Knowing what triggers you in your relationships is not enough, you have to be able put into practice the skills you learn in couples counseling. At Colorado Couples and Family Therapy, we give you exercises that we help you put into practice.
Do you use this word when describing your partner’s behaviors, intentions, etc..?? If you do, stop it. It’s most likely not even remotely true. “You NEVER consider my feelings.” Never is really a clue for you. It could be your partner is yearning for a closer connection but going about it in a backwards way. It might be them covertly saying “I want you to know how much I need and care for you and I am not feeling that you want this, too.” Instead of arguing that you absolutley do “X,Y and Z”, connect tiwth the emotion behind the frustration. Is it fear, sadness or something else? Get curious instead of defensive.
Always. Again, probably not true. Always and never are like evil twins. Get them out of your vocabulary. Instead of saying always, assert your frustration and be specific. “I am getting tired of feeling like I pick up your dirty clothes on a daily basis. That might not be totally accurate, but it sure feels that way.” Always and Never are received as a global attack on somebody’s character. Instead, focus on how the behaviors or events impact you on a personal level, keep it about yourself and not how horrible the other person is. If you want the other person to have sympathy for you, attacking them is never the way to go. Hey babe, I know you have long days too, and that you just want to relax when you get home, however just dumping your stuff on the floor feels like I am your housekeeper and I need to clean up. Tidiness calms me down, so if you could help me with staying calm, that would be great.”
I love you BUT…. Ick. We all know that line. When you throw a BUT into a sentance it negates the first half of what you said! It makes it completely irrelevant, You can have the exact same sentance if you replace BUT with AND. I love you AND when you come to bed at 3 am it messes up my sleep. I love you AND when you use that tone with me I feel like a child. I completely disagree with you AND you are entitled to your opinion.
Try to kick those words out of your vernacular. Those words suck AND when I use them my husband is quick to remind me about the 3 bad words. As always, we are shooting for a B+ / A- range for being in tune and staying connected. Nobody has an A+ unless they are brushing things under the rug, which leads to resentment and other nasty things. Learn to air your grievances in a way that will allow your partner to give you everything you want.
Time outs can be a great strategy to diffuse an escalating argument with your partner. But if you haven't tried this strategy, it can be ineffective or make things worse. In order to increase the odds that it works, try these tips.
1. Agree on the strategy ahead of time. Asking for space during a fight can trigger abandonment fears in your partner. They may continue to pursue out of fear and you may feel trapped or smothered and both of you feel more distressed. Talking about it ahead of time can help you lay ground rules and create a shared meaning and understanding that a break is meant to be a helpful tool not a destructive weapon.
2. Set a time to reconvene. Taking a break is meant to help you calm down so you can headdress the conflict with cooler heads. It's not a way to avoid a topic. Setting a time helps manage anxieties that both parties won't be heard or that a resolution won't be reached. People are more likely to disengage if they know they can reconnect later.
3. Don't use the break to rehearse your zingers or low blows or to remind yourself how right you are or how wrong they are. Instead, use time to calm down, and come back to goals and values. I suggest doing deep breathing. If you're not breathing calmly, you can't talk calmly.
This is going to be the year of putting myself first and I want all of you to do the same. I write a lot about couples, conflict, how to avoid it or recover from it, etc… However, to be part of a healthy relationship you have to take care of yourself first. YES FIRST. And don’t tell me you don’t have time, this is a question of priorities and you need to make yourself the top one. Even just thinking about it gets me happy. I am devoting this year to me and making it count - my posts will be a reflection of this.
I googled “put yourself first” to see what came up and the search results proved my point exactly. It’s so important to be kind to yourself, to treat yourself as you treat all the important people in your life (of course I am assuming you are a nice person!).
You suffer when everything else or everyone else comes first. If you are suffering, you can’t give in the way you intend to the people who matter most. If you need permission to put the rest of the folks in your life in the back seat, then here is your permission slip... for the rest of your life and especially for 2017.
Here are some tips to put yourself first or make yourself feel good. For all of you who feel guilty about this, stop it right now. If you are exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed out, then this post is for you. Below are just a handful of ideas on how I like to accomplish this and some links to take you to my favorite resources.
Take at least 10 minutes a day to something new or creative - inspired by my fav photographer, Willy - Life Unstill Photography.
Say NO, no no no no no. Being a YES person is exhausting.
Put daily rituals in place. I LOVE this planner...
Forgive yourself when you mess up.
Find one thing every day that will make you smile or feel fantastic and do it.
Do something that scares you or makes you uneasy, your brain loves a challenge.
Have time during the day where all electronics are turned off.
Find a great podcast that brings you joy and peace (Tara Brach is AMAZING).
Savor your meals - I mean really savor them.
Laugh out loud. This blog does it for me.
Take things off your to-do list that really aren’t important and add in something that replenishes you. Lists will go on forever, so put your important stuff first.
Be in the moment, not in the future. (again, Tara Brach)
You always have choices, make the one that will benefit you most.
Get Physical - you all know why. Find a great gym or find motivation at home. I hate gyms so I am making plans for my home gym this year.
Make plans or let life make them for you.
Lose the people in your life who are downers, nay-sayers, just a drag to be around and the ones who are critical and judgemental. Those people suck, drop them.
Get a candle that smells incredible - get 10 - always have one on hand.
Spend one meal a week with somebody who inspires you to be better, to be more, to live beyond. If that’s hard, then chat on the phone, go on a walk or connect via text. But connect.
Save all the wonderful emails, cards and messages people send to you and make a journal out of them. Turn to it when you are feeling blue, you will remember how deeply amazing you are.
Pat yourself on the back - you know you deserve it.
Make lists of what makes you feel good and keep it handy.
The message here is to pay attention to yourself, put yourself first and realize why it is so very important. Make lists, update them, change them and look at them daily. I like to make my lists in gorgeous journals of which I have far too many, but WTH, I love them and they make me feel great. Please tell me what inspires you and makes you feel great!
If you need help prioritizing you to make your relationship better and stronger, please reach out! I love to help people focus on themselves.