Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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So, you’ve found that you and your partner have gone from “I love you” and “I miss you” to barely communicating and now you're spending less time together, too.  Maybe he wants to date other people or she is just preoccupied with work; either way, it’s clear this relationship is not working out.

While it’s true that not every relationship is meant to be – you’ll kiss a lot of frogs before you find that one – it’s also not always easy to end things.  You two share history, friends, maybe even a house and pets.  Often people will stay in a dying relationship out of comfort or fear of hurting their partner.  However, if you decided that you’re in the wrong relationship and you’re staying despite what your gut is telling you, it may be time to consider what’s right for you.

Are you being asked to compromise too much?


Ah, compromise.  It’s that dirty little word we all throw around; it feels a lot like not getting exactly what you wanted for Christmas, but still getting something pretty great.  Compromising in relationships is a must.  However, when you’re not 100% willing to meet your partner’s needs because your boundary would be crossed, it’s time to decide if this is the right relationship for you.  Now, I’m not talking about where to have dinner or what movie to see, I’m saying the big things: children, marriage, or opening your currently closed relationship.  If you’re not comfortable with these things, and don't think you ever will be, it’s probably time to move on.

Who do you love more?


This is a simple question and while the answer should be simple, sometimes it’s not.  If you love the relationship more, you probably love the companionship more than your partner.  If you love your partner more than yourself, you’ve put that person on a pedestal and created an imbalance in your relationship.  However, if you love yourself you will not only respect yourself, but also your partner.  In this situation, it will be easier to separate your rational thoughts from the emotions that are clouding the situation.  So, consider this, if it doesn’t feel right, why are you actually staying?  It might just be that you’ve placed more value on your partner or the relationship than yourself.

Do you know your worth?


I know some pretty amazing individuals who left long-term relationships because they felt like they were being taken for granted.  The difference between these people and someone who stays in a “bad relationship” is that they know their worth and value themselves.  We’re all amazing in our own way, but unless you own that, your partner will continue pushing the boundaries of your relationship to get exactly what he or she wants, all the while compromising your wants and needs.  Think about it, what’s your value and does your partner see that?  If your partner doesn’t see you for the amazing person you are, do you really want to continue this relationship?

Are you playing games?



Your heart isn’t a toy, so if you find yourself playing games, take a step back and reevaluate the relationship.  If your partner is needy and likes to feel wanted, he or she may start distancing, leaving you to pursue.  Or maybe the script is flipped.  Whatever it is, if you and your partner are using Jedi mind-tricks to get the other’s attention, reconsider your worth.  Are you really that desperate to be in a relationship with someone who, instead of clearly communicating his or her needs, finds it necessary to put your emotions through the ringer?  If you love, respect, and value yourself, the answer should be “no.”

Now, I’m not saying that if you love, respect, and value yourself, it will make the pain of the breakup disappear, that is, if you decided to move forward with it.  However, it will make it much easier to separate those intertwined thoughts and emotions and see your relationship for what it really is.  When the fog lifts, if you don’t like what you see, it might just be time to move on.


Lori Dougherty is a Marriage and Family Counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. As a marriage and family counselor, she helps couples navigate the many difficulties that arise in their relationship. She also helps couples rebuild happiness together so they can have the fulfilling relationship with their partner they've always wanted.

My Partner Just Doesn’t Get Me!

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So your partner just doesn't get you. Or maybe…you don’t get your partner. Maybe…just maybe you’re spending so much time trying to get your belief, point, hurt, etc. across you aren’t hearing a darn thing coming out of your partners mouth.

Wow…those are some tough points! The points above are to provoke you from pointing a blaming finger at your partner and redirecting the finger to point at you. Why, you might ask? Well let me explain. Dr.’s John and Julie Gottman have a term the called “accepting your partners influence”, and it's a great way to get over

What Does it Mean To Accept Your Partner's Influence?


A recent experience I had is a great example of what it means to accept your partner's influence: I was stacking hay (you know, the stuff you feed horses) and I was on top of the pile when the man I’m dating walked around the corner to see where I was and yelled for me to get down. Anyone who knows me personally knows first not to yell at me and second not to bark orders at me. I slowly climbed down the pile, looked at him and asked what his problem was! We argued a little and went about our work – with me on the ground.

So let’s break this down. When he made the “request” for me to get down off the hay, I thought he was minimizing me; being sexist; calling me weak; not good enough; and not knowing what I was doing. I thought he was belittling me. I happened to talk about this with a colleague/mentor of mine over coffee and she politely asked me “so where are you wrong; what are the negative things you did in that particular situation”? BAM! Right in the face – she called me out!

In that moment I realized my reaction was based on assumptions and not in fact what he was trying to say. Later, I humbly faced my partner by asking what he meant that day. To my surprise his response swept me off my feet. He explained when he saw me up on top of the hay stack his heart stopped and his initial response was protection. He stated he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if something happened to me! He explained he knows I’m more than capable and strong enough, but because of his fondness for me he wanted to protect me. Umm…wow…holy moly…talk about a 180° from my assumptions. I accepted his influence.

Accepting Your Partner's Influence Isn't About Being Right or Wrong


Now, let’s take this a step further. You often have differences of opinion with your partner. These differences include: finances, religion, politics, how to raise kids, where to live, etc. You don't have to be together with someone for very long before you come across a difference of opinion. When you do, stop being defensive. Those differing opinions may cause fights, arguments, or even annoyance, but they don't have to.

Slow down – stop trying to cram what you think is best down your partner’s throat. Take a minute to listen and understand what your partner is saying. In return, ask them to hear you. Don’t look at your differences as right or wrong. Have compassion and empathy for each other. Use generosity towards each other as you make decisions. Talk about why each of your opinions are important and what each decision means personally. In the long run who’s right or wrong doesn’t matter – it’s about growing closer and understanding you’re on the same team and that 's what makes for a more connected and meaningful relationship.


Tristan Beymer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and marriage and family counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. She specializes in helping couples rebuild their relationship to be strong, healthy and passionate. She also works with individuals to overcome difficulties related to trauma and addictions.

4 Communication Keys to Relationship Harmony.

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Just about every couple who walks into my office complains about difficulties communicating. It's no secret that being able to communicate with your spouse is one of the most important parts of a relationship. Without effective communication, it's hard to address difficulties that are going on, changes you'd like to make and even express your love and affection for each other. But not just any old communication will do. Just about every couple communicates about their children's upcoming events, when one of them is going out with friends, etc. But this doesn't really make a good relationship.

There are key things that are important for every couple to talk about. And communication about them can be the difference between a good relationship and a 'we're having problems' relationship. Here are four communication keys for you and your spouse that can help you get closer and create a better relationship. 

4 Key Areas of Communication


1) Communicate Affection. One of the most common things I hear from couples in counseling is that "My spouse should know I love them, I married him/her didn't I?". Well, this is true. But that was also many years ago. You should still be communicating your affection towards them today. There are lots of ways to show affection. A great book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages is a good place to learn all the many ways to communicate affection to your spouse.

2) Communicate Appreciation. A lot of times you think that when things are going well, there's no need to make any extra effort. After all, your relationship is going fine. But the truth is you should always be expressing appreciation to your partner even when things are going well. This makes sure things continue to go well and it also makes sure that you don't become complacent in your relationship.  

3) Communicate About Sex. There's a common misconception that sex should always be spontaneous like in the movies. This misconception also says that your partner should intuitively know what you want sexually. But the truth is, neither of these misconceptions are true. Instead, couples need to be talking to each other openly about what they want sexually. And they should be being direct. Phrases like "Touch me here". "Let's not do that tonight, let's do this instead". And "I'm really in the mood tonight for you to take charge". Talk to your partner openly and say what you want.

4) Communicate Displeasure. A lot of couples believe that in order to have a happy relationship, you should avoid conflict as often as you can. But the opposite is true. Avoiding conflict just sweeps issues under the rug. And after a while, it turns into resentment. Remember, you can say anything you want as long as you say it nicely. There's a difference between saying "You're so stupid! Why on earth can't you just pick your @#$% socks up?!" and "Honey, I've asked you before and I'd really appreciate it if you'd just pick your socks up already". It's okay for a couple to talk about things they don't like. It's even okay to argue. Just make sure you're being nice when you do. 

These four communication keys are important points in your relationship that need to be discussed in your relationship. Talking about these keys can help you and your spouse keep away from talking about the mundane things that ultimately don't matter in your relationship. and focus about the important things. They also help make sure your communications are effective, repairing and creating connections. 

Why should I love myself in my relationship?

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Loving yourself and knowing your worth is one of the most valuable contributions you can bring to your relationship. I’m not talking about narcissism, conceitedness, or being self-centered, here. I'm talking about real self-love. Self-love is important not just for your own self esteem but it's also important for your relationship. How you love yourself affects how you treat your partner and it even affects how your partner treats you in return. How you love yourself is a compass for navigating and accepting not only your qualities, but the qualities of your partner.

The higher you value yourself, the higher you value your partner, too. After all, they're dating you. And if you think you're a pretty good catch, then you're really going to respect the person who caught you because they must be pretty awesome to catch someone like you.  But if you don't think you're a good catch, or don't think you bring much value to your relationship, then you won't respect your partner much because they're not good enough to catch someone who's really great - and they're the type of person who settles. And it's hard to respect someone who settles.

Not valuing yourself also opens the door to accepting the devaluing opinions of your partner, and keeps you from asserting yourself because you don't know that you have something valuable to bring to the relationship.

Honoring Yourself is Important to Love Yourself


Honor isn't talked about much in our culture, and especially not as much since the 1950’s. Honoring ourselves and our needs is not selfish! Rather, it's actually pretty selfless when you do it appropriately. For instance, how you regard yourself in terms of the person you are morally, ethically and also of value. This is particularly evident when your successes are also the successes of your partner. How you act and maintain honor in your relationship is also reflected in your partner. When you are in a committed relationship how others see you is also how others will see your partner.

Recently I have had the pleasure to date a man who has high honor and regard not only for himself, but others. Two incidences come to mind as I type this. First, we were dressed for dinner out and stopped for gas. There was a man stuck at one of the pumps because his car broke down. My date, stated he was going to go see if he could help and made sure I was okay to be a little late. He then locked me in the truck and proceeded to help the man. I asked why he locked me in and he said it was to protect me. That is honor! Second, we met for breakfast one morning and a WWII vet came in and sat at the table next to us. My date got up, asked to introduce himself and thanked the vet for his service. We both were invited to chat and after some great laughs we returned to our table. My date told the waitress he would be paying for the vet’s breakfast. These instances reflect not only my dates honor, but his honor also reflected on me. Both of these instances made me very proud to be next to him.

Self-respect is Important to Love Yourself


Respecting yourself is also knowing what you will and will not tolerate. Having a deep respect for yourself also pours into your relationship. Respect brings a sense of equality and deepened intimacy. So often in relationships we think others need to earn respect first. The reality is we should give respect first because of the respect you have for yourself. You should never put your partner on a pedestal, nor assume your place is on a pedestal. Pedestals are degrading to the health of your relationship. Respect is asking for your needs to be met and having them met. Respect is hearing your partner’s needs and meeting those needs.

So to high-five yourself in the mirror and love who you are. If you love you, it’s so much easier to love the one you’re with.


Tristan Beymer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and marriage and family counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. She specializes in helping couples rebuild their relationship to be strong, healthy and passionate. She also works with individuals to overcome difficulties related to trauma and addictions.

Reviving Intimacy With Your Partner

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As a couples counselor, one common complaint I hear is that sex is lacking in the relationship. Whether there isn’t time or there isn’t enough, it’s impacting the overall quality of the relationship. While every couple’s story is different – she used to initiate all the time and doesn’t anymore or he’s busy working and I go to bed early to wake up with the kids – the ending is still the same: a sexless relationship causes problems and visa versa.

A quick internet search will give you a hundred different ways to revive your sex life and answer the debate over who should initiate, but very few tackle it from both partner’s perspective.  Consider this: we all want to feel wanted by our partner, so shouldn’t we also make our partner feel wanted? Taking the pressure off one person and placing equal responsibility on both of you may ease the tension and make sex what it’s supposed to be: a fun, intimate experience.  Now, because everyone is different, there isn’t a blueprint for initiating sex; however, there are ways you can make your partner feel more loved and inclined to being more intimate with you.

Ways to Revive Intimacy With Your Partner


Schedule a Date
Maybe your partner is feeling like you two have lost touch and the time you spend together is either limited or you both are engaged in other activities, such as watching TV.  Try going out for dinner and setting you phones aside to have some quality time together.  An hour and a half of conversations may mean more to your partner than spending an entire evening at home in front of the television. Your partner might just feel more appreciated and valued when you take a little extra time to connect.

Give a Compliment
In the beginning of your relationship, you probably complimented your partner on the regular.  However, as time went on and you became comfortable with one another, those probably quickly faded.  Complimenting him on how he looks in his suit or her on her promotion goes a long way.  We all like compliments, not only are they are free; they also have a way of making your partner feel special and loved.


Make Contact
Life is busy and as we run from one engagement to the next, we often forget to take the time to hug or kiss our partner hello or goodbye.  Touch is a powerful message, which is why renowned therapist Virginia Satir suggested that for survival, adults need four hugs a day and at least 12 for growth.  Try holding your partner’s hand, offering a hug, or cuddling.  A simple touch can communicate affection without having to say a word, leaving your partner feeling treasured.

Help Out
If your partner is feeling overwhelmed, help out.  Maybe you do the dinner dishes even though it’s their night or pick up the dry cleaning to save your partner a trip.  Helping out with even the simplest of chores will free up time for your partner, making a difference for him or her and may make your partner feel more important to you.

Give a Gift 
While giving a gift can show your love and appreciation, spending a large amount of money isn’t necessary.  Maybe you pick up their favorite snack at the store or bring home dinner when you go out with friends.  Showing your partner you are thinking about him or her, even when he or she isn’t around, let’s the other know you care and can make your significant other feel more wanted.

I often hear from couples that it’s hard to want to initiate sex when he or she does not feel wanted by the other.  If this resonates with you, try showing your love and appreciation by changing the way you engage your partner.  Even the smallest change could make a difference in your relationship. The more wanted they feel, the more sexually intimate they may want to be.

5 Signs You're Dating A Woman, Not A Girl

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There's one thing, which effectively separates boys from the men –and that’s a woman.
Just as you have to differentiate boys from men, in the same manner you should make a difference between girls and women.

Going to an online dating site, and trying to find yourself a proper date, a woman you can rely on and know will make a difference in your life, can often be a tedious task, an almost impossible endeavor.

But there are ways, there are certain patterns of behavior that can tell you whether you’re dating a girl or a woman. Here are five:

5 Signs You'r Dating a Woman, Not a Girl


Body awareness A girl is someone who just recently started discovering her own body. It will surprise her, but once she starts seeing how she can make men go crazy about her with just her body, she will start using that to her advantage. A girl will dress provocative, while a woman will know when she’s sexy, no matter what she wears. It doesn’t necessarily mean girls will be slutty, but if you notice that your date is putting too much effort into her looks rather than character, you’re probably dating a girl.

Paying the tab. Some twenty to thirty years ago, paying a tab was a normal thing for a man. It was even considered polite, gentlemanly. But nowadays, in a time when women strive for equality, financial equality is among the most important factors. A true woman will be financially independent and stabile – and most importantly – she won’t force you to pay the bills all the time. It’s OK to pay the tab once in a while, but a true woman needs a man to show her support and respect – not to pay her bills.

Ladylike behavior. Going out and getting wasted up until the point where you can’t even stand is something girls will do – but women will not. Same as with boys and men – women know their limits and will hold their liquor. Together with sign number five, girls will go out to nightclubs and get wasted. That is not a trait of a woman. A woman knows her manners.

Living on junk. Whether it’s TV, or food, or anything else for that matter, women know what class is – girls will opt for junk. Girls watch reality TV and Indian soap operas, women read a quality book. Girls will go out and hammer themselves on hamburgers and French fries, women will dine in a fine restaurant. Meaningless pop-culture kills a person, and no woman will allow that to happen to her.

You're not her guardian. All of the signs above amount to one thing – you being her ‘guardian’. And true women don’t need guardians. They don’t need you to keep her safe, they don’t need you to pay her bills and widen her horizons. They need you for love, support and respect. Everything else they do by themselves. True women are truly independent.

The Importance of "I'm Sorry"

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Have you ever been apologized to, only to walk away and feel even more hurt and misunderstood? Have you ever said “I’m sorry” only to have your apology thrown back at you as insincere? Apologizing can go a long way in repairing a relationship and mending hurt feelings. It can build trust in relationships and create repairs that make your relationship stronger than before. However, an apology gone wrong can also make the situation worse. As a marriage and family counselor, the importance of “I’m sorry” comes up in every relationship I see in my office including partners and parents with their children.

Apologies are vitally important in any relationship. An apology is a “regretful acknowledgement of an offense or failure” . The important part to remember is that an apology not only acknowledges that you messed up, but also validates the hurt that you might have caused. Here are some other tips to remember for the next time you say “I’m sorry” that will help you make amends and repair your relationship.

Tips for Next Time you Apologize


1. Accept responsibility. It's natural to want to explain why you did what you did and why it seemed okay (at least at the time). After all, if they could just understand why you behaved in the manner that you did they might see things differently. But even though it might feel important to you to share this, you also risk your apology getting lost in your explanation. Instead of explaining your behaviors, try shifting your focus to owning your part in what was said or done. Owning responsibility can be a powerful statement when attempting to express regret.

2. “I’m sorry but……” Try to forget the “buts” the first time around. Perhaps you have your own hurt that you want to share and this is important too! But a “but” in your apology can keep your loved one from hearing your remorse. Individuals who receive this type of apology can sometimes feel unheard, misunderstood, and invalidated. Saving the “but” for a later conversation can help mend the current hurt and repair your relationship, setting you up for success to later share your own hurts.

3. Forgiveness. While forgiveness is important, it's also important to remember that the person you’re apologizing to might not be ready to forgive you - and that’s ok! This can be a part of accepting responsibility and owning your own actions. If the other person is not ready to talk yet, you have still taken your own steps to repair the hurt and restore balance to your relationship.

4. Action. An important part of apologizing can be what you plan to do about it. In some instances there might be specific steps you plan to take to make the situation better or repair the hurt that you caused. Other times, your action might just be to do your best to not let it happen again. By acknowledging and sharing some sort of future plan, you show the hurt person that you recognize the importance of handling it differently in the future. This builds trust in your relationship as you follow through in a way that is more considerate or caring.

Sincere Apology is Courageous


Saying “I’m sorry” takes courage and is a powerful way to repair hurt in your relationship as you own your role and acknowledge the way your loved one might feel as a result of something you said or did. An apology is an important way of building trust and improving the relationships in your life!


Amanda Regalia, M.A. is a marriage and family counselor and clinician for The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. Amanda specializes in working with families and children ages 5 and up. She is passionate about helping people to create practical solutions that support them in achieving their goals and improving their relationships and life.


He Said/She Said: Does Pornography Mean He's Thinking of Having an Affair?

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Dear Aaron and Rachel,

My husband an I have been married for 15 years and have 3 kids together. For a few years now we've both had our share of marital issues. Five years ago he had an affair and then another one at the end of last year. I also had a brief fling with an old boyfriend as revenge. Both of the affairs were time incidents and we both have made a decision to work through the infidelities and the problems in our marriage.

I recently found out he is visiting pornography sites and masturbating "at least" once a week. We have a good sex life. But we are still working through leftover feelings from the past hurts. Should I be concerned about this issue? Is it a threat? I want to confront him but not make him feel like a total loser.

Sincerely,

Barely hangin on...

She Said 


Keep hanging on! There are ups and downs in every relationship, and it definitely seems like the two of you have experienced some downs. The important thing is that you are still together and committed to working through things.

As long as you continue to have a good sex life and your husband still has desire for you, your husband's "extracurricular activities" should not be a huge concern. This is my personal opinion, based on the stories I have heard from men about their sexuality and relationships. Many men look at porn and masturbate, regardless of how happy or unhappy they are in a relationship. You can't control a man's sexuality. All you can do is control your own attitude, as well as the behaviors that you bring into the relationship.

Your response to this can either have a positive or negative impact on your relationship. If this is a huge issue for you,  talk to him. Do it in a way that will be productive for your relationship. In other words, focus on how you feel and why you are concerned. Do not focus on trying to control his behavior. And for the love of God, don't do anything else to get revenge this time! Good luck!

He Said 


Sounds like you guys have definitely had your ups and downs. Good for you for hanging in there!

When it comes to masturbation and pornography, men and women often have different views about them both. Men view them as a selfish thing that they do for personal pleasure. Many women on the other hand, often view it as a personal insult and as a sign that they're not good enough to satisfy their men. It doesn't mean that either gender is right, it just means that it's something that each couple has to negotiate together the same way they negotiate other areas of their sex life. So you should definitely talk to him about it and talk about what you want your sex life to look like.

Does Pornography Lead to an Affair?


One more thing. Just because your man views pornography and masturbates doesn't mean he's thinking of stepping out again. A lot of people fear that if their spouse views porn that this means they're looking outside the marriage and is, therefore, at risk of an affair. But this simply isn't the case. Millions of men in the U.S. view pornography and masturbate. But of all couples, only 22% of men have ever had an affair  Women on the hand, who are much less likely to view pornography, were only slightly less likely to have an affair (17%). So affairs and pornography don't really correlate.

It's understandable that this would bring up the hurt from past affairs. So this is something you'll want to bring up when you talk to him about your sex life and negotiate together what you want your sexual relationship to look like. Talk about it the same way you'd talk about other sexual things in the relationship. Don't be judgmental or critical. Talk openly and warmly and you'll find the conversation usually ends well.


About Rachel:  Rachel Russo is a Dating, Relationship, & Image Coach who works with marriage-minded singles and couples in NYC and throughout the US. Checkout her website at RachelRusso.com

About Aaron: Aaron Anderson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, Colorado and writer for various websites about marriage and relationships.

 
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