Conflict Resolution: When to Talk, When to Disengage

Conflict Resolution: When to Talk, When to Disengage

In my work with couples, I am often asked, "Shouldn't I communicate with my partner about this? Shouldn't we talk this over?"

For example, Ginger told me that when her husband, Ron, became demanding sexually or started to complain about not having enough sex, she was sexually turned off. She would become defensive, explaining her feelings to Ron repeatedly, in hopes of getting him to stop. She hoped that if she explained herself enough, he would understand that his demanding and complaining turned her off. Sometimes Ginger thought there was something wrong with her sexually when she was not turned on, and other times she thought that if only Ron would stop demanding and complaining, everything would be okay. Yet nothing changed. No amount of talking or explaining helped.

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Recognizing The Difference Between Real Love And Love Bombing

Recognizing The Difference Between Real Love And Love Bombing
Everyone dreams of their ideal partner. In these dreams, the ideal partner comes into their life and becomes the answer to all of their problems and the person to fill their life with love, happiness, and joy at being together. 

Being in true love is a fantastic experience. Science now understands more of those initial feelings of instant connection and attraction to potential partners as the release of dopamine in parts of the brain that create wellness and feel-good experiences. At the same time, oxytocin and vasopressin levels increase, which increases the sensation of attachment and need for physical presence, as well as the sense of trust and empathy with the other person.
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Are You Unrealistically Hoping Your Partner Will Change?

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Is there someone in your life whom you love and whom you keep hoping will change if you love them enough?

One of the main reasons people stay too long in a relationship is that they unrealistically hope that, miraculously, their partner will change. This is the situation Marisa describes:

"I've been investing my entire heart in a narcissistic man over the past ten months. During this time, I've had the life sucked out of me - I've not been tending to myself and instead have abandoned myself to try to make him feel better in the hopes he'll change, care for and respect me right back. Deeply depressed of late he refuses to seek psychiatric or therapeutic help. I couldn't stand by watching him drown and finally two weeks ago said he should call me when he finds outside help and is feeling better. It's been so relaxing not to be insulted, criticized or bullied or be walking on eggs constantly. I miss him even so and am shocked and hurt that I've not heard from him to date. I accept that I was so busy rescuing him that I abandoned myself in doing so. If he contacts me, I'd like to try putting myself first. I’m probably kidding myself, but should I even contemplate giving him another chance? A narcissist is never wrong and is always right as you know. I'm miserable in the meantime."

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"Is My Need For Attention Reasonable or Needy?"

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Have you ever wondered if your desire to share time with a partner is coming from need or neediness?

Sometimes it's a challenge to know what are reasonable relationship needs and when we are being needy.

Klarese is asking this important question:

"I am currently dating a wonderful person who I care about greatly. A challenge for me is his job is very demanding leaving us little time to spend together. I am aware my childhood triggers of abandonment are being tickled, however, I am having a difficult time figuring out if I am being reasonable or unreasonable with my need for attention. How do I discriminate between my codependent 'needs' and my true need to love and be loved while living my own fulfilled life?"

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The Difference Between Gaslighting And Healthy Disagreements

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It is common to have a disagreement with a partner in a relationship. In many cases, the source of the conflict or the disagreement is a difference in perception or a different memory or recollection of an event or conversation.

This is understandable as we see all experiences through the lens of past experiences. This means that two people can see, hear, or have the same event occur but walk away with a very different memory. Both people are absolutely convinced their experience is authentic, and for them, it really is authentic and accurate.

Gaslighting is a different situation. It involves the intentional manipulation of the other person to gain or maintain control of the situation. It is the creation of a false narrative to attempt to make one person look good, and the other person look bad. It is a technique used by narcissists to keep the other person uncertain, confused, and questioning their own perception and experiences. This is a form of emotional abuse, and it is both effective as well as highly destructive.

Understanding the difference between a healthy disagreement and gaslighting is not always easy, but it is possible. Often, working with a therapist or counselor is the first step in detecting an emotionally abusive or toxic relationship.

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Don't Be Your Partner's Therapist!

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One of the important things I learned in my own marriage and in my work with clients is that a committed relationship is NOT supposed to be a therapeutic relationship. We can help each other to learn, grow and heal, but this is very different than a therapeutic relationship. In a marriage, or close committed relationship or friendship, we can help each other, but in a therapeutic relationship, one person is helping the other. This doesn't work well in a partnership.

Caretakers often enter relationships to 'fix' their partner.

Caretakers often see themselves as healthier or more evolved than their partner, and they go about trying to change their partner – 'for their own good.' This puts the caretaker in a one-up position, which may make the other person feel one-down. I often hear from a client whose partner is trying to fix them, or who sees themselves as the ‘healthy one’, "My partner is much healthier and more evolved than I am."

Since we come together at our common level of health or woundedness, I know that this statement isn't true - that it's indicative of an imbalance in the relationship and is what is causing some of the problems.

Sometimes one person expects the other person to listen the way a therapist would. A client in this position asked me,

"What should I do when he vents on me and expects me to listen to him like a therapist might listen to a client?"

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Is Your Early Trauma Picking Your Partners?

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Most people have had at least one bad relationship in their life. For most individuals, this bad relationship was a blip on the radar, with the experience chalked up to a lesson learned.

However, there are also people who find themselves in the same toxic relationship over and over again. The partner may look different on the surface. Still, his behaviors, abusive ways, or emotional unavailability are exactly the same as the partners before.
Why do some people bounce back after a toxic relationship and move on to a healthy relationship while others are destined to repeat the same negative relationship cycle? The surprising answer is that this behavior may be directly related to early trauma in your childhood years.

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma

Childhood trauma is more common than most people assume. For example, in a 2017 study by Grant Sara and Julia Lappin published in The Lancet Public Health Journal, one in four adults reported they were physically abused as kids, and one in eight reported sexual abuse.  As stated in my book, Love Smacked: How to Stop the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to Find Everlasting Love . “When we hold on to unresolved pain from childhood, especially trauma and abandonment, these wounds reemerge in adult relationships as toxic shame.”
Other types of childhood trauma can include:

•  Loss of a parent – the death of a close family member or a significant person in a child’s life can create trauma if the child is not allowed to grieve or does not receive the care and attention required to work through the grief.

• Multiple homes – children that are moved from home to home either within a family or through the foster care system are often traumatized as they have no place of comfort or belonging.

• Bullying and fear – this can be bullying from siblings, parents, or even within a community. This can be a single significant event or chronic types of fearful situations without the parental support and care needed for the child.

• Abandonment – children that are abandoned with friends, relatives, strangers, or even the other parent can be traumatized very early in life.
   
• Addicted parents – children that live in homes where they must take care of siblings and even their parents are often traumatized as they feel overwhelmed and helpless.

Attachment Styles and Choosing Partners 

Children that experience trauma early in life develop an anxious attachment style, which is sometimes called an anxious-preoccupied attachment style. These people are extremely fearful of being on their own as they obtain their validation and reason in life from being with someone else. Although they believe they need their partner for their identity, they often feel the partner does not care enough.

Signs of an anxious or anxious preoccupied attachment style include:
   
•  Extreme desire to please – these individuals will do anything to win the approval of their emotionally distant partners. This may include staying in physical abuse and toxic relationships.
      
• Clingy – the need to be physically close to the partner. This can initially seem attractive to some partners, but it quickly becomes overwhelming and smothering.
     
• Constant communication – in today’s always plugged-in world, this can include constant calling, texting, posting on social media, and even electronically tracking their partner.
       
• Constant reassurances – there is a constant need for reassurance the relationship is fine. This can become a constant in the relationship.

• Jumping into relationships – anxious attachment styles have short dating periods and then immediately into a serious and significant relationship.

These types of individuals attract people who need attention. The narcissist is the prime example of an individual who seeks out a person with an anxious attachment style as they crave the need for attention.

Tips Identifying Toxic Relationships 

It can be difficult to identify the signs of a toxic relationship if your childhood trauma has made it difficult to see the red flags in the relationship. Here are some tips you can use to determine if you are in a relationship with a toxic partner:

• Constant arguments – despite all you do to try to please the other person, it is never enough. You are always blamed for any difficulties or negativity.
   
• Jealousy – despite ignoring you or being emotionally distant, your partner may be very jealous of your relationships with others.
   
• Emotionally exhausted – taking responsibility for the happiness of another person while ignoring your own wellbeing is emotionally draining.

• Inability to end the relationship – if you believe you have to be in the relationship for your own happiness, despite being unhappy, and cannot break off the relationship, you may be in a toxic situation.

Working with a therapist or counselor with experience in healing from childhood trauma is perhaps the best way to identify the problem and begin the healing process.  You can also consider joining my online group coaching program Wake Up Recovery where you will receive support from me, as well as those like minded souls who have been where you have been.

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The Invisible Law Behind All Loving Relationships

relationships The Invisible Law Behind All Loving Relationships

Imagine that you and your partner have gone out for the evening with another couple, or perhaps with a small group of close friends. Maybe you’re at an intimate bar, a dance place, or just out somewhere to dine.

The atmosphere and conversation are light; people are smiling, perhaps warmed by a glass of wine or two. A few hours pass, the time grows late, and the waiter – maybe hoping to start clearing the table – comes over with the check. He’s not sure who to hand it to, and so he stands there, feeling somewhat awkward.

For a moment, no one really wants to acknowledge that he’s there. Most of the party looks in every direction but his, knowing that accidental eye contact might be interpreted by him as accepting responsibility for the bill. We’ve all been “there” in these moments...and unless our bank account is so flush that we don’t care about the extra cost, and want to pay for the party, it’s a slightly uncomfortable experience.

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Relationships: Accepting the Challenges or the Loneliness

Relationships: Accepting the Challenges or the Loneliness Relationships: Accepting the Challenges or the Loneliness
Is the fear of getting hurt or losing yourself keeping you from accepting the challenges of loving a partner?

“My inner child is lonely and wants to be in a relationship, but relationships are too hard. I feel like I don’t want to work that hard,” Karen told me in a phone session.

“Are you ready to fully accept the loneliness of never being in a relationship?”

“No, that sounds too sad and awful. But why do relationships have to be so hard? I’ve worked on myself for years, yet even relationships with close friends are hard. It shouldn’t be that way.”

“Karen, they are hard because most of us come from families where we did not see our parents or other caregivers being open to learning with each other, especially during conflict. We saw them get angry, give in, withdraw, resist and turn to various addictions. So this is what most of us learned to do. Relationships challenge us to give up trying to control each other and instead open to learning with ourselves and each other, so we can share love. When two people are open to learning, relationships are not hard. What’s challenging is reaching the point where we can stay open to learning in the face of conflict.

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Two Revelations of Love

two revelations Two Revelations of Love

All of our relationships, in particular with the one we love, exist for a dual purpose, along with their great promise. First, most of us understand that our partner in life is there to help us grow, and to awaken and stir in us, accordingly, an awareness of love's highest possibilities. But the other - and equally important half of this same purpose and promise - without which the first part can't succeed - is as follows: our partner in life is also there to help us see everything in us that now stands in the way of our coming to realize this same higher love.

Here are two transformational revelations of love.

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