing her to feel insecure about your relationship and/or how she assumes you perceive her. She still may be hurt about an issue that happened 6 months ago, but struggles with bringing it up and fears she won’t be heard.

Unfortunately, she invalidates herself, most likely telling herself that “she’s being ridiculous and needs to get over it,” until she no longer can hold it in. She also fears being a nag and tries her best to let it go on her own. (You’ve probably told her to “let it go,” once before and she fears bringing it up again. She’s probably beating herself up because she doesn’t understand why she just can’t).

Unfortunately, ignoring emotions rarely makes them go away and she may find herself exploding at one little frustration that arises. This is most likely why you perceive her as unpredictable and why you feel you’re walking on egg shells.

As her partner, this is incredibly unfair to you because it doesn’t help you understand what she needs. You’re just trying to defend yourself and fix whatever you “did” to upset her. This is why the two of you need to work together. She needs to do her part and work on understanding her emotions as they come up for her, but she also needs to take the risk of expressing what she needs in the moment instead of waiting until she snaps out of nowhere. This is also why you work on the above tips to help you understand her behavior and needs more, so you aren’t feeling incredibly beat down.

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WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FEEL JUDGED (IT’S PROBABLY NOT WHAT YOU THINK!)


Recently one of my friends called me for advice.  She said that she was feeling judged by someone at work.  She didn’t know what to do about it.  Her first instinct was to fight back in some way.  She wanted to defend herself to the person who was judging her.

My response surprised her.

I said, “Don’t defend yourself.  Don’t fight back.  Don’t judge back.”

I let that sink in for a minute, and then I added, “The moment that you feel judged and attacked, your work is to immediately do something to make somebody else feel loved.”

Let me say that again: When you feel judged, make someone else feel loved.

When you feel as though someone has attacked you, judged you or done anything to make you feel inadequate or unlovable, do the opposite.  Go and do something to make other people feel good.  Make somebody feel lovable, adequate and good enough.

Here are some things you can do when you feel judged:

  • Call or text a friend and let them know how grateful you are for their friendship and how awesome they are.
  • Send flowers to someone you care about.
  • Email a coworker and thank them for doing a great job.
  • Post an inspirational message on social media.
  • Cook your family their favorite meal.
  • Reply to people’s Instagram stories or comment on their photos with genuine and enthusiastic compliments.
  • Pray for other people to feel loved and confident.

This simple action can change everything for you.  It’s the fastest way to stop the momentum of the negative energy and feel better right away.

Not fighting back doesn’t mean not standing up for yourself. But the key is to take spiritually aligned action.  This way you can show up from a place of true power and speak up with love instead of hate.

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Want to Lead a Happy Life? Science Says to Focus on These 10 Things


As humans, we’re always chasing rainbows. We want something—be it different weather, a better job, or a bigger house—but shortly after getting it, we want something different. We adapt to our circumstances, they become the “new normal,” and we want more.

This phenomenon is called “hedonic adaptation.” It’s a term coined by psychologists Brickman and Campbell in the 1970s to explain our tendency as human beings to chase happiness, only to return back to our original emotional baseline after getting what we want. We run on a hedonic treadmill, and get nowhere, despite exerting massive effort along the way.

A belief that “bigger and better” leads to more happiness results, paradoxically, in less of it. We work really hard because we want more. We obtain more, and the shine soon wears off. So, we work harder, in pursuit of even more, and become less happy as a result. The beat goes on.
It’s clear from the science that the acquisition of bigger and better things won’t make us happier. So, what will?

It’s the Journey not the Destination
In his book Happier, Harvard lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar defines the “arrival fallacy,” which is a corollary to the concept of hedonic adaptation. He describes the arrival fallacy as: “The false belief that reaching a valued destination can sustain happiness.”

I’ve certainly fallen victim to the arrival fallacy, having felt at first elated, then almost immediately let down — following job promotions, raises, a new car and my first home purchase. I wanted these things so badly, but the reality of obtaining them was far different than my expectations.

In an interesting study from the 1970s, researchers studied the happiness levels of two different groups of people: lottery winners and accident victims. The surprising result of the study was that, once the initial elation of winning the lottery and shock of the accident wore off, both groups returned to their original levels of happiness. Over the long-term, these drastically different external events—one seemingly positive and the other negative—had no appreciable impact on happiness.

If winning the lottery won’t make us happier, what will? Ben-Shahar suggests that it’s not reaching a particular destination (metaphorically speaking) that makes us happy, but rather learning to appreciate the journey toward the destination:

Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.
In this sense, ambition, itself, isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a very good thing. If humans didn’t want for more, we’d still be living in caves, without access to basic, modern human necessities such as electricity and clean water, nor marvels of human ingenuity such as modern medicine, art, and technology.

Problems arise when we allow the unending pursuit of growth and acquisition to inhibit our pursuit of happiness. Both ambitions—happiness and growth—can coexist, but only in balance. Growth can crowd out happiness if you’re not careful.

One of the most important and growing costs of the modern way of life is ‘cultural fraud’: the promotion of images and ideals of ‘the good life’ that serve the economy but do not meet psychological needs, nor reflect social realities. —Richard Eckersley

I would, of course, never presume to suggest that I know what makes you, or anyone else, happy. We all have distinct visions, preferences, and desires for our lives. But years of scientific research suggests that certain things make most of us happy. In particular, happiness isn’t derived from attaining outward signals of success (bigger and better in order to “keep up with the Joneses”), but rather seeking satisfaction from new and novel experiences in pursuit of a life well lived.

10 Ways to Cultivate More Happiness

What types of experiences pay the biggest happiness dividends?

Catherine A. Sanderson is a professor at the University of Amherst and the author of Science of Happiness. She’s known as “The Happiness Professor.” Sanderson explains that there are 10 ways to increase your everyday happiness, according to decades worth of scientific research:

1. Make little changes in your daily routine, such as getting more sleep, exercising, getting out into nature, and meditating.
2. Read more books. Read books to learn—research suggests that lifelong learners remain healthy and engaged, and live long lives. Read books as an escape from your everyday life, Read books—it will make you happy.
3. Find your right fit or match, both personally and professionally. If you love what you do and who you’re with, you’ll position yourself for personal happiness and professional success.
4. Be grateful. Sanderson suggests two specific activities to help foster a greater sense of gratitude. First, keep a daily gratitude journal. Second, pay a “gratitude visit” to someone from your past who’s had a significant impact on your life, and let them know how you feel.
5. Smile more—even if you don’t feel like it. Research shows that the simple act of smiling can trick your brain into a happier state.
6. Relish simple, everyday moments. Appreciating life’s small moments — such as a beautiful, sunny day, green shoots sprouting from the ground, and skipping rocks at the beach — teaches you to be more grateful for what you have, especially during moments of stress and angst.
7. Perform random acts of kindness. Do good deeds. Volunteer. Be charitable. Shop (for someone else!). Numerous studies have shown that you can help yourself by doing good for others.
8. Spend money on experiences versus things. Studies have shown that buying an object—a car, handbag, or kitchen gadget—can quickly lead to buyer’s remorse. On the other hand, investing in experiences—a concert, a camping trip, music lessons—leads to greater happiness. Experiences create “happiness residue,” and our perceptions of them often get better over time.
9. Avoid comparisons. Whatever you may think of someone else’s life, particularly as viewed through the phony, filtered lens of social media, it’s almost certainly messier than you imagine. It’s easier to embrace, and learn to love, your own imperfections, if you don’t conjure up myths about how perfect everyone else’s lives seem.
10. Build and maintain close relationships. According to Sanderson, having a small number of tight, meaningful relationships is one of the highest predictor of happiness.

Don’t feel bad if you lose sight of some of these happiness priorities—we all do. We have to battle relentless marketing and societal expectations that suggest that the path to happiness lies elsewhere.

People are exposed to many messages that encourage them to believe that a change of weight, scent, hair color (or coverage), car, clothes, or many other aspects will produce a marked improvement in their happiness. Our research suggests a moral, and a warning: Nothing that you focus on will make as much difference as you think. —Daniel Kahneman

Don’t over-complicate your pursuit of happiness. As the research suggests, it’s the simple things that matter most. Make happiness a habit that’s within your control, rather than seeking it from external sources. Life is nothing but a series of moments, both big and small, and the key to happiness lies is living each one with purpose and intention.

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What It Means When You Lose Interest As Soon As A New Relationship Starts


My client Rob had an interesting issue.  He wanted a partner to share his life with, but he kept running into the same problem: As soon as he found someone he could see that happening with, he would lose interest.

If you’ve been in a similar situation, fear not: This is actually very normal.  Losing interest in the other person is generally a sign of fear of losing yourself in a relationship.  Most people have two major fears in relationships: The fear of being rejected and losing the other person, and the fear of losing themselves—of being engulfed and controlled by the other person.

Underlying the fear of losing yourself is the fear of rejection.  The reason people lose themselves in relationships is that they believe if they give themselves up and comply with what the other person wants, then they can have control over not being rejected by that person.  But giving yourself up to the other person is a rejection of yourself, and the eventual result of this is often a loss of interest in the other person.

You lose love when you lose yourself.

We sustain love when we love ourselves—not when we try to have control over getting love by sacrificing ourselves.  When you feel lovable and worthy within because you’re loving yourself, you get filled with love, which you can then share with a partner.  But if you abandon yourself by giving yourself up and complying with what you think your partner wants, you have no love within to share with your partner.

Often, you give yourself up to try to have control over getting love and avoiding rejection, believing that someone else’s love is what will make you feel full, safe, worthy, and lovable.  But trying to get filled and feel a sense of worth by getting your partner’s love is like trying to get filled and have a sense of worth by any other addiction—it feels good for the moment, but it soon leaves you feeling empty, alone, and yearning for more.  Eventually, because you can’t share love when you’re abandoning yourself, and because you feel empty within from losing yourself, you’ll lose interest.

How the pattern keeps repeating—and what to do about it.

Obviously, until you learn to love yourself, you’ll keep repeating this pattern.  No matter how attracted you are to someone at the beginning of a relationship, as soon as you give yourself up to that person, you’ll start to lose that attraction.

When you do your inner work of learning to truly see, value, and love yourself, then you’ll no longer fear rejection because you’re no longer rejecting yourself.  When you no longer fear rejection, then you’ll no longer give yourself up to try to have control over getting love.  You’ll be far more interested in sharing love than in getting love, and it’s the sharing of love that keeps love alive in relationships.

Adding to this is the fact that until you learn to love yourself, you’ll attract people who are also abandoning themselves in some way and who are trying to have control over getting your love—just as you’re doing with them.  Perhaps the partner you attract tries to get your love by being angry and demanding or by being needy and trying to guilt you into giving him or her what he or she wants from you.

These common relationship dynamics are the inevitable result of self-abandonment, because abandoning oneself will always lead to trying to have control over getting the needed love.  So, when you try to get love by giving yourself up, and the other person tries to get love by being needy or demanding, it won’t take long to lose interest in this relationship.

Remember: Creating a loving relationship starts with learning to love yourself.

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WHAT FREEDOM IS WAITING FOR YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TRUTH?


When something is “off” in your life, you know it.  And it takes an incredible amount of energy to continue the denial—energy that could be used toward letting go of the old and inviting in the new.  That’s what I learned when I finally walked away from my legal career and pursued my dream of being a coach.  And, to my great delight, the new was so much better!  If I’d just been able to let go sooner, I could’ve started my new life years earlier.

We deceive ourselves in all sorts of ways.  For so long, my self-worth was tied up in how much of a chameleon I could be.  How much could I please people?  How well could I turn myself into what they needed?

Becoming what they wanted brought me the most validation, but it was a false validation. I was loved for my façade, not for me.  When I finally let the façade go, I discovered that, yes, there were people in the world who would love me for my true self, even though I wasn’t perfect and decided to stop living the life that other people wanted me to live.  I learned that I could not only survive if I embraced my truth, but actually thrive because of it. We’re meant to be fully and truly who we are.  If we’re living authentically, we might show different aspects of our personalities in different situations, but none of them will be false.

It’s impossible to maintain a false identity without consequences.

It takes a lot of energy to hold up a mask, to continue a story, to portray a role that isn’t true.  When you stop and tell the truth, so much energy becomes available to you—energy that can be used to live the life you want.

Imagine what would be available to you—energy, time, insight, freedom, fun—if you let the mask fall and committed to just being you.  What would it be like to be that transparent, genuine, and organic in your life?  Can you imagine it?

While the fear of revealing yourself is natural, doing so unburdens you.  It actually helps you overcome the fear of judgment.  Why?  Because we discover that people aren’t judging us nearly as harshly as we expect.  In fact, in my experience, people rarely judge us harshly when we show vulnerability.  The biggest issue is how much we judge ourselves.

What do you see could open up for you, what would be available to you, if you let your masks, roles, stories, and secrets fall and committed to just being you?  What energy, time, insight, freedom, or fun could you have more of or experience that you can’t experience right now?

What inner whispers have you been ignoring… and what freedom is waiting for you on the other side of truth?

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