Category: Relationship

Happy couple looking out at the water

Relationships: Hard Work or Adventure?

Successful relationships are a Work in Progress

Has your relationship become stale or filled with constant conflict? It’s probably because it’s stopped growing.

Do you even look at your partner anymore? Or if you do is it only when you’re mad? Relationships stop growing when we think we know everything there is to know about ourselves and our partner. If you’re feeling bored, lonely or frustrated in your relationship then it’s an indication that growth and progress has stopped.

Let’s change the word ‘work’ to Adventure and Curiousity.

The truth is, you don’t know everything about yourself, so how could you know everything about your partner. They probably don’t understand themselves fully either. Few people do. And when you’re truly okay with that it can become exciting and an adventure to find out more.

Why would I want to? I can hear you thinking….

Because thinking you know everything feels safe..Yes safe can be good… except that to make a relationship safe you have to make it fit into a box. It’s safe from change but it’s also limited from growth. Feeling safe is enticing until it becomes boring, suffocating and lonely.

Being Curious means actively learning to understand yourself and that is called Differentiation.

Differentiation in simple terms means being okay to be different and letting others/your partner be different as well.

Here’s an interview with a couples therapist Ellyn Bader talking about Differentiation in Relationships.

I think a lot of partners have the misperception that they’ll lose their relationship if they differentiate. There is a fear of really showing yourself as deeply, as broadly and as expansively as you might.

Defining Differentiation in Couple Relationships

I define differentiation as the active ongoing process of a person being able to define their thoughts, their feelings, their wishes and their desires to one another and to be able to tolerate the partner doing the same thing.
When people are afraid of differentiating, they are afraid if they show their authentic self and the other one doesn’t like it or doesn’t agree with it, that they’re going to end up in a big fight or they’re going to end up with the other person leaving. When that’s true, they don’t show themselves very well to each other.

Why Relationships Fail

When you look at why relationships fail over the course of time, one of the core reasons that relationships fail is due to a lack of differentiation. Without differentiation, relationships get stale. Interactions become repetitive and partners end up bored or lonely. They end up bored because the relationship isn’t growing and it isn’t changing, or they end up just competing with each other and being really angry and really nasty to each other. That’s one of the reasons that relationships fail.
Another reason is the re-triggering of old trauma. Partners over time trigger and re-stimulate either old trauma in each other or also they do hurtful things in the here and now to each other that can be very traumatic. Either way, with the lack of differentiation or with trauma, people need skills and capacities in order to manage themselves well in a primary relationship.

The most stuck relationships are those where each person wants to keep the other unchanging. They remember how they were when they met and they want that to last forever.
Then they don’t explore or push each other to grow. They don’t take risks or try new things. It becomes a very, very narrow way of living in the world.

Differentiation is the route to aliveness and expansiveness, to authenticity and vulnerability, and resolving conflicts and handling not liking each other at times.

Most of us have learned to define ourselves in terms of what we do and spend little time understanding our inner workings.

If you’d like more aliveness in your life whether you’re in a relationship or not find a way to challenge your norms. Start questioning your default behaviour and try doing something different. Look at your partner with different eyes as if you’ve never seen them before.

If you have any questions I’d be happy to help. Or check out some of my other blogs with tips and suggestions.

Excerpt taken from The Couples Institute Blog Differentiation Blog by Ellyn Bader

BEING IN LOVE

Love is such a difficult, almost impossible thing to define.

Is it just something that some couples are lucky enough to have?

Glennon Doyle Melton comes to this question herself and defines it beautifully in her book ‘Love Warrior: a Memoir

Is love, not a feeling, but a place between 2 present people? A sacred place created when 2 people decide it’s safe enough to let their real selves surface and touch each other. Is that why it’s called ‘in’ love.. because you have to visit there? And was I unable to grasp it because I was trying to understand it with my hovering mind and love can’t be known that way? Can the place ‘in love’ only be experienced and traveled to? Maybe the cost of being….. someone that thinks about love and analyzes love and admires love from a distance is that I cannot be in love because I don’t go there. I stay removed. I have somehow decided that if I’m not truly present I can’t be hurt by people. But what if I can’t be loved by them either?

Early in life we can decide to ‘separate’ from being present in our body because it’s not safe. Either because of physical abuse or because we’ve decided that who we are isn’t okay, good enough or loved. From that point we live ‘outside’ of ourselves or so deeply inside that we can’t connect with another. It’s not safe. We could be rejected or hurt like before.

Glennon in this powerful memoir distances from her true self finding solace in bulimia, alcohol and sex in order to ‘get’ the love she feels is missing.

Finally coming to realize that the only way to finally feel love is to ‘reunite’ with her body. Make a truce. Face the fears of being rejected. Because the cost of not healing this is losing her husband, children and any kind of happiness in life.

A recommended read.

Relationship Stress. Communication and Anger Management

Thinking of leaving your relationship? Read this…

Relationship stress is hard

But that daily relationship stress is nothing compared to the pain and changes you’ll go through with divorce or separation. It’s a misinterpretation to think divorce is easy judging by the rising rates. You’d think it’s as simple as finding the best recycling for an old car stereo or laptop. No!! It’s not!! Not for a lot of people.

Where did we get the idea that relationships are disposable?

(Stay tuned for the new blog)

So if you’re thinking of leaving your relationship or marriage this article will help.
Learning about all the pain, changes and, thankfully, eventual growth that you can go through with divorce and separation will leave you better prepared to take that step.

Note: there is one swear word at the beginning of the article. If the word offends you please blink quickly and continue reading.

What Nobody Tells you about Leaving your Spouse.

Liz Coleman RTC Couples Therapy

Reconnect with Your Partner- An Exercise

THE 15 MINUTE EXERCISE

15 minutes?..Yes that’s all you’ll need to reconnect with your partner again.

And what happens when you feel connected? Your anxiety and stress goes down, you sleep better, work better and feel happy. What’s there to lose?

The exercise is simple but, like anything that requires open expression, it’s uncomfortable at first. Not to worry, you’ll soon reap the rewards and feel more relaxed.

This is a great exercise to use on its own as well as between counselling sessions, it speeds up progress.

Click the link below to find out more

The-15-Minute-Exercise.pdf

The time spent with your partner is sacred. Holding and keeping someone’s trust requires attention but when you do you’ll find someone to lean on who has your back.

Good luck and have fun.

Get Rid of Negative People?

We’ve all heard someone say. .I need to get away from negative people. You may have said it yourself and I know I’d said it in my pre counselling life. ‘In order for me to thrive and be happy I need to stay away from certain people’.

The hidden miracle and truth that’s hiding in plain sight is… It’s more about you than it is about them.

If you’re often taking other people’s views or behaviors personally? this topic is for you. If you’re often disappointed with other’s ability to follow through or be relied on? This topic is for you. If you’re often left feeling resentful or used because of how others are treating you? This topic is for you. …..

Give yourself and everyone a break. I’m going to give you 3 1/2 words that will help you get clear. … Are you ready?

It’s not them!!!!!

Right now you’re either coming up with a bunch of reasons I’m wrong and why the others are to blame or you’ve just written me off as a quack. Some of you, hopefully, will see that realizing “it’s not them” feels exciting and empowering. Possibly a little scary too. Means being emotionally responsible.

You know that trying to change other people is impossible even though we all try REALLY hard to make it so. “Maybe just this time it will work.” It might work a little but imposing rules and boundaries on others to make us feel better always comes back on us. We either are never satisfied or the tug of war with the other’s rightful space and freedom will become too much. Or worse you start to feel disrespect for the other person for giving in to you and not standing up for themselves.

So try something different to get a different result and turn your focus back to yourself.

The other person is just triggering an upset that’s already within you they aren’t creating a whole new feeling you haven’t felt before. The story may look different but the trigger and feeling are the same.

What’s your trigger about? What are you feeling underneath that trigger?

Somewhere in your early life ‘ something happened’ big or small and you made it mean something about you, others or the world. That’s what’s bring triggered.

It’s actually calling for healing.

Give it your attention.

Ask for help if you need it.

The pay off is worth it.

Anger Management and Communication in Relationship with Liz Coleman RTC

Change Your View of Fighting in Relationships

Fighting and conflict in relationships can feel horrible.

So it’s not surprising that most couples feel like it’s a set back to their progress. It’s such a common way of looking at it because, really, it seems to shake the stability and safety we rely on. Even though ‘needs’ seem to be a bad word in our society the truth is we NEED our relationships. (I mean all relationships here but especially intimate ones)

Interdependence

Our confidence and safety in the world depends on the stability of our relationships not in a dependent way but an interdependent way. It’s possible to love and be close to someone without giving parts of yourself away. As well it’s possible to be independent without losing the relationship. If you want to understand healthy needs in relationship read Dr Sue Johnson’s book Love Sense it’s brilliant.

Getting a different perspective with curiousity and questions

After having a big fight our perspective is often very narrow and influenced by the hurt or anger we’re feeling. Even if we’re talking about the other we’re seeing them through the filter of our emotions. In other words we’re very personally focused. But I encourage you to take a broader view and get curious.

You may be tempted to answer the following questions for your partner or focus on their behaviour or perceived needs. We think we know what they’re thinking but stick to your own feelings, behaviour and needs to get the best results. (otherwise it’s mind-reading and that’s a whole other blog)

Questions for after a big fight

1)What was the fight really about? Not the content and words but the underlying needs and wants. For example, Were you feeling unimportant and wanting to be seen, heard or respected? Were you feeling worried and needing reassurance from your partner? Or were you feeling overwhelmed and needing acceptance or help?

2)Was this something that may have built up? Often couple’s will let the ‘little’ things go because they don’t seem important and they don’t want to dampen the good mood but these moments can start piling up like little resentments stones until they burst.

3)What have I been hiding, avoiding or not sharing in order to ‘keep the peace’?

4)How can we work together? What can each of us do? This could feel challenging so make it easy and do-able for you. And taking a broader perspective will always see the situation as a possibility for growth and improvement. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or set back it just means you’ve reached a place where to grow more you both need to learn something and gain awareness.

Getting closer to someone means constantly facing and removing the blocks to love you’ve set up for yourself that at one time protected you but are now blocking you from experiencing the love you want.

Express Emotions Responsibly

What good are our emotions anyway.. do we really need them?

Emotions feel out of control
Use emotions with control to feel happier

Do you wish you could get rid of your emotions?

It does seem as if life would be easier without emotions sometimes. They make life messy and out of control when often we prefer tidy and controlled.

Of course it’s not that simple…. Getting rid of ‘negative’ emotions means giving up the ‘positive’ aspects as well.. they’re connected. You know how close laughing and crying can be?… it’s a very fine line. One second you’re laughing and the next you’re crying or better yet the other way around. It’s how we’re wired. You can’t have one without the other.

If you’re interested in finding out about the body’s reaction to emotions the late Candace Pert did a lot of research and wrote a book The Molecules of Emotions. Candacepert.com Her research is also featured in the movie ‘What the Bleep Do we Know’

Are you willing to give up your joy and passion to get rid of anger and sadness?

A lot of times in my clients first sessions they apologize for crying and I can see them trying to ‘compose’ themselves and hold back the tears. It looks so difficult. There’s nothing wrong with crying. It’s a release of pressure like laughing can be and it’s a connection to a deeper sense of yourself. From there we can explore how they control themselves and they gain awareness of conscious or sub conscious beliefs they have about emotional expression. It’s a good start.

It’s not about getting rid of emotions but expressing them responsibly

Letting our emotions release brings a sense of relief and hope. Like revealing a secret we didn’t know we were holding onto for a long time. Because the other option is expending a lot of energy to control them and hold them in. (people wonder why they’re so tired) It can feel a bit scary as if they’ll never stop because if you’ve held tears in for so long the pressure has built up like a water toy being held under water. If you hold it under lightly it just bobs up to the surface when you let it go. No big deal. If you push it down deeper and keep pushing it explodes out of the water when you let it go. ERUPTION. Just like emotions. And usually not at appropriate times.

The urge to distract and hide emotions

Where do you think your emotions go when you push them away? It seems like they disappear for the moment but they don’t. And then you experience those moments when you’re overreacting to a situation. Or maybe you find you’re upsetting the people close to you because your anger is leaking out indirectly as passive aggressive behaviour. The common belief there is that expressing anger is bad and so you project your anger onto others. You can read more about that here.

 

So yes we really need our emotions, we couldn’t get rid of them if we wanted to although we still try. They are our bodies signals to us that something important is going on and it needs some attention. So show yourself some self compassion because opening to and sitting with your emotions can unravel to reveal love. A love for yourself and others. A love that’s been mistakenly obscured by fear.

Call or email me to find out more or to book a session.

Healthy Communication for Couples - Surrey Counsellor

Is Your Communication Helping or Hurting you?

Conflict Resolution for Healthy Communication

Whether you are a boss speaking to your employees, a daughter to her mom, or friend to friend, the dynamics of communication are either working or not. Good or bad, your ability to communicate effectively touches all areas of your life.

Unhealthy communication can leave you:

  • Lacking close friendships
  • Feeling like no one really knows you
  • Distant or cut-off with family members
  • Passive or withdrawn
  • Experiencing out-of-control emotions or rebellious behaviour
  • Experiencing conflict and unhealthy anger
  • Needing approval from others
  • Blaming or gossiping
  • Seeing others as lesser than yourself or better than yourself
  • Experiencing indecision, frustration & resentment
  • Depressed

CONNECTION TO SELF = CONNECTION TO OTHERS

If you are not feeling connected to yourself, how could others feel connected to you?

Changing your mind will change your life but until you’ve experienced it it will seem impossible.

All the values you have learned through your family and culture interpret how you experience events and information. Unbelievably, about 70% of all communication is non-verbal. Beyond what your words are saying, much of what you are thinking is being communicated, often without you being aware.

Thankfully, as you become more aware of what your values are, you can make intentional changes and, not only does your inner world improve but your outer world and how others relate to you will change too.

There are very practical tools to build this awareness of how you are communicating and relating to others.

Once you learn how to shift your focus to yourself and rely on your own inner guidance, other people disagreeing with you will no longer bother you and you will be able to make clear, calm decisions.

Your peace of mind and confidence will help ground you and provide a stable, safe and satisfying feeling in your life while the people around you will experience a sense of freedom to be themselves.

If not just for yourself, give the gift of clearer, heartfelt, and more functional communication to those around you. What an amazing tool to teach your children!

Contact www.thespacesbetweencounselling.com for more info and a free consultati

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