Are You Assertive Enough?

Are You Assertive Enough?  The definition of Assertive is behaving confidently and being able to say in a direct way what you want or believe (Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary).  As a Marriage Counselor, I define Assertiveness as behaving in a way that teaches people how to behave around me and being able to say what I need and want to get what I need and want while being respectful of their request of me. If you really want something like a promotion, a better relationship, more respect, etc., you’ll have to be more assertive. Most people are nice enough, polite, and wouldn’t intentionally do anything to hurt anybody. So why don’t these same people get what they want?

At the heart of assertiveness is your ability to know who you are and what you stand for and then express these qualities effectively in everyday interactions with other people.   Unless they can see who you truly are, underneath it all, other people might not know how you expect to be treated.

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 don’t 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. And assertion is not manipulation. Most people are aware, at some level, when they are being manipulated and it can lead to distrust and a lack of respect, for both parties. Manipulation involves hiding behind a facade. Assertion means tearing down that facade and happily announcing to the world who you truly are.  At the heart of assertiveness is your ability to know who you are and what you stand for.

We see situations of nonassertive behavior around us daily. Most people who lack an assertive style are those who are conflict avoidant and want to keep the peace. However, they often pay a price for this as communication is less effective in their interpersonal relationships whereby making needs and wants unclear.

There are many negative consequences associated with not being assertive. For example, those who are not assertive allow their feelings and boundaries to be violated by others. They believe they don’t have the right to their own feelings, beliefs or opinions and even if they do, they have difficulty expressing them in a way that is validating. They may feel that asserting their thoughts will lead to rejection or even being attacked. They frequently feel that it’s better to withhold their ideas rather than cause a conflict. Nonassertive people may feel guilty when they have to say “No.” As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I say feelings of guilt are irrational as guilt is something you feel when you’ve done something wrong.  Saying “NO” isn’t wrong if it’s the appropriate thing to say, and more importantly, if it’s what you WANT to say.  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 can become entrenched in Codependency and are easily victimized by others.

The ramifications of choosing to be nonassertive are costly. People feel hurt and mistreated when their needs are not met yet those who are not assertive 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.

Be More Assertive by Using “I” Statements

                              Use facts not judgments

                              Own your thought and feelings

                              Make clear direct requests

                              Respect yourself and others will too

Learning to be more assertive involves examining several dimensions of your life that include self-esteem, communication skills, ability to remain calm, and being authentic.  When you can comfortably share your authentic self with the world around you, with integrity and respect for the rights and wholeness of other people, you are truly asserting yourself.  When your Best Self (differentiated self, more evolved self) shows up it makes for a great partner in the relationship you choose to be a part of.

How often are you able to say “no?”  Do you ever say “yes” when you really want to say “no?”  It took me years to be able to say “no” and not feel bad about having to disappoint someone and feel guilty.  Give me your feedback as I’d like to know more about you and how assertive you are.

For more information on acquiring Assertiveness Training or becoming more assertive in all your relationships please contact me at (858) 735-1139.


New Year New Monogamy

New Year New Monogamy. Ringing In The New Year With A New Monogamy.  What exactly is a New Monogamy?  Monogamy is defined as the practice or state of being married to one person at a time or having a sexual relationship with only one partner.  Some literature on affair recovery suggests that infidelity is a symptom of some fundamental problem in a marriage or committed relationship when perhaps another reason could be monogamy is not possible or even desired for some couples.

New Year New Monogamy

As a Marriage Counselor who specializes in Affair Recovery, I see couples who despite the research indicating 60% of men and over 45% of women cheat at some point in their marriages (Atwood and Schwartz 2002) are still unhappy about cheating.

Staying faithful to one partner for many years isn’t easy.  People are living until their 80’s and 90’s and staying monogamous is becoming more difficult with the use of the internet, online dating apps, and access to infinite amounts of people being able to communicate with each other throughout the world.

As a Marriage Counselor working with people who think they may no longer want to be monogamous, I help initiate that process through developing New Monogamy Agreements.  These contracts are explicit agreements created by each partner to openly, honestly, and safely share desires, expectations, and limitations for moving forward in a way that clearly states how they may behave.  The agreement is an obligation that you willingly support your relationship and want to meet both your partner’s and your own needs.  This can mean agreeing on a Traditional Monogamous relationship (closed marriage), Open Marriage, Semi-Open Marriage, Polyamorous Marriage, or Polysexual Marriage.  Each to be discussed with an open-minded Counselor trained in knowing how to talk about and follow through with opening up a relationship. And whose goal is to guide the couple to develop and negotiate an agreement that works for both of them without transference or countertransference of their own biases.

Coming into the 21st Century we no longer have the marriages/relationships that our parents or grandparents had.  There are hundreds of “How To” lists for relationships and they all seem to say the same thing.  Why not put something together that works for you and your partner?  We live in a diversified and dynamic world where everyone is unique.  As a Marriage Counselor who understand non-traditional relationships, I help couples develop New Monogamy Agreements to rebuild trust after an affair or to re-establish intimacy in a relationship that feels stale like roommates when you want to feel like lovers.

When making your New Monogamy Agreement it can be like renewing Vows.  Realistic behavioral promises that are explicit rather than implicit to better care for individual and relationship needs.  As a Marriage Counselor developing New Monogamy Agreements, couples have the fluidity and variety to renew at will and to prevent unnecessary discord.

For more information about developing a relationship that works for you or on New Monogamy Agreements please contact me at (858) 735-1139.

Managing Holiday Stress – A Smile Can Get You Everywhere

Managing Holiday Stress – A Smile Can Get You Everywhere.  As we enter the month of November I start to think about Thanksgiving and everything I’m thankful for.  As a Marriage Counselor, I see a range of couples from eternally happy wanting to continue to keep their relationship in check to those who are constantly struggling to keep afloat.  As we enter the Holiday Season we will be experiencing our share of stress, be it positive or negative situations or circumstances.  Thanksgiving is the start of many family get-togethers where these gatherings are not always wanted or enjoyed.

As a Marriage Counselor, I encourage putting boundaries in place and setting good limits so that individual and relationship needs are met by you and your spouse and your respective families.  As a Couples Counselor, I stress the importance of being cognizant of knowing when to say YES and when to say NO. It’s very important when dealing with challenging extended family members.  I understand your respective Families of Origins want access to you and yours, but sometimes doing something different can be as beneficial as doing whatever it is you typically do.

With any decision being made it’s important that couples are able to dialogue and have a discussion where they can express their thoughts and feelings.  Showing empathy for each other’s feelings and validating each other’s positions shows you care and are being thoughtful when making a decision for your family.

Keeping a positive attitude during the Holiday Season provides not only good personal mental health but role models goodwill to family and friends as they, too, are managing the stressors that come with Thanksgiving, Christmas and welcoming in the New Year.  Smiles and kind words are good for the heart and can make or break a good day for those who receive it.  Smile as we all have something to be thankful for.

For more information on managing your Holiday stress contact me at (858) 735-1139.




Polyamory Or Monogamy Which One Is For You?

Polyamory or Monogamy Which One Is For You?  Polyamory means having simultaneous close emotional and possibly sexual relationships with two or more other individuals with the knowledge and consent of all partners concerned.  The growing practice of polyamory in the United States indicates a significant shift in the way marriage and intimate relationships have evolved over the past few decades. For some individuals, monogamy could be a better choice and for others, polyamory may be a better fit.

How do you know which one is best for you?  If you’re not sure what would work for you, I highly suggest you find out sooner rather than later, especially before you get involved in a committed relationship since compatibility seems to be the name of the game.  Polyamory is a new language for alternatives to monogamous relating.  Consensual non-monogamy and the New Monogamy is the preferred term in the academic world and is being talked about in Marital Counseling in my office as well as other clinicians who provide counseling to non-traditional lifestylers throughout the country.  This cultural obsession with monogamy has headed in the same direction as the gold standard, slavery, and for the younger generation, dating in general.  What I mean is, while serial monogamy is more popular than ever, lifelong monogamy is obsolete and whether we like it or not, polyamory is catching on.  Here is the latest information from author Deborah Anapol from “Love Without Limits.”

1. There is no evidence that monogamy is better in terms of relationship longevity, health, sexual satisfaction, happiness or emotional intimacy. There is also no evidence that polyamory is better.  Given that information, individuals should go on what feels right to them and their partners.

2.  Gay men are more likely than heterosexual couples, lesbians, or bisexuals to practice consensual non-monogamy and still struggle with jealousy issues.

3.  Polyamory is not necessarily easy, especially if family of origin issues and personal issues are not addressed and still present as issues.

4.  Women are not necessarily in favor of monogamy.  They don’t appreciate being lied to or having to go along with a double standard.

5.  Children raised in consensually non-monogamous families have been shown to do as well on many measures of health and achievement as children in monogamous families.

It’s extremely rare these days to find someone who has had only one sexual partner or “significant other” throughout his or her life.  There are definitely some people who are far better off taking it one person at a time, and then there are those who can have multiple partners sequentially or at the same time.  There are those who practice polyamory with ingenuity and vulnerability and those who justify what they refer to as polyamory but is really self-deception and lack of integrity by indulging in multiple affairs as a means of hedonism.

What’s important is not so much the Glamour of multi-partner relating as it is allowing Love to dictate the form rather than attempting to force Love into whatever Mold the mind has decided is right.  Polyamory is less about how many people you are having sex with or feeling love for than it is about allowing love (not lust) to lead you into whatever form is appropriate.

As a Marriage Counselor, I see a diversity of relationship forms in Marriage Counseling.  Whether working with Monogamous Couples or Polyamorists I have no position on whether people, in general, should be monogamous or not.  That fact is that it is very rare to find anyone who has had only one sexual partner for his or her entire life.  Monogamy works for some people and does not for others.  It’s a matter of what works for you and your relationship.  Having a dialogue about what you want in your relationship is a start.

In Couples Counseling I help Couples initiate a conversation that may seem difficult and make them feel vulnerable, as talking about what you want sexually is unfamiliar and awkward to some.  As a Therapist, I characterize my position on polyamory as Pro-choice rather than anti-monogamy and have no position on whether people in general “should” be monogamous or not.  It is encouraged for people to do what is right for them.  There is no judgment or criticism in however you choose to relate to your relationship.  What works for one person may not be the same for all people or even for the same person in different stages in life.

For more information on polyamory and if it is suited for you and your relationship please give me a call at (858) 735-1139 or email me at [email protected]

Are Open Marriages Happier Marriages?

Are Open Marriages Happier Marriages?  There’s an article in the New York Times that share the experiences of nonmonogamous couples and what they say about love and trust  I found the article very interesting and appreciated both the author’s perspective and the couples’ story about their marriages.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I utilize approaches used by author Tammy Nelson and various other Sex Therapists who work with couples who are in nontraditional relationships. The frequency in which I see more nonmonogamous couples whose ideas about fidelity are more open than when I started my practice 25 years ago have substantially increased.  Therefore, I have accommodated my work to help those who are in and want to be in consensual nonmonogamous relationships.

As a Marriage/Couples Counselor, I specialize in Infidelity and Affair Recovery.  I’m working with a particular couple where the wife is the Affair Partner, she cheated on her husband, and the Hurt Partner (the husband), is the one who got cheated on.  Both want to repair and move forward to try and make a better relationship as they have children.  For the most part, their family works nicely together in that they have similar parently styles and manage the household diplomatically.  Of course, there’s more to a relationship than being able to take care of tasks, intimacy is desired.

The wife, in this case, loves her husband but doesn’t believe she is “in love” with him anymore.  Having had the affair she has experienced a “sexual awakening” and her sexual desires have stretched to wanting more than what she was taught growing up.  Throughout the recovery process, she has stated she believes she wants to move forward in a nonmonogamous marriage.  He is still contemplating whether or not he wants this or can even do this.

They ask me if open marriages are happier marriages.  In my personal and professional opinion, I say, “not necessarily happier, as much as they are more functional and durable for the long haul.”  As people are living longer these days relationships can tend to experience ebbs and flows.  Some couples don’t want the option of divorce as their primary relationship works on a lot of levels.  Sometimes the excitement of continued heightened intimacy can wane as being together with the same partner can be familiar and familiarity sometimes brings about a lack of novelty that can diminish sexual excitement. Opening up the marriage to meeting new people, not just for sexual experiences but for emotional and intellectual stimulation can make all the difference in becoming more interested in life again and what life has to offer.  With that feeling the primary relationship can benefit and feel brand new again.  That’s what I believe makes a marriage happier with opening up the relationship.  Why give up on many years of developing a beautiful life together just because the sex component dried up.  Revive it by bringing something new into your lives.

For more information on doing just that please contact me at (858) 735-1139.