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Invest In Yourself

Invest In Yourself

Brittany Stewart

You Deserve Compassionate Support

As a therapist, life coach, and marriage counselor, I admire each and every person who gathers the courage to schedule an appointment with me and seek support for themselves, their relationships, or their families. I know that they’re investing in themselves because they believe they are worthy of investing in. Such self-awareness, wisdom and healthy self-love is always inspiring.

Do You Prioritize Everything Except Yourself?

Too many people put themselves on the bottom of the heap, investing in every other aspect of their lives — their education, their career, their children, their friendships, their homes — but rarely their own personal wellness, or their hearts desire. Is this you?

If so, you probably put off investing in yourself, getting professional help, and taking positive action to improve your life… though you’re there for everyone else. You may think about it sometimes but quickly talk yourself out of it, minimize your feelings, or prioritize someone else’s needs

If this sounds familiar, my guess is that you would describe yourself as a naturally strong person, but the downside of “being strong” is that sometimes it comes with a price: Not taking care of you, the way you take care of others.

But it’s easy not to take care of you, isn’t it? Especially when it comes to things like getting involved in therapy, couples counseling or life coaching. There are so many persistent myths in our culture about all the reasons NOT to get support, and it’s time to bash them! 

What’s Keeping YOU From Investing In Yourself?

Let’s talk through some of the most common reasons I hear for why people avoid getting help and investing in themselves, and why they’re not true!

Myth #1: “Therapy should be reserved for times when you really need it, and I don’t have it ‘that bad.'” 

This is one I hear frequently, even when people have resolved to book a therapy or coaching appointment with me. 

Believe it or not, even people in a lot of pain sometimes feel guilty for doing something to help themselves. They tell me about challenges they face, or hard things they’re grappling with but then quickly say, “But so many others around the world have it so much worse. I’m really so lucky.” 

While being grateful and keeping things in perspective is a wonderful strength to have, it’s also a liability if it makes you feel like you don’t have a right to your feelings, or can’t feel sad, angry or hurt about something true for you. 

As a feminist-oriented therapist, I am always happy to have a conversation about power and privilege, and I firmly believe that we are all worthy of healing and belonging. 

If there is something in your life that feels painful or difficult to overcome, my hope for you is to feel like you deserve to be supported just as much as anyone else. 

If you feel guilty when you think about making your feelings a priority, think about it this way: investing in yourself as a way to make yourself even stronger, and more able to give empathy and compassion to other people. 

Truth: Your experience and your emotions matter. YOU matter. 

Myth #2: Therapy is for couples who are on the brink of ending their relationship or divorcing. We aren’t there yet, we can fix this on our own. 

Too many couples buy into this. 

Perhaps conflict in your relationship occurs fairly infrequently currently, yet when it does occur you notice that you and your partner tend to sweep things under the rug and avoid addressing the conflict. You might write this off to a one-time thing, or feel that because it’s infrequent, it won’t matter in the long run. 

However, each time we sweep conflict under the rug or avoid it all together, we are slowly solidifying the pattern of our relationship. This pattern makes it not only more likely that conflict will become more frequent, but potentially also increasingly eruptive and ultimately, more damaging to your bond over time. 

If you happen to notice early in your relationship that you and your partner are conflict avoidant, talk about reaching out to a therapist or a relationship coach so that you can identify effective ways to face conflict together and strengthen your bond and understanding of each other.

Myth #3: If we go to couples counseling we are admitting that our relationship is unhealthy. 

We know from marriage and family researchers Drs. John and Julie Gottman that conflict is inevitable in every relationship. What separates “healthy” couples from “unhealthy” couples is what they DO with it. 

The healthiest, happiest, strongest couples are the ones who openly address their differences and find ways of proactively, constructively working through things together. Couples who do this important growth work strengthen their relationships. Couples who seek support for their relationship, and who are open to learning how to communicate and compromise will have more positive outcomes. Investing in their relationships sets them up for success long-term.

Couples who avoid this work, or who allow unresolved conflict to simmer, fester, and become increasingly toxic are inadvertently damaging their relationship. By sweeping things under the rug and not getting help for their relationship, they are increasing the likelihood that their relationship will fail. 

Furthermore, research into couples and family therapy shows that the couples who choose to work together on their relationship sooner rather than later have better outcomes. Any marriage counselor will tell you that it’s much easier to work with a couple who still like, love, and trust each other. 

Couples who wait, ignore problems, and let anger and resentment build up often enter couples counseling on the brink of divorce. There is so much regrettable history between them, so much hurt, and so much damage done that — even with the best marriage counseling — sometimes their relationship is simply too far gone to repair. 

Investing in your marriage sooner rather than later is like taking care of your health: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Myth #4: I’m too busy, whatever I’m dealing with can wait, it will be too expensive, and / or there just isn’t any time. 

When I was in graduate school a common phrase we heard was “What we resist, persists,” and the more I sit with couples and individuals in my office, the more I find this to be true. 

I frequently meet with those that have been “avoiding” therapy by placing it lower and lower on their list of priorities and by the time they’re in my office, they are overwhelmed and exhausted from carrying their distress for so long. 

Often times, these are the individuals who spend a great deal of time taking care of others and rarely make time for themselves or their own needs. Or they are couples with children and stressful careers and aging parents who truly can’t fathom stepping away for an hour for fear of everything falling apart.

Or sometimes people put this off because they’re worried about how much therapy, life coaching or marriage counseling will cost…. Without considering the value investing in themselves will bring to their lives. They’ll spend money on furniture, vacations, or home improvement projects without much thought. But when it comes to investing in their own health and happiness, their success, or in their most cherished relationships… they stop themselves. 

One way to shift this self-limiting perspective is to think about this from the other side. Asking yourself questions like: 

  • “What is the cost of me NOT investing in myself?”
  • “What is the real price of me continuing to feel unhappy, or dissatisfied with my life?”
  •  “What am I losing, long term, by NOT investing in myself, or in my career, or in my marriage?”
  • “How is neglecting myself, my happiness and my relationship impacting my children?”
  • “How is the way I’m currently living impacting my health?”
  •  How much will it cost me — in dollars and cents — if we get divorced, or I never achieve my full earning potential in my career?”

When you put the short-term investment in yourself in context of the costs or benefits to aspects of your life that are genuinely priceless… it changes your perspective.

You Deserve Love, Happiness and Success

I want you to know that I see you, and that your well-being and happiness matters just as much as anyone else’s. You deserve space to cultivate growth and healing; you deserve time to rest and reset. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you don’t have to carry this alone.   

 If you see yourself or your relationship in any of the myths above, my hope for you would be to spend some time reflecting on what is keeping you from this work. 

Remember though, whenever you are working with a coach or a therapist, you aren’t in this work alone. Are there other myths or beliefs you have that keep you from reaching out for support? Comment below and let’s continue this conversation!

Brittany Stewart, M.A., LMFT-C is a couples counselor, individual therapist, premarital counselor, and a life and relationship coach. She works with her clients to build connected relationships, restore emotional bonds, and grow in their capacity to love others as well as themselves.

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How to Improve Communication — Fast

How to Improve Communication — Fast

Brittany Stewart

Turn Conflict into Connection

“Why do we keep having the same argument over and over again? How do we move past this?”

As a marriage counselor, I hear this all the time. Whether I’m sitting with a couple in my office for marriage counseling in Broomfield, or meeting with a couple for online marriage counseling, the struggle is real: Couples get stuck in predictable cycles of conflict, and once there, it’s hard to get unstuck.

 

I’m here today to give you a roadmap for how to stop the cycle of arguing, and improve communication in your relationship.

 

First, let’s talk about predictable cycles of conflict. A predictable cycle is when you know that the conversation or the action taking place leads to “the conflict zone,” and yet feels impossible to stop. These moments are not unfamiliar, and often in my couples therapy sessions, these conflict patterns show up in dialogue between partners.

 

Know that you are not alone; Your relationship is not broken. These cycles of conflict are common, but they are also an opportunity for personal growth and growth within your relationship.

 

Research-Based Couples Therapy For Real-World Relationships

 

Dr. Sue Johnson, the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy (an evidence based approach to marriage counseling, and the one I practice), wittily describes these communication patterns as “Demon Dialogues.”

 

Dr. Johnson shares that we most often fall into these ways of communicating when we are feeling disconnected from our partners. I bet that is true for you, too.

 

To interrupt and overcome this pattern within your relationship, you will both need first to understand what it is, and how you can work through it together to cultivate a healthy relationship and connection.

 

Here’s a real-world example of what happens when a negative cycle of conflict takes over your relationship:

 

Joe and Angie sought couples counseling with me after months of “miscommunication,” frequent arguments over reportedly small matters, and lost intimacy. Joe would shut down and withdraw, and Angie would try and try to get him to talk, and get increasingly angry with him when he didn’t seem to listen or care.

 

Angie voiced in their first session the struggle she had getting Joe to communicate within the relationship. She was really frustrated by the lack of emotional intimacy they shared. She felt really disconnected, and she was hurt and angry because it seemed like Joe didn’t care or understand her. Angie felt like she was the only one fighting for the relationship.

 

Joe felt differently; it wasn’t that he didn’t care about the relationship. He cared a lot, and was inwardly upset when Angie was upset (even though you couldn’t always tell from the outside).

 

He felt as though his efforts were overlooked and even when he tried it was never enough to make Angie happy. Deep down he was worried that he didn’t even know what would make her happy, or that he would ever figure it out.

 

Joe found it easier to retreat from his wife’s complaints than to get drawn into an argument that neither of them could win. So he shut down, in part to protect himself but also to protect the relationship.

 

However, as Joe retreated, Angie became more persistent, which led Joe to withdraw further, which made Angie more upset… creating an unending negative communication cycle. This cycle, or dance, continues to grow stronger the more frequently it occurs. (And it occurred more and more frequently as time when on.)

 

Can you relate? Has this happened between you and your partner?

 

If you have, you know that when you are in this dance with your partner, it can feel like a revolving door – one that you both get stuck in and that whirls you around and around. It feels like everything happens so fast, and before you know it you’re in that same argument again.

 

What we often forget when we find ourselves in these patterns is that a revolving door can slow, and we can exit. When we exit this dance with our partner, we can create a new one fostered by empathy, compassion, and connection.

 

Five Steps to Improve Communication In Your Relationship

 

Interrupting this dance and creating one that is increasingly harmonious, liberating, and compassionate is possible for you and your partner. Here are five practical steps you can take together to move into new healthy patterns within your relationship.

 

1.       Name It to Tame It

In order to improve communication in your relationship, you must first see how what you say and do impacts your partner. We cannot change or heal that which we are not aware of. Begin working to notice and increase your awareness of the moves you make in the dance so that you can create a path out. Once you are aware of the dance, you can deliberately choose to not proceed in the usual pattern.

 

Once you are clear about what YOU usually do when you’re heading towards an argument with your partner, you can say so. This way, you can signal to your partner when you notice the conflict cycle, and instead of getting wrapped up into the dance, you can work together to move in a different direction.

 

Need help identifying your dance? Try completing the following exercise by Dr. Johnson: “The more I _____, the more you _____, and then the more I _____, and round and round we go.”

 

For example, once Angie had more self awareness around the feelings that came up for her when Joe shuts down she was able to own them. She could say, “I know I’m getting angry, and I can see that this is shutting you down. The more you shut down, the more upset I get. Let’s do something different this time.”

 

She broke the pattern, and they could finally have a different conversation. (Instead of a conflict!)

 

2.       Stay Present Focused

I know, you hear this all the time but staying focused on the present will allow your relationship to evolve with time. If you remain rooted in the past, you will continue to struggle with past conflicts. If you want to interrupt this destructive dance, then you have to open yourself up to what’s happening at this moment and share it with your partner.

 

If our friend Joe said, “You always yell and criticize me!” in a moment when Angie is calmly talking about her feelings… that’s just not helpful. Staying rooted in the present moment gives you the chance to notice when your partner is trying. Let them be different, and your relationship can change for the better.

 

3.       Be Specific

When you speak vaguely about what is happening in your relationship or expect your partner to pick up on subtle cues (maybe even read your mind) you are not setting yourself up for success.

 

Being explicit about your experience and your needs when speaking to your partner will give them a helping hand in understanding what it is that you need. It can feel overwhelming when we are unsure of what our partners are asking of us – which often leads to a disconnect or emotional shutdown.

 

When Angie started to ask Joe things like, “I would like to tell you about my day and have you ask me questions (but not give me advice.) That would help me feel more connected with you.

Can we do that even for just fifteen minutes?” Joe was very happy to sit with her and listen. That was a much better strategy for both of them than her slamming cabinets in the kitchen.

 

4.       Dig Deeper, Go Beneath the Surface

Anger and frustration are the most readily voiced emotions my clients share in our sessions. I often say that anger is the low hanging fruit – it’s easily accessible, it can protect us, and it signals to others that something is wrong.

 

While anger serves an essential purpose, it often is a sign that other emotions are lingering beneath the surface. These emotions are known as primary emotions. When you identify and share these emotions with your partner during the conflict, you can often grow closer and strengthen your bond.

 

It changed everything for Joe and Angie when Angie could say, “You know, I’m not even angry right now. I’m actually hurt. I feel so sad when it seems like you’re not interested in me, or you don’t seem to care about how I feel.” Joe had a completely different reaction to hearing Angie say she was sad. It made her seem softer, and more approachable. And Joe really loved Angie, and cared that she was hurting. When he could communicate that to her, in a moment of softness, their relationship started to heal.

 

5.       Give Yourself Time and Patience

Above all else, permit yourself to be human and to error as you work hard to interrupt this pattern. This process takes time, patience, continuous effort, and vulnerability. But I believe it is worth all the hard work because it is possible to find a new way to be in a relationship. I believe you can find your way out of a dead end and back into a meaningful connection.

 

Wishing you peace, love, and connection

Brittany Stewart, M.A., LMFT

 

Brittany Stewart, M.A., LMFTC is a couples counselor, individual therapist, family therapist, premarital counselor, and a life and relationship coach. She works with her clients to build connected relationships. Brittany is an attachment-based therapist, and she incorporates models of therapy focused on the emotional bonds between people.

 

Brittany has advanced training in evidence-based models of couples therapy such as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and Gottman Method Couples Therapy.

Available In: Broomfield, CO | Online Video

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Invest In Yourself

Marriage therapist and life coach, Brittany Stewart M.A., LMFT-C, shares three therapy myths and the truth behind what everyone deserves - happiness and support. Read this week's blog to learn more about how you can invest in yourself. Read More

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