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Relationship Advice: How to Stop “Fixing” and Start Listening

Relationship Advice: How to Stop “Fixing” and Start Listening

Relationship Advice: How to Stop “Fixing” and Start Listening

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Strengthen Your Relationship, With Every Conversation

We all hate to see our partners in pain or discomfort. I know this as a marriage counselor and couples therapist, but it is certainly true for me personally too. When my husband tells me he’s unhappy with something, my mind immediately starts race towards the “fix” that will solve the problem, and make him feel better.

While my type-A solution-focused attitude certainly has led to some important, positive changes in the way we conduct day-to-day aspects of our partnership (like, we now have a Roomba!) it can also get in the way of emotional connection. He doesn’t want me to solve his problems. He wants me to listen, and care, and empathize — exactly what I want when I’m struggling with something.

When I express displeasure / annoyance / sadness about something, and he immediately goes to, “Well let’s just not do that,” or “Forget I brought it up,” it feels like a door gets slammed shut in my face. I want to talk things through. I want to hear how he feels, too. Most of all, I want to feel like I’m not alone in whatever is feeling real for me in that moment. When I just get to talk about how I’m feeling, and have that be heard, most of the time no “action” is even required — I just feel better.

Connection is key. Solutions don’t even matter that much, when you’re feeling validated.

Men often get a bad rap for being problem solvers in relationships, although plenty of women do the same. Let’s face it: When our partners have a problem (especially if they have a problem with us, right?) it’s anxiety-provoking. It feels like an unpleasant conflict that we need to resolve, or shut down, or get away from. Or fix — and as quickly as possible.

However, what I know now, both as a marriage counselor and someone who’s been very happily married for over twenty years: You have to lean into the feelings, even if they stress you out at first.

When you can manage your own anxiety and avoid scrambling to get away / shut down / fix-fix-fix whatever they’re bringing up, you can then connect emotionally with your partner. More importantly, they won’t have to fight to feel heard by you. Consequently, you will come out the other side of this conversation with a stronger relationship.

Paradoxically, when you indulge those good intentions of “helping them feel better” it will either create a fight (trust me) or it will lead them to leave the interaction with you feeling unheard, not understood, or like you don’t care. Why? Because in your helpful rush to solve their problems, you shut down their feelings and got in the way of what they really wanted and needed from you: Being heard.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid jumping the gun and going into “fixit mode.”

Know your job: When your partner is feeling something real, your only jobs — your only jobs — are to help them talk about their feelings, listen to them, help them understand that you understand, and hold the door open for them to talk all the way through. Anything else is not what they need. (Unless they specifically ask for something else.)  But unless you literally hear the words, “What do you think?” or “What would you do?” come out of their mouths, you’re the doorman: The one who keeps the space open for them to share. Not the fixer.

Validate: Embrace the power of validation. Even if you see things differently, or would handle a situation differently, simply acknowledging that someone has the right to their feelings is enormously helpful. I can’t tell you how powerful a simple, “I can understand why you would feel that way” is to hear. Confirmation, validation, and acceptance are vastly more effective in helping someone sort through a difficult situation than actual, specific advice. 

Listening: When I talk about listening, I don’t mean just “hearing.” I mean a special kind of reflective listening, which is a learned skill. Whether or not you are hearing what someone is saying doesn’t matter. What matters is if they know that you are hearing and understanding the feelings they are trying to communicate. If your number one is telling you about the super-hard day they had, listen for the feelings underneath. If you can reflect back, “That sounds really exhausting” as opposed to “You should talk to your boss about rearranging your work schedule” they may fall into your arms weeping with relief of knowing that you really and truly get them.  Just be prepared for them to get super-excited when you do this. Seriously, if you do a really good job here, they might cry.

Open-ended questions: You’re the doorman, right? How do you hold the door open in a conversation? By asking open ended questions: Questions that do not have an agenda or a specific informational answer, but are rather an invitation to say more. “How did you feel about that?” or  “Then what happened?” or “What do you make of this?” are all solid choices.

Empathize: People are different, and have different ways of thinking, feeling, behaving. We have different values and priorities. However, in order to really connect with someone, you need to understand how they are feeling by connecting to your own emotional experience. When your partner is going through a moment, scroll through your own life experiences to see if you can relate.**

Then use that awareness as an opportunity for an even deeper kind of reflection: Tentative guessing about how they feel. When your partner is telling you about their super hard day, and you reflect on how you’ve felt when your day at work has been a non-stop crap-show, you’ll be able to come back with something that rings true for them, like “I can imagine that you must be feeling really disappointed in your leadership right now.” This, again, will increase their sense of being heard and understood by you, and will help them feel connected and supported by you. More weeping with joy may ensue.

** Warning: It can be tempting and very easy to totally hijack a conversation via empathy, if you’re not careful. When you say, “I totally know how you feel. One time at band camp…” and then spend the next five minutes telling YOUR story, you’ve just turned the tables and made their moment your moment. Trust in your relationship: If you do a good job listening and holding the door open until they are all the way through, you will likely have a very appreciative partner eager to do the same for you. [Unless you are partnered with a legit narcissist. Check back for a post on this topic soon.]

Breathe: Sometimes, when you are listening to someone talk about their feelings, especially if their feelings are big, intense, dark, or worst yet — about you, it can be hard to not get emotionally reactive. When YOU start having feelings come up, or feel the need to rebuttal / correct / problem solve, you’ve just stepped out of the ring of connection. You’ve abandoned your post as the doorman. Trust in your relationship.

Breathe, be in the present, listen to the sound of their voice, look in their face, listen, reflect, ask your open ended questions, and be patient. Let them talk all the way through. It may take a whole HOUR. That is okay. Be patient, breathe, and you’ll arrive at connection eventually. Promise. (I can also promise that if you indulge any of your impulses to do otherwise you’ll very likely wind up in a fight.)

Couple’s Strategy: Ask your partner to alert you to what she is needing. It’s not fair for anyone to expect their partner to always know exactly what they need, particularly when it comes to emotional support. SO many things changed at my house, when my husband and I figured out that if one of us literally said, “I need to talk through something with you, no action is required. Please just listen?” we could immediately drop into “patient, non-reactive listening mode” rather than “oh-crap-they’re-upset-what-are-we-going-to-do” mode.

This is a strategy we also routinely teach our couples in marriage counseling here at Growing Self. Ask for what you need, and give your partner a heads up so they can do a great job at supporting you in the way you need to be supported at that moment. Because truthfully, in different situations you might need different things, right? If you’re like most people, sometimes you need a warm shoulder to cry on, sometimes you need a good listener, sometimes you need a hug, and sometimes… just sometimes… you might even want some advice.

With love,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Let’s Talk About YOU

Let’s Talk About YOU

Let’s Talk About YOU

Your Questions, Answered.

The latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast was absolutely devoted to YOUR questions. Your relationship questions, dating questions, dating questions, communication questions, therapy questions were all answered. If you’ve left a question in the comments section on the blog lately, or through Facebook or Instagram (or via one of our quizzes) you’ll want to turn in and hear the answers!

Specifically, we discussed: 

  • What if you’re having an argument with your partner and need to take a break to calm down, and they keep pursuing you?
  • How to handle it when you’re married and have a crush on someone else? What if you have a crush on an EMPLOYEE? 
  • Are you dating and hearing, “I like you but just as friends” a lot? We’re talking about what that might mean! 
  • What are some tips to handle a hard breakup or divorce when you coparent with your Ex and have to see your Ex?
  • What should you do if your family members are fighting with each other and you keep getting dragged into it?
  • Can you do couples therapy by video if you’re in a long-distance relationship? Why might that be a good idea?
  • How should you approach your partner if you think they would really benefit from individual therapy or couples counseling, but they won’t go?
  • And so. Much. More.

Listen now, using the podcast player below, or WATCH the discussion on YouTube below! (FYI, this podcast was recorded LIVE on Instagram — if you’d ever like to join, tune in (most) Mondays at 12pm Mountain. 

Your partner in growth, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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Let's Talk About YOU: Your Questions, Answered.

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Spread the Love Happiness & Success!

Please Rate, Review & Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Feelings are a part of life — how do you deal with yours? Do you avoid them? Do you overreact? Or do you stay balanced: Listening to them, but not always taking action? Learn how to find balance, on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast

Coping With Your Broken Heart Over The Holidays

Coping With Your Broken Heart Over The Holidays

Coping With Your Broken Heart Over The Holidays

Holidays + Heartbreak = Growth (Really)

It’s Not The Happiest Time Of Year If You’re Hurting…

Breakups and divorces are difficult any time of year, but most people find that the period between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day adds an extra layer of angst and anxiety to their breakup recovery process. Even if you’ve been making progress, encountering your first round of holidays alone can trigger a fresh round of grief, anger, and anxiety. Why?

1) You have painful old memories of (happy) holidays past.

2) You have to deal with potentially awkward social events, and difficult questions.

3) When everyone else is together, it highlights your loneliness.

On this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m going to be giving you actionable advice to cope with all of it. You’ll learn how to take care of yourself, ways to manage your feelings, and most importantly — how to use this time to heal, grow, and move on to a brighter future.

Your partner in growth,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps. Don’t forget to sign up for the free advice and resources I mentioned in this episode. Signup box is below…

 

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Coping With Heartbreak Over The Holidays

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Spread the Love Happiness & Success

Please Rate, Review & Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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From Emotional Eating To Intuitive Eating: How To Change Your Relationship To Food

From Emotional Eating To Intuitive Eating: How To Change Your Relationship To Food

From Emotional Eating To Intuitive Eating: How To Change Your Relationship To Food

Food is Good, and So Are You.

EMPOWERED EATING: Your relationship with food is just like any other relationship. It can be positive, supportive, nurturing and enjoyable…. or it  can be toxic, stressful and disempowering. The latter is very common, especially if you’ve been exposed to judgmental ideas about food (and who hasn’t?) that have disconnected you from your own inner wisdom, and led you to get caught up in a cycle of emotional eating.

First things first: Food is good. Food is an important part of a health and authentic self-care strategy. Intuitive eating is all about listening to yourself, trusting yourself, and having a positive relationship with the food that nourishes your body or that brings you pleasure. Food is not only nourishment, it’s an opportunity for connecting with others, getting in tune with yourself, and savoring all the good things that life has to offer.

However, it can be challenging to stay in a positive, empowered place when it comes to food. Especially when we have so many “experts” making value-judgments about what is okay and not okay to eat, and so many confusing and often contradictory information about what healthy eating “should” look like.

Furthermore, it’s extremely easy and common to turn to food for comfort and indulgence and fall into unhealthy, mindless emotional eating during times of stress. This can create a shame spiral where we start to judge ourselves for our food choices, and leads to restriction, “rules,” and rigidity… that only (ironically) makes it harder to develop a healthy, empowered relationship to our food.

One aspect of this can be more emotional eating. When emotional eating is happening mindlessly (and often), it can cause problems: Not just to your health, but also to your emotions and the way you feel about yourself. It can be easy to fall into reactive emotional eating, especially during times of stress. If you’re eating your emotions away rather than allowing yourself to deal directly with your feelings, emotional eating can get in the way of your personal growth process.

How to Tackle Emotional Eating

To assist you in reclaiming your power when it comes to food, I’m speaking to my colleague Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC to get her perspective and wisdom on how to release shame and judgment about food and start to practice intuitive eating. Kathleen is, among other things and intuitive eating counselor. She has spent years working with people to hep them increase their self-esteem, learn how to listen to themselves and their bodies, and practice mindful eating.

Kathleen had so much wisdom to share on this emotional eating podcast. Her first “wisdom bomb” is that emotional eating isn’t necessarily bad. It’s okay if eating things that make you feel good can be a healthy coping strategy, if it’s one tool of many. She also reminded us that food is good. It’s okay to take pleasure in the things you eat, and to mindfully savor the foods and flavors that you enjoy.

The first step to end emotional eating is not to restrict yourself, beat yourself up, or listen to what OTHER people say about what you should or should not eat. The key to overcome emotional eating is to end the feelings of shame that food can cause, by developing a more compassionate, tolerant and positive relationship with food, with your body and with yourself.

Intuitive Eating Principles

In addition to describing the underlying causes of emotional eating and how to begin to gain the self-awareness and self-compassion to begin to change those patterns, Kathleen turned this into an “intuitive eating podcast.” She shared so many pearls of empowering wisdom including:

  • How to listen to your body
  • How to release shame and judgement
  • How to practice empowered eating
  • How to practice mindful eating
  • How to start intuitive eating
  • Mindfulness exercises
  • How to trust yourself and your own body
  • How to practice a body-positive mentality that will lift you up

In addition to sharing her compassionate intuitive eating strategies she also provided lots of encouragement, an affirming body-positive perspective, and online resources to help you create an empowered eating approach in your life.

All for you! Listen now…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC

 

 

 

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From Emotional Eating to Intuitive Eating: Cultivating a Positive Relationship With Food

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits:  Egozi, with “Cookie Dough”

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Please Rate, Review & Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Don’t Let Mutual Intolerance Ruin Your Holidays

Feeling judged is difficult at any time, but as we lead up to the holidays, I begin to hear from many therapy and life coaching clients that feeling judged or criticized during family gatherings creates a ton of anxiety. I commonly hear that people feel judged by their in-laws, and also that they feel a great deal of frustration that their own boundaries will be tested. Many of my clients express anxiety and frustration that their in-laws and parents don’t respect their boundaries as parents, disregard their values, and also do intrusive and annoying things during their time together. 

Listen, it’s true: Most of the time we all get to live in our little bubbles. We spend time with our like-minded friends, and we get to control much of what we let into our personal spheres. But during the holidays, we pony up to spend time with people that we may not have much in common with other than the fact of our being related. And it’s stressful.

When we’re in close contact for prolonged periods of time with people who are very different from us, judgment disapproval can easily creep in — often to the point where it disrupts our ability to stay in the present and have a good time. We get upset with them for judging us, and then they get upset because we’re upset (or hold our boundaries and refuse to accommodate their preferences) and before you know it it turns into an ugly conflict instead of the happy holiday gathering you all want. 

So, what to do? How do you spend time with family who may have values at odds with yours, deal with judgment and frustration, and manage to have a good time anyway? 

How to Stop Feeling Judged

On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m diving deeply into this topic, in order to help you find strategies to stop feeling judged (while you’re staying true to yourself and your values). 

To this end, I’m tackling a listener question. Miss S wrote in with this:

“I recently found your podcast and I am enjoying it very much. I do have a request for a topic that may be helpful to others especially as we near the holiday season. I could use help in dealing with family members who are socially awkward and/or difficult to be around.

During the holidays, my mother and mother-in-law give us a run for our money!

We are exposed to guilt trip galore like accusing us of not spending enough time with them (ie unable to accept that we are adults and have our own lives and have set boundaries), the “inconvenience” of “having” to come to our house for the holiday dinner, not having overnight accommodations that are comfortable, not eating the requested desserts that they bring  & etc.

They are also obsessed with the past as in constantly bringing up family members who have passed away in such a way that it is awkward and not relevant to the conversation.

Despite our requests to not do this, my mother-in-law always calls her other son , who lives out of state, and puts him on speaker during the meal. It is really disruptive, awkward and unnecessary as we all speak to him on our own. Also, she doesn’t see us much so it would be nice for her to enjoy her time with us and call him when she goes home.

Also, my mother-in-law doesn’t like me anymore. I think she blames me for her son not spending as much time with her or his other family members. This is not true , of course, but it’s still off-putting when I can feel her disdain even though I know it’s her stuff, not mine.

I know that I will not be able to change their behaviors but perhaps I can learn to be less annoyed and regain enjoying my holidays. This is so much easier said than done so I am hoping that you may be able to illuminate a path for me.

Thank you for sharing you talent and expertise via your podcast. I have found it very helpful and have shared it with friends and family members, too.”

Listen and hear what I share with Miss S including:

  • Why it’s so important to get clear about your values before heading into emotionally fraught situations with family and inlaws
  • How to decide where to be flexible and where to hold firm in your interactions with others
  • How to let go of your need for approval from others
  • What to prioritize in order to help yourself make decisions and be less reactive
  • The secret strategy to help yourself be okay… even when others are not

 

Becoming Self Aware of Our Own Judgments

The flip side of feeling judged is often an opportunity for US to grow and become more self aware and compassionate. For example, I sometimes encounter people who are feeling very frustrated and judgmental for other people for… wait for it… being so judgmental!

Part of the key skill in learning how to manage feeling judged by others is understanding how we respond when our own values and preferences are not being honored. On this episode of the podcast I also discuss some of the ways that we can become more self-aware of our own judgment and use it to:

All this, and more, on this episode of the podcast.

All the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Dealing With Judgment

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Spread the Love Happiness & Success

Please Rate, Review & Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast!

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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