Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mastering Conflict: Stay In Charge Of Your Own “Buttons”

Are you able to stay with a disagreement and keep focused on the issue?

Do you find yourself having a hard time remaining calm?

Do you frequently take disagreements personally?

Do you find yourself reacting more strongly than you planned … maybe in response to old fights or old wounds?

Many people find that they have a hard time remaining calm and focused on one issue or problem when arguing or disagreeing with their spouse. Old “buttons” get pushed and it becomes hard to remain in the present. Feelings of hurt, disappointment, disrespect, being discounted or dismissed may emerge and lead to reactions and responses that have nothing to do with the issue at hand or to the gravity of the situation.

We all have to find ways to remain in charge of our own responses with our partners. This involves recognizing old tapes from relationships and patterns of the past that visit today. An awareness of old fears and hurts can be the first step toward helping to change this pattern.

Julia grew up with parents who had money to buy her lots of things; however, their time was limited and they had little interest in spending it with Julia. She developed the idea that she was not important and what was important to her, did not matter. Julia cannot remember any times that either her father or her mother showed up for school performances or even teacher’s conferences. Julia felt like she pretty much reared herself. When Julia and Troy fought, she often felt dismissed if he did not agree with her or her point of view. While she “knew” that he was entitled to have a different opinion, when he did, she felt discounted and it was not until she could tie that reaction to the frequent one that she received, the message that she often got from her parents of not being important, that Julia was able to calmly listen and talk with Troy when they disagreed.

Gerald’s dad had very high expectations of his son and Gerald was never able to meet those expectations. His father was highly critical, rarely positive or complimentary with Gerald. No matter how hard Gerald tried to please his dad, it never worked.

When Marcia had complaints about Gerald or something that he had done, Gerald would immediately become defensive and accuse her of being critical of everything that he did. He was unable to really hear Marcia, even when she was able to softly and gently ask for something different or try to talk about a problem. Gerald realized that he “heard” his father in all of Marcia’s complaints, even though they were very different. As he was able to separate his reactions from his relationship with his dad and his response to Marcia, he was able to talk with her about a present issue without revisiting the old “programmed in” responses.

Do you have “buttons” that get pushed from old past or wounds? Are you able to recognize them for what they are?

Please share your thoughts and ideas about this with us.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tip of the Week, March 22, 2009

“Everyone of us wants to show how much we care for each other and, in the process, care for ourselves.”
Princess Diana

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fighting Fairly: Avoid Triggering Your Partner

Questions: How can you fight fairly? I mean, conflict is conflict and it is important to clearly state your point and stand up for yourself, right?

What do you mean when you say: “avoid triggering your partner”? Everyone is responsible for his or her own reactions and responses, correct?

Answers: The answers are yes and yes. With a disagreement, it is important to stand up for yourself and state your point or opinion.

Being assertive means standing up for yourself while also respecting the rights of others. That’s different from being aggressive which often involves running over other people and their rights.

Most people who have regular disagreements with a partner or spouse, usually know what upsets or “sets off” their partner. It may be a comment about being just like their mother or a reminder of a past fight that has long been over but not forgotten. These remarks can be “dirty” and very unfair. When delivered, they are provocative and escalate fights.

While everyone is in charge of his or her own reactions … with words and with responses, take off the boxing gloves and put on the kid gloves. Treat your partner with love, tenderness and respect while also standing up for yourself and what is important to you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tip of the Week, March 14, 2009

May you have the hindsight to know where you've been
the foresight to know where you're going
and the insight to know when you're going too far.
Irish Proverb

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Conflict: The Dance of Disagreement

Most couples find that their dance around a disagreement seems to have the same steps over and over again. It starts out the same way and often ends the same way with one or both partners feeling hurt, disappointed, discounted or angry,

Sharon and Bill fought a lot about money, children and household chores. The disagreements always began with Sharon’s request in what she thought was a friendly tone but Bill heard as a nagging tone. Bill’s response was generally a defensive one, complaining about her tone or the fact that she was always nagging him. Bill then often withdrew by leaving the house or turning on the television and Sharon became more angry, often following after him in an attempt to talk about the problem or come up with a solution.

Andy and Sue had a different dance. One of the frequent issues for them was intimacy. Sue was more interested in intimacy and sex than Andy. She would light candles, send text messages, schedule dates, only to find that Andy was not interested, busy, too tired or would say that he just did not feel “in the mood”. Sue would then feel hurt and disappointed and then angry.

If Sharon and Bill and Andy and Sue want to find a way to change this dance, they each have to find ways to recognize their own steps and change them.

For most people, it is hard to recognize your own “mistakes” and find new steps to the dance, and yet, that is the quickest way to resolution. It is much better to find ways to change yourself rather than trying to change another person. When one person changes, others do change in response.

Pay attention to your own last argument with your partner. Can you describe your “dance”? What about your own steps? Do you find that you are trying the same thing over and over again ? Are you getting the same results? It may be time to try something different.

If you are having trouble figuring out what your step might be … or a different way to dance, contact us at Counseling Relationships Online. We provide in-person and on-line therapy to help couples understand their dance and change their steps.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tip of the Week, March 8, 2009

“If you don’t like the way something looks, change the way that you look at it.”
Wayne Dyer

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Making Good On Promises: “Until Death Do Us Part”

George told me recently that there are times when he really feels like giving up on his marriage. The conflict and distance in his relationship depresses him, but he remembers how much he loves his wife and truly believes that they can get through this stressful time.

Sandy was not sure that she could survive her husband’s mid-life crisis. She knew that he was acting differently than at any time before and she truly believed that he would come full circle and return home to make things work in the marriage.

Jenny and Jim were overwhelmed with the stress of trying to get pregnant, the loss of his mother and Jenny’s job lay-off. Both recognized that they were shorter and more critical of each other, not nurturing each other as they once had. When talking with them; however, the conversation usually ended with one of them saying something like “I know that things will get better” or “It cannot stay this bad forever”.

This belief in a solution to problems and stressful events can save a marriage. Having the courage to hang in with the relationship and work through difficult times has been what has made the difference in many marriages. When people are able to acknowledge the tough times and yet also talk about their commitment to the marriage and working things out, we feel pretty confident that the marriage will make it.

One study of long-term marriages reported that many couples reported very stressful periods, and yet, years later, they remember them with a sense of having coped, survived and even thrived as they describe how happy they were to have hung in there and made it through. Many say that divorce would have been the worst decision and, while it may have been the easy way out at the time, in the long run, remaining in the marriage and working through things has been the absolute right thing to do.

What stories of commitment and its affect on your relationship do you have? Please share them with us.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tip of the Week, March 1, 2009

"When the wind changes directions, there are those who build walls and there are those who build windmills."
Chinese saying