Enhancing Your Relationship

Enhancing Your Relationship.  To become acquainted with oneself can be a terrible shock. Emotionally committed relationships bring excitement and passion into our lives, especially when they are new.  Over time, however, we come across roadblocks based on personal issues that can distance us from our partners.  When we first enter into a committed relationship, we may think that we have found the answer to life’s problems, that we have a partner to share in daily turmoil, that we will never be alone again, that it will be smooth sailing from here on out. If we base relationships on these assumptions, however, we may be sorely disappointed when our partners fail to live up to these expectations. There is a strong probability that if we look to another person to provide fulfillment, we will begin to focus on the failings of that person as the cause of our own disappointment. This pattern is the reason for a great deal of discord in committed relationships.

Many people who come in for couples counseling hope that the therapy will change their partner because they are convinced that the partner is the source of the problem.
Over time many relationships enter a stage where the partners feel distant from each other. The initial passion, sexual freedom, intimacy, and feelings of connectedness with the partner fade. Either person may begin to feel that, although they love their partner, they are no longer “in love,” feeling like roommates.  At the same time, both partners may feel that they have lost themselves in the relationship. They have given so much to the relationship in terms of their time, their energies, and their emotions that they have lost what made them feel unique as individuals. They have abandoned old friendships, hobbies, and activities that brought interest and excitement to their own lives in order to devote time and energy to the relationship. When a feeling of distance comes to define the relationship, resentment toward the partner may emerge.

How does a relationship, which may have once shown such promise, end up in a place where the two partners feel distant and may not even like each other very much (even though they feel that love is still there)? The answer lies within. Two people who come together in an emotional commitment carry with them a legacy of their own fears, anxieties, and unresolved problems. It is sometimes uncomfortable for us to come to terms with our own baggage. It is, in fact, so troublesome that we are unable to look within ourselves. When that happens, we tend to attribute the problem to our partners, a process called projection. Rather than accepting the fact that our partners are just being themselves and probably have the best of intentions, we define the source of our own anxiety as lying within the other person. When we feel uncomfortable about something our partners say or do, we may not realize that our discomfort may derive from a source that we have not examined within ourselves like our own control issues, our jealousy, our insecurity, or our fear of dependence or independence.
Our partners may simply be triggering our own unresolved difficulties. The clue is to search within our own lives to see why we have difficulty with these issues.  And this is no small task. To become acquainted with oneself is indeed a terrible shock.
For more information on the topic please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

1st Step In Saving A Marriage

1st Step In Saving A Marriage.  Family pathology rolls from generation to generation like a fire in the woods taking everything down its path until one person has the courage to turn and face the flames. That person brings peace to its ancestors and spares the children that follow. – Terry Real
There’s a way of immediately improving your relationship that passes down to your next generation. It takes awareness of one aspect of your relationship: patterns.
Here’s what I mean. A pattern is a combination of qualities, acts, or tendencies that form a predictable sequence of outcomes in your marriage. The outcomes can be positive or negative.
First, start by becoming aware of recurring actions and reactions.
Here is what a negative pattern would look like.
Jane gets ignored by Jim.
Jane feels hurt and unimportant when ignored by Jim.
Jane reacts by snipping and getting critical of Jim.
Jim reacts by snipping back, getting defensive and then emotionally disengaging (shuts down) from Jane.
Jane feels ignored even more by Jim. Jane grumbles to friends and the friends are supportive of Jane. Janes stops snipping and emotionally withdraws from Jim.
Jim is glad Jane stops snipping. But is puzzled why Jane is distant. All they talk about are kids, work and responsibilities to manage their complex lives. The discussions are important but both partners end up feeling emotionally shallow.
Neither takes an emotional risk to say what they feel and miss.
Wash, rinse, repeat for twenty two years. Kids leave home. Jane and Jim feel like they are strangers or roommates.
And they are.
What can break this pattern?
It starts with awareness.
Here’s what I mean. They each think, “When I feel X what do I do about it? Do I take the risk and speak up directly? Or do I communicate what I feel indirectly? When I communicate indirectly (for example, by snipping), what is the response I get (defensiveness)? When I get a defensive response from my partner, how do I respond (withdrawal after snipping back)?”
And then, “What happens when I stop snipping and withdraw?”
“Oh, we are civil but have no emotional connection.”
Now comes the big question. “Do I choose to break MY pattern?
Basically it is very difficult to break old patterns and sustain new ones when there is no awareness about them.
Being aware is a crucial first step. The vast majority of couples in my practice have total clarity about what their partner does that is dysfunctional. But they have little awareness of the impact of their own dysfunctionality on their partner. They simply keep repeating the dysfunctional pattern and hoping the partner gets the message and responds with new and improved response.
So here is a three step approach to a better relationship.
  1. Be aware of what you both do that keeps getting repeated in a negative way.
  2. Decide you want to break your part of the cycle.
  3. Tell your partner what you have observed and what you are going to do differently and why you are going to do it. Your motivation is going to be for one reason only, which will keep you out of a trap. You are going to be motivated by the desire to become a better person when faced with adversity. You are going to become bigger than the problem instead of the problem being bigger than you are. You are going to do it because you will feel better about yourself and not criticize your partner if they don’t immediately jump on your bandwagon of change.

In Couples Counseling this is the first and most effective step to creating a better version of you and a healthier relationship.  In addition, I hear parents say they love their children very much. Yet they continue to exercise unhealthy behavior. We are what we lived.  Unhealthy childhood patterns don’t discriminate. I provide Individual, Couples and Family Counseling in San Diego and its neighboring communities. Please call me at (858) 735-1139 if you would like help with your relationship.  I offer in-person, telephone or internet counseling.

Why People Manipulate Others

Why manipulate others?

Manipulative people have a strong need to be in control. This may derive from underlying feelings of insecurity on their part, although they often compensate for these feelings with a show of strong self-confidence. Even though they may deny it, their motives are self-serving, and they pursue their aims regardless of the cost to other people. They have a strong need to feel superior and powerful in their relationships – and they find people who will validate these feelings by going along with their attempts at manipulation. They see power as finite. If you exert power over them, they will retaliate in order to gain back the control they feel they are losing. They cannot understand the idea that everyone can feel empowered or that everyone can gain. When they are not in control – of themselves and over other people – they feel threatened. They have difficulty in showing vulnerable emotions because it might suggest they are not in control.Those who are manipulative usually don’t consciously plan their maneuvers. They emerge from the manipulator’s underlying personality disorder, and are played out within the context of a victim who colludes with, and unwittingly encourages, the manipulation. There is a wide range of tactics used by manipulators ranging from verbal threats to subtle attempts to arrange situations to suit the manipulator. For example, one of the more common forms of manipulation is called splitting – turning two people against each other by talking to each one behind the back of the other, getting them to dislike or distrust each other, and leaving the manipulator in a position of control. They may use active techniques like becoming angry, lying, intimidating, shouting, name-calling or other bullying tactics. Or they may use more passive methods like pouting, sulking, ignoring you, playing the victim, or giving you the silent treatment.

Some manipulators can be described in terms of having an antisocial personality (these people are sometimes called psychopaths or sociopaths). This is a personality disorder often associated with criminal behavior. They feel little compassion for other people, don’t really feel guilty when they do something harmful, pathologically lie, show superficial charm, tend to be impulsive, and don’t take responsibility for their own actions. Changing their ways can pose a challenge. Some people who have a need to nurture others may feel that they can help an antisocial person change their lives – and this would be a formidable task.

Healthy relationships do not include emotional manipulation.  Individual counseling and couples counseling help people who find themselves continually being manipulated by the ones they care about and those that claim they care about them.  Please call me at (858) 735-1139 if you think any of what I’ve shared pertains to you.

Assert Yourself

Assert Yourself.  Have you ever heard yourself say, “I’m a nice person? I’m a polite person. I’d never intentionally do anything to hurt anybody. So why don’t people give me the respect I deserve?” The problem could well be due to your lack of assertiveness. Maybe you aren’t showing your nice, polite, and respectful qualities to other people. Unless they can see who you truly are, underneath it all, other people might not know how you expect to be treated. And this can lead to some unhappy experiences. At the heart of assertiveness is your ability to know who you are and what you stand for – and then to express these qualities effectively in everyday interactions with other people.

Expressing yourself effectively involves maintaining respect for the rights and feelings of others. Assertiveness is not aggression. People who are assertive know that they can deal with the world much more effectively if they do not resort to violence or other aggressive responses. In many ways, assertiveness is the exact opposite of aggression – assertion enhances constructive communication and cooperation between people, while aggression shuts it down. Assertiveness is not manipulation. Most people are aware, at some level, when they are being manipulated – it can lead to distrust and a lack of respect, for both parties. Manipulation involves hiding behind a mask. Assertiveness means tearing off the mask and happily announcing to the world who you truly are. Assertiveness is reality-tested freedom. At the heart of assertiveness is your ability to know who you are and what you stand for. Expressing yourself effectively involves maintaining respect for the rights and feelings of others.

We see instances of nonassertive behavior around us everyday. Most people who lack an assertive style are simply those who want to keep the peace. For the most part, they want goodness and cooperation between people. However, they often pay a high price for this in terms of functioning effectively in the world.

There are many negative consequences associated with the nonassertive style. For example, those who are not assertive allow their feelings and boundaries to be violated by others. They believe that they do not have the right to their own feelings, beliefs or opinions – and even if they do, they have difficulty expressing them in a self-affirming way. They may feel that asserting their thoughts will lead to rejection or even being attacked. They frequently feel that it is better to withhold their ideas rather than cause a conflict. Nonassertive individuals may feel guilty when they have to say “No.” They often allow others to make decisions for them and may assume that others will care for their needs. They may place the needs of others above their own. Nonassertive people are easily victimized by others.

The consequences of choosing to be nonassertive are costly. People feel hurt and mistreated when their needs are not met – yet those who are nonassertive do little to meet these needs themselves. They may store up negative feelings and then harbor anger. Their sense of efficacy in the world is diminished, and then they complain about how unfair the world is to them. This approach toward the world may lead to depression, poor self-esteem, anxiety, isolation, and anger. There are better alternatives.

 

Symptoms of Relationship Addiction

Symptoms of Relationship Addiction. Addictions come in many forms. There is alcohol addiction, drug addiction, eating disorders with food addictions, even addiction to healthy things like exercising. What can be troubling is when a once healthy relationship turns into a toxic one. Relationships are wonderful until you start to put boundaries in place to take care of your needs oppose to others. A healthy partner will respect those boundaries and your need for self-care. An unhealthy partner with unresolved personal issues can take this as a bad thing. Some individuals continue to accept bad behavior and before you know it you’ve become addicted to the vicious cycle of something that is not good for you.
Symptoms of Relationship Addiction
Symptoms of Relationship Addiction:
  • Premature Bonding
    Relationship addicts have an overwhelming need to bond with someone. This goes beyond a healthy need to connect with others. Unfortunately, this need to form an instant attachment tends to overwhelm other people and pushes them away. And it leads to poor decisions about whom to let into one’s life.
  • Excessive Fantasies
  • Throughout the course of the relationship, the addict spends a great deal of time thinking about the other person and how perfect things will be. Even after the relationship has ended, the fantasies about getting together again may continue. Of course, a healthy love relationship also involves fantasies, but addictive fantasies have an obsessive quality about them. These fantasies tend to take over one’s day. The need to fantasize takes precedence over socializing with others, work, taking care of normal daily routines – and they tend to become dreams or expectations that must come true.
  • The Need for Excitement
    Addicts in general crave getting “high.” Relationship addicts base their ideas about a relationship on romance, and this involves creating drama. They might pick fights just to experience a rush of excitement. An ordinary argument becomes a war. They see reality in terms of their own needs, so they easily read between the lines (“No matter what she says, I know she really loves me”). A love addict fails to understand that a normal relationship involves a series of highs and lows – in real life, lows do not mean that the love has ended. They see an ordinary relationship as boring because it lacks a sense of constant excitement.
  • Symptoms of Relationship Addiction
  • Exaggerated Anxiety and Jealousy about the Relationship
    Relationship addicts typically have fears left over from earlier experiences in their lives when they have been neglected, rejected, or abandoned. Their greatest fear in adulthood is feeling lonely because this reminds them of their earlier negative experiences – and they never want to endure that again. They need to feel attached and find it difficult to live independently. So, in their relationships they tend to look constantly for signs that things are not going well. They become possessive of their partner, experiencing anxiety when the partner is not present and frequently accusing or nagging the partner.
  • Ineffective Expression of Emotions
    The relationship addict, because of difficult earlier life experiences, is confused and overwhelmed by emotions. For example, she/he might feel that anger leads to rejection or abandonment, so she/he doesn’t express anger and instead holds in all emotional expression – and when someone expresses anger to the relationship addict, she/he is unable to tolerate it. She might harbor painful feelings that seem unrelated to present circumstances. She/he may become stoic (relationship addicts have a great tolerance for suffering and endure substantial pain rather than face the prospect of a breakup of the relationship). Because she/he suppresses her normal, flexible emotional expression, she/he may revert to polarized expression of feelings (“all or nothing”) – for example, love or hate (but nothing in between), vigilance or complacency, fear or courage.
  • Loose Personal Boundaries
    Because many relationship addicts have issues with self-esteem, they have weak personal boundaries. They lose their sense of individuality and become enmeshed with their partner. They don’t know where their needs and emotions begin and where their partner’s end. If their partner feels happy, they feel happy. If their partner feels sad, they feel sad. If they sense that their partner wants them to be a certain way, that is what they become. They have difficulty saying “no.” Unfortunately, this sets the stage for being treated with disrespect. Addictive relationships show a lack of equality between the two partners.

Symptoms of Relationship Addiction

The healthy love relationship can be viewed in terms of two independent people who come together and make a commitment to each other. They each have the freedom to live as they choose within the boundaries of the commitment, and they are loved by their partner for showing integrity in how they live. Their partner encourages them to follow the beat of their own drum. The commitment enhances each partner’s ability to experience a full life – with love, security, and support.

If you believe you or someone you know can relate to any of the above symptoms it would be good to seek the help of a counselor or therapist who can make an assessment to determine whether or not there could be a relationship addiction in the making.
I work with individuals and couples in San Diego and its neighboring communities.  I also provide telephone and internet counseling so please contact me at (858) 735-1139.