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Free Relationship Advice From a Marriage Counselor

Free Relationship Advice From a Marriage Counselor

Relationship Help

YOUR RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS, ANSWERED | Here at Growing Self we specialize in evidence based marriage counseling, couples therapy and relationship coaching. We love helping couples grow together, and assisting individuals in getting clarity and confidence around their most important relationships. I personally love helping people and am happy to offer free relationship advice when I am able to — I know not everyone can get involved in private therapy or coaching, and that is okay.

Of course, as a professional counseling and coaching practice we can’t offer free relationship advice as a service. (While we do offer free consultation sessions as an opportunity for you to meet with a prospective marriage counselor, therapist or coach before moving forward, no actual coaching or specific advice happens in a preliminary consultation!)

However, I do make every effort to put helpful relationship advice out into the world through my blog and podcast, hoping that it finds people in need as they go about their journey of growth. I often answer relationship questions on The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, as well as on the blog here at Growing Self. After all, I want everything you find here to be genuinely helpful to you.

Lately, I’ve had quite a few listeners and readers get in touch with their relationship questions. I thought I’d devote an entire episode of the podcast to answering a few of them! Specifically, on this episode, I’m offering free relationship advice around these common questions:

  • How to keep your own personal issues from negatively impacting your relationship.
  • What to do when you’re feeling bored in your relationship, and are concerned because you’re married but have a crush on someone else.
  • What to do when you and your partner have different love languages
  • Whether to stay in a relationship with someone who doesn’t listen to you
  • How to get your partner to take more initiative for household tasks
  • What to do when your partner has a substance abuse problem but won’t get help
  • What to do when your boyfriend keeps putting off getting engaged
  • How to handle it when your partner is acting like a child in the relationship

Your burning relationship questions answered, on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast! And, honestly, I had such a good time reading and answering these questions, and I have so many more to address, I might do this again soon. Stay tuned! 

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: Do YOU have a question? You’re welcome to ask it here on the comments section and I just might answer it right here, or use it on another episode!

PSS: While I do my best to answer the questions that come through the comments section of our blog, my Instagram page, through Facebook, and elsewhere, due to the sheer volume, it can take a WHILE. If you are looking for professional relationship advice, and soon, I hope you consider scheduling a solution session with one of the amazing couples counselors on our team. You can talk through your situation, get feedback, and get their help in developing an action plan. Here’s the link to learn more. Solution Sessions: Talk to a Coach, ASAP  

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Free Relationship Advice: YOUR Relationship Questions, Answered

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

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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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How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

How To Enhance Your Listening Skills & Improve Your Relationship

Are You A Good Listener?

Listening with intent and genuine interest is a skill that, unfortunately, most of us are not born with. This skill is what ultimately builds connection and develops a reassurance in our relationships (romantic, platonic, and professional!). Did you know that most toxic relationship issues (no matter what the topic) come from a disconnect in communication? It’s true! As a Couples Counselor, I have worked with many couples who are going through these exact same disconnects in their relationship, and I want to offer you practical listening skills that you can practice to become a better, more effective listener.

The wonderful thing about diversity is that we all come from unique backgrounds. These different backgrounds make up different cultures, values, and ideals we hold as individuals. However, when you bring two (often very different) people together, there sometimes is a sort of tug-of-war into whose values are more authentic and which ideals the relationship will hold. Since we all have distinct and very personal views of “right and wrong”, this makes hearing other opinions often challenging.

Listening to your partner without judgment is essential to building connection, rebuilding trust, and fostering an environment where a relationship can grow and thrive! We all want to be heard, and when we aren’t we feel as though our emotions and needs are often overlooked. Not listening to your partner can result in power struggles, negative behaviors, resentment, and ultimately…separation.

You don’t want to wait for things to “just get better” in your relationship, because they won’t without intentionally taking the steps for improvement (both personally and as a couple). The good news is, you can start today! Here are six practical and mindful ways that you can improve your listening skills while making yourself a more responsive and connected partner.

TAKE BEING RIGHT OR WRONG OUT OF THE EQUATION

Your values are no better or worse than your partner’s values. An active listener will work hard not to judge his or her partner’s emotions.

Needs and emotions are never “correct” or “incorrect” they simply just are. Discussions that lead to black and white thinking, right or wrong, are usually about asserting control. Control then leads to blame, anger, and resentment, not connection. A partner who feels judged or is “wrong” in an argument will feel invalidated and unheard. A listener’s job is to listen, not judge. If a listener intends to hear and not control, then the result is better connection.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO AGREE ALL THE TIME

Our culture has taught us the fallacy that a healthy couple never disagrees or gets into arguments. In reality, many healthy couples disagree about important topics regarding their relationship, and no couple will ever agree entirely about everything.

Authentic listening comes from hearing and validating ideas you don’t agree with, as this shows respect for your partner. The goal is to listen and accept, and not necessarily agree, which can lead to the compromise that’s needed for couples to navigate difficult times and topics together.

REMOVE DISTRACTIONS FROM THE CONVERSATION

For most of us, this means putting the cell phone down, turning off the TV, or walking away from the computer screen. Non-verbal cues are incredibly important as a listener. If you are distracted and disengaged, then clearly you cannot validate your partner (who may feel they’re talking to a figurative wall).

To get even more real with your partner, use non-verbal cues such as touch, eye contact, and body language(as well as the verbal cue of vocal tone). These cues are what babies learn in their early development to feel safe. These same cues will calm an adult’s limbic system – allowing more safety in sharing emotions and needs. Your non-verbal cues of acceptance and security are not just a crucial listening skill, but also a critical skill for building any relationship.

CONTINUALLY PRACTICE EMPATHY

Empathy is being able to understand another person’s experience, and it’s the opposite of judgment. Your partner’s emotions and needs are real and often come from painful, deep experiences. Just as you have your own needs and emotions based off of your experiences, so does your partner.

Try putting yourself in your partner’s shoes to feel and understand their pain, or access your pain and examine how you’ve dealt with it. Everyone at some point will experience a difficult situation or circumstance, your partner included, and showing empathy and understanding will allow for more in-depth conversations and connection between the two of you.

LISTEN FULLY BEFORE FORMULATING A RESPONSE

Few behaviors invalidate more quickly than interrupting. Interrupting usually involves fear or a lack of emotional safety on the listener’s part. This behavior, however, will cause your partner to believe that you feel your opinion has more validity than theirs. Try not to rehearse a response in your head while your partner is sharing, as that disengages you from empathy and feeling what your partner is trying to share with you. Let the conversation happen organically and without distraction or interruption of preplanned responses (that could ultimately cause more pain than healing).

VALIDATE YOUR PARTNER

Many of my clients in couple’s counseling have revealed to me that feeling unheard is one of their biggest triggers to pain and anger.  So how do you show your partner that you genuinely have heard their emotions and needs?

One way that has been proven to be effective is to repeat (in your own words) what you think you heard your partner say to you, and to ask if you heard them correctly. Be careful not to infer your interpretations into what your partner said, as those may be incorrect and invalidating – simply repeat what you heard. If you don’t get everything, that’s okay! You can ask your partner to repeat what you may have missed. This is even more effective when using your non-verbal cues for safety.

IT TAKES PRACTICE…

Listening can be a difficult skill to learn, and you won’t perfect this skill in just one conversation. If you continue to practice these six steps to improve your listening skills you will see improvement overtime (and it will get easier and more natural too!).

Self-care and general happiness are also tied to helping with the development of listening skills, as well as therapeutic techniques such as thought stopping and grounding activities. However, those who have suffered from trauma may have difficulty accessing these skills, and individual therapy to process and heal from the trauma may be needed to listen safely and with compassion. It’s true, listening can be difficult, but the rewards of being able to do so are numerous: clarity, understanding, emotional honesty, and better connection. You have the power to make changes with your listening skills and to show your partner that you can take that next step and truly hear them with empathy and understanding!

All the best,
Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC

Seth Bender, M.A., LMFTC is a marriage counselor, therapist, and life coach who helps people create deeper relationships, heal from difficult life experiences, and increase their confidence. His warm, non-judgmental approach makes it safe to discover new things about yourself, and take positive action to change your life.

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

Let Yourself Feel Loved

OVERCOMING INSECURITY | It’s not uncommon for both women and men to feel insecure in a relationship from time to time. We often see emotional insecurity as an underlying issue to address with couples who come to us for marriage counseling, couples therapy, premarital counseling and relationship coaching. After all, when couples don’t feel completely emotionally safe and secure with each other it tends to create conflict and problems in many other areas of their partnership. [For more on the importance of emotional safety and how it may be impacting YOUR relationship, access our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz and my mini-couples coaching follow up video series.)

It’s especially true for people in new relationships to have some anxiety, but even people in long-term relationships can worry about their partner’s feelings for them sometimes. While very common, feeling insecure in your relationship can create problems — for both of you. 

Root Causes of Insecurity

If insecurity is an issue in your relationship — either for you, or your partner — you might be speculating about the root causes of insecurity and how to heal them. People can struggle to feel emotionally safe with their partner for a variety of reasons — sometimes due to their life experiences, but sometimes, due to things that have happened in the current relationship itself. 

Insecurity After Infidelity: Certainly being let down or betrayed by your partner in the past can lead you to struggle with trust in the present moment. Insecurity after infidelity or an emotional affair is very common. In these cases, the path to healing can be a long one. The person who did the betraying often needs to work very hard, for a long time, to show (not tell, but show) their partners that they can trust them.

Anxiety After Being Let Down Repeatedly: However, insecurities can also start to emerge after less dramatic betrayals and disappointments. Even feeling that your partner has not been emotionally available for you, has not been consistently reliable, or was there for you in a time of need, it can lead you to question the strength of their commitment and love. Trust is fragile: If your relationship has weathered storms, learning how to repair your sense of trust and security can be a vital part of healing. Often, couples need to go back into the past to discuss the emotional wounds they experienced with each other in order to truly restore the bond of safety and security. These conversations can be challenging, but necessary.

Insecurity Due to Having Been Hurt in the Past: Sometimes people who have had negative experiences in past relationships can feel insecure, due to having been traumatized by others. For some people, their very first relationships were with untrustworthy or inconsistent parents and that led to the development of insecure attachment styles. This can lead them to feel apprehensive or protective with anyone who gets close. However, even people with loving parents and happy childhoods can carry scars of past relationships, particularly if they lived through a toxic relationship at some point in their lives. It’s completely understandable: Having been burned by an Ex can make it harder to trust a new partner, due to fears of being hurt again.

Long Distance Relationships: Certain types of relationships can lead people to feel less secure than they’d like to, simply due to the circumstances of the relationship itself. For example, you might feel more insecure if you’re in a long-distance relationship.  Not being able to connect with your partner or see them in person all the time can take a toll on even the strongest relationship. Couples in long-distance relationships should expect that they will have to work a little harder than couples who are together day-to-day, in order to help each person to feel secure and loved. In these cases, carefully listening to each other about what both of you are needing to feel secure and loved is vital, as is being intentionally reliable and consistent.

Feeling Insecure When You’re Dating Someone New: And, as we all know, early-stage romantic love is a uniquely vulnerable experience and often fraught with anxiety. Dating someone new is exciting, but it can also be intensely anxiety-provoking. In new (or new-ish) relationships where a commitment has not been established, not fully knowing where you stand with a new person that you really like is emotionally intense. If you’re dating, or involved in a new relationship, you may need to deliberately cultivate good self-soothing and calming skills in order to manage the emotional roller coaster that new love can unleash. 

Feeling Insecure With a Withdrawn Partner: Interestingly, different types of relationship dynamics can lead to differences in how secure people feel. The same person can feel very secure and trusting in one relationship, but with a different person, feel suspicious, worried, and on pins and needles. Often this has to do with the relational dynamic of the couple.

For example, in relationships where one person has a tendency to withdraw, be less communicative, or is not good at verbalizing their feelings it can lead their partner to feel worried about what’s really going on inside of them. This can turn into a pursue-withdraw dynamic that intensifies over time; one person becoming increasingly anxious and agitated about not being able to get through to their partner, and the withdrawn person clamping down like a clam under assault by a hungry seagull. However, when communication improves and couples learn how to show each other love and respect in the way they both need to feel safe and secure, trust is strengthened and emotional security is achieved.

Types of Insecurities

Emotional security (or lack of) is complex. In addition to having a variety of root causes, there are also different ways that insecurity manifests in people —and they all have an impact on your relationship. As has been discussed in past articles on this blog, people who struggle with low self esteem may find it hard to feel safe in relationships because they are anticipating rejection. The “insecure overachiever” may similarly struggle to feel secure in relationships if they’re not getting the validation and praise they thrive on. 

For others, insecurity is linked to an overall struggle with vulnerability and perfectionism. People who feel like they need to be perfect in order to be loved can — subconsciously or not — try to hide their flaws. But, on a deep level, they know they’re not perfect (no one is) and so that knowledge can lead to feelings of apprehension when they let other people get close to them. In these cases, learning how to lean into authentic vulnerability can be the path of healing. [More on this: “The Problem With Perfectionism”]

Sometimes people who are going through a particularly hard time in other parts of their lives can start to feel apprehensive about their standing in their relationship. For example, people who aren’t feeling great about their career can often feel insecure when they’re around people who they perceive as being more successful or accomplished than they are. This insecurity is heightened in the case of a layoff or unexpected job loss. If one partner in a relationship is killing it, and the other is feeling under-employed or like they’re still finding their way, it can lead the person who feels dissatisfied with their current level of achievement to worry that their partner is dissatisfied with them too. 

Insecurities can take many forms, and emerge for a variety of reasons. However, when insecurity is running rampant the biggest toll it takes is often on a relationship. 

How Insecurity Can Ruin a Relationship

To be clear: Having feelings is 100% okay. Nothing bad is going to happen to you, or your relationship, or anyone else because you have feelings of anxiety or insecurity. The only time relationship problems occur as a result of feelings is when your feelings turn into behaviors.

If people who feel insecure, anxious, jealous or threatened don’t have strategies to soothe themselves and address their feelings openly with their partner (and have those conversations lead to positive changes in the relationship), the feelings can lead to behaviors that can harm the relationship. Some people lash out in anger when they perceive themselves to be in emotional danger, or that their partner is being hurtful to them.  Often, people who feel insecure will attempt to control their partner’s behaviors in efforts to reduce their own anxiety. Many insecure people will hound their partners for information about the situations they feel worried about. Still others will withdraw, pre-emptively, as a way of protecting themselves from the rejection they anticipate.

While all of these strategies are adaptive when you are in a situation where hurtful things are happening, (more on toxic relationships here) problems occur when these defensive responses flare up in a neutral situation. A common example of this is the scenario where one person repeatedly asks their partner if they’re cheating on them because they feel anxious, when their partner is actually 100% faithful to them and has done nothing wrong. The insecure person might question their partner, attack their partner, check up on their partner, or be cold and distant due to their worries about being cheated on or betrayed — when nothing bad is actually happening. This leaves the person on the other side feeling hurt, controlled, rejected, vilified… or simply exhausted. 

If feelings of insecurity are leading to problematic behaviors in a relationship, over time, if unresolved, it can erode the foundation of your partnership. 

How to Help Someone Feel More Secure

It’s not uncommon for partners of insecure people to seek support through therapy or life coaching, or couples counseling either for themselves or with their partners. They ask, “How do I help my wife feel more secure,” or “How do I help my husband feel more secure.” This is a great question; too often partners put the blame and responsibility for insecure feelings squarely on the shoulders of their already-anxious spouse or partner. This, as you can imagine, only makes things worse. 

While creating trust in a relationship is a two-way street, taking deliberate and intentional action to help your partner feel emotionally safe with you in the ways that are most important to him or her is the cornerstone of helping your insecure girlfriend, insecure boyfriend, or insecure spouse feel confident in your love for them. The key here is consistency, and being willing to do things to help them feel emotionally secure even if you don’t totally get it. This is especially true of the origins of your partner’s worry stem from early experiences of being hurt or betrayed by someone else. 

Tips to help your spouse feel more secure: 

  • Ask them what they need from you to feel emotionally safe and loved by you
  • Give that to them (over and over again, without being asked every time)
  • Rinse and repeat

How to Stop Being Insecure

Of course, it’s very frustrating to partners who feel like they’re not just true-blue, but doing everything they feel they can to help someone feels safe and secure… and yet insecurities persist. While partners of anxious people do need to try a little harder to help them feel secure, the person who struggles with insecurity needs to also take responsibility for their feelings and learn how to manage them effectively. Note:  This doesn’t mean not ever having worried or insecure feelings (feelings happen y’all), but rather, learning how to have feelings that don’t turn into relationship-damaging behaviors.

Without the ability to soothe yourself, become grounded in the here and now, and get your emotional needs met by your partner (or yourself), unbridled insecurity can put a major strain on a relationship. But how? How do you manage insecurity? That’s the million-dollar question, and that’s why I’ve made it the topic of the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast! 

If you’re struggling with insecurity in your relationship — either as the person who worries, or the one who’s trying to reassure them — you’ll definitely want to join me and my colleague Georgi Chizk, an Arkansas-based marriage counselor and family therapist who specializes in attachment therapy as we discuss this topic. We’re going deep into the topic of insecurity in relationships, and how to overcome it. Listen and learn more about:

  • The root causes of insecurity
  • The surprising ways insecurity can impact a relationship
  • Practical strategies to help someone else feel more secure
  • Actionable advice to help yourself feel less insecure
  • How trust and security are healed and strengthened
  • Concrete tools couples can use to banish insecurity from their relationship

We hope that this discussion helps you both overcome insecurity, and create the strong, happy relationship you deserve.

With love and respect, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

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

Music Credits: Juniore, “Panique”

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Please rate, review and 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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Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Be Friends, First

Over time in a long term committed relationship it can be easy for couples to lose sight of the underlying friendship aspects of their relationship. Research has found that being friends with your partner is actually fundamental to a couples’ overall success and satisfaction with the relationship. Unfortunately, it’s easy lose sight of that over time.

Creating A Strong Foundation

When thinking about how to strengthen your friendship with your partner, it might be helpful to think of the qualities you admire in your closest friendships. These friendship “ingredients” may include fostering underlying trust, respect, teamwork and a sense that the other person is on your side or “has your back” at the end of the day. These qualities can also include sharing simple connecting moments like having inside jokes with one another or talking about how your day went in the evening with your significant other. 

As a couples counselor and marriage therapist I have had the opportunity to work with many couples who desire to not only build this foundation of friendship with their partner, but also maintain it. Here are a few practical tips that you can use in your own relationship today! 

Three Practical Tips For Restoring and Maintaining Friendship With Your Partner

Intentionality is Key 

As previously mentioned, with the busyness and demands of life, it can be easy for couples to lose sight of these necessary friendship qualities to a relationship (balancing a Career and Relationship sound familiar?). Couples may also find it difficult to set aside intentional time for maintaining a friendship. Phone conversations, for example, may become limited to shorthand speak about what time dinner will be and did you remember to pick the kids up from soccer practice today?   

Even setting an intentional date night can sometimes miss the mark in maintaining friendship between couples. For example, there may be a lot of pressure to make date night grand and romantic or spending the majority of time together finding activities to do rather than simply connecting with one another. While doing fun things together is also important, it may not provide couples with the opportunity to connect in a way that fosters true intimacy and sharing with one another the way you might when having coffee with a close friend, for example.

One suggestion to avoid this pitfall is rather than setting a routine “date night” couples might focus on one time during the week that they set aside for connecting or “checking-in” with one another. Maybe you meet at your favorite coffee shop or simply have “couch time” one evening a week where you talk about how you’ve been feeling individually in addition to how you’re feeling about the relationship. This can be a great opportunity to share things that feel really great about the relationship or ways that you wish things might be going differently between you. [For more ideas on how you can set aside time with your partner, read: “How To Fall In Love Again”]

Honest Communication 

Another important component to maintaining friendship between couples is honest communication about what’s going well in the relationship and what isn’t. Part of this communication means giving honest feedback to one another on a regular basis. It can be easy to jump into defense mode when receiving feedback from your partner. Additionally, giving feedback to your partner can feel anxiety provoking and built-up resentment can make delivering feedback to your partner in a caring way difficult. 

One way couples might reduce anxiety around giving and receiving feedback to one another is imagining what it would be like to give or receive the same feedback to a close friend. How would you want the feedback delivered? What would be most important to communicate to the other person? What do you ultimately need from this person in the relationship? Sometimes imagining the conversation in this way can take some of the pressure and steam off the conversation with a romantic partner when the stakes often feel much higher and more emotionally loaded than in a platonic friendship. 

Mutual Respect 

The importance of mutual respect in a couple relationship cannot be underestimated. Mutual respect also means that there is a shared sense of equality in the partnership; that both members of the couple know that the other takes their needs seriously and cares about making the other feel cared for and important. In a friendship, this component is often easy because without it, you wouldn’t have much of a foundation upon which to build a friendship. 

One big way that couples lose a sense of mutual respect for one another is the way that conflict gets resolved in the relationship. An example of how this might play out is with grand romantic gestures. For example, a couple gets into a fight and one member of the couple buys the other a bouquet of flowers that gets delivered to the office the next day as an apology. Often times, while well-intentioned, grand romantic gestures disclude the fundamental component of mutual respect which is talking and communicating about what happened during the fight in a meaningful way. 

This involves a conversation where both members of the couple take responsibility for and convey understanding of any hurt feelings to one another. These conversations allow couples the opportunity to truly move on from an argument in addition to turning conflict into an opportunity to foster intimacy, honesty and connection in the relationship while grand romantic gestures tend to sweep things under the rug temporarily.

Most couples in long-term, committed relationships struggle to maintain these aspects of the relationship that are so important to overall relationship satisfaction. So know that you are not alone. I do hope you found this article has a helpful jumping off point to thinking about overarching ways friendship might be maintained within the context of a romantic relationship. Share with me your thoughts in the comments below!

Warmly, 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss, PhD, LP-C

 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss is a couples counselor, individual therapist, life coach and creativity coach. She specializes in helping couples restore emotional and sexual intimacy, individuals move past heartbreak and into healthy relationships, and creatives find their voice.

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Office Romance Pros and Cons

Office Romance Pros and Cons

Is Dating a Coworker a Bad Idea?

Click here for the full article by journalist Annie Taylor on the pros and cons of office romance.

This interview with Annie was a fun overview of the pros and cons of an office romance. I’m so glad she’s raising awareness around this important issue: if you’re considering getting romantically involved with a coworker there is a lot to consider! Here at Growing Self, we do quite a bit of career coaching, as well as dating coaching. Sometimes career coaching and dating coaching converge, as our clients grapple with the pros and cons of an office romance.

Are you developing feelings for a coworker? We spend so much time at work that it’s only natural to have our workplaces be one of the primary points of contact for meeting new people. If you’re single, chances are that sooner or later you might find yourself with a crush on a coworker. While office romances are not uncommon, relationships that start at work can present unique challenges and, frankly, hazards. “Fishing in the company pond” can be risky, both personally and professionally. If you are considering getting involved romantically with a coworker, here are some things to consider…

Dating in the Workplace: Pros and Cons

Although office romance can be fraught with challenges, these relationships do have advantages as well.

Pros of dating in the workplace:

Opportunity: Modern dating can feel like an endless parade of possible partners, all a swipe or scroll away. [Check out “The New Rules for Dating”]. For many singles, constantly vetting new people, engaging in text-based banter, and going out on dates to nowhere gets really old, really fast. Many people start to feel discouraged and overwhelmed by the prospect of finding “The One” through online dating or chatting up random strangers.

At work, however, you’re afforded with natural opportunities to meet new people organically and spend time with them on neutral ground before potentially moving further into friendship or romance. You’re also more likely to come into contact with people you already have similarities with in terms of education, interests, and shared life experiences. All these things make it easier to have natural conversations that generally feel much less pressured and fraught than awkward first dates.

Starting As Friends: Another upside to meeting new people on the job is the opportunity to develop a friendly relationship that starts slowly and develops over time. We know from research into couples and family therapy that the strongest, most enduring romantic relationships are ones built on a solid foundation of friendship and respect. Unlike starting a relationship with immediate romantic intentions, an office romance often blooms after months or even years of getting to know each other first as coworkers, and then as friends. This foundation can be an asset to your relationship if you become long-term partners.

Getting to Know Character: Perhaps most importantly, when you get to know people on the job, you usually have many opportunities to observe them in different — often stressful — situations. When you work with people you have a front row seat for how they manage stress, how they communicate, their level of emotional intelligence, how they handle challenging circumstances, whether they are courageous or avoidant, whether or not they follow through with things, how they are regarded by others, how they manage their time and priorities, whether they generally have their crap together, and much more.

This is in contrast to typical dating relationships where people tend to be on best behavior for the first weeks or months of an early romance, sometimes concealing or downplaying more difficult aspects of their character in order to be as attractive as possible. In these situations, couples often find themselves having to work through differences and disappointments as they become more genuine and authentic with each other.

Character Is Revealed Over Time, and in the way people handle themselves under stressful or challenging conditions. If you get romantically involved with a co-worker it’s generally after a significant period of time when you’ve been able to get to know them from the sidelines, and have gotten a sense of who they are and how they handle themselves before moving into a romantic relationship. This too can be a significant advantage to a positive future relationship, as well as a great opportunity to know ahead of time whether you may have fundamental compatibility issues or mismatched values (and avoid getting involved altogether).

Cons of dating in the workplace:

While dating a coworker can have some advantages, there are also many challenges and risks that you don’t have if you resist mixing the personal with the professional.

The Office Romance Dumpster Fire — Misunderstandings, Affairs and… Sexual Harassment: When office romances go wrong, they can go spectacularly wrong and with severe consequences to all involved.

Having an Affair With a Coworker

First of all, the most common place for people to become entangled in an affair or infidelity situation that can destroy a marriage and break apart a family is through an office romance. Why? It’s very common to develop a crush on a coworker, even if you’re married, or your coworker is married, or otherwise involved. Normal people in good relationships can develop transient attractions for other people — it happens all the time. [More on this, check out “What to Do if You’re Married With a Crush On Someone Else.]

However, if people don’t practice a lot of self-awareness, self-restraint, and put their commitments first, they can easily become intoxicated by romantic feelings with someone (Someone they see every day! And go on business trips with!). Romantic infatuations can lead people to do regrettable things that can create huge messes and sometimes irreparable damage to the most important relationships in their lives.

Romantic Rejection By a Coworker

Less tragically, but more embarrassingly, if you develop or have a crush on a coworker, you will almost invariably take the other person’s professional interest, friendliness, and responsiveness as a sign that your coworker has a crush on you, too. This can embolden you to ask them out, or proclaim your feelings, and have it land with an awkward thud. Not only will you feel rejected romantically, but you may have damaged a once easy professional relationship. The other person may feel uncomfortable around you, and it may impact your professional performance, as well as your emotions.

Sexual Harassment: The Risk is Real

Of course, if your advances land with a thud and you don’t have the humility to apologize and let it go, but rather continue expressing your romantic interest, complimenting them on their appearance, or God forbid, making sexual or suggestive comments, this can very quickly degenerate into a situation where you are committing sexual harassment. This can land you in hot water with HR, damage your professional reputation, or even put you at risk for a lawsuit.

This is especially true if there is any type of power imbalance in your professional relationship, which there almost always is. Even if you’re not in a direct supervising role or the boss of someone you have a crush on, you may have more power in the workplace than they do by virtue of your tenure, professional relationships, or role in relation to them. In these cases, your romantic overtures may create extreme stress and anxiety for someone who fears that upsetting you or rejecting may put their career at risk.

Really: They may smile, laugh at your jokes, and sidestep your advances in an indirect way that feels encouraging, but understand that they are trying to protect themselves while appeasing you. Trust me on this: I’ve worked with many people who have spent many, many coaching sessions trying to figure out how to survive this type of toxic workplace environment that unwanted advances create. You don’t want to be that person!

Takeaway: If you want to test the waters to see if your romantic feelings are reciprocated by a coworker, do so with extreme caution and understand that anything less than a clear and enthusiastic response means “No.” Say it once then stop. If they’re interested, they know where to find you.

While indulging in any romantic feelings for a coworker can lead to unwanted consequences, you might also consider the potential risks and pitfalls of an office romance if this does turn into a real relationship.

Impact on Job Performance: Couples fight. They get upset with each other, and need to work through things that are often very emotionally triggering. When you’re feeling emotionally activated, it can be very challenging to work with your partner around necessary professional things. Frosty silences, snarky comments, passive-aggressive jabs — you know. We’ve all been there, but imagine it happening in a team meeting, or in front of other colleagues. It will damage your ability to perform your job, but it can also impact morale, communication, and feelings of emotional safety for everyone on the team. This is especially true if you’re in a leadership position and carrying on with an employee.

Boredom: Part of having a healthy, long-term relationship is having diversity and growth in both people. When two people have different interests, work experiences, friend groups and more, it creates new experiences, new things to talk about, and the opportunity to learn and grow with each other.

Couples who ride in the same car to work together, interact with all the same people, know exactly what happens during the day, and ride home together at night often find themselves feeling like their relationships get stagnant quickly. If you and your partner work together, make it a point to at least pursue other hobbies or friendships during your off-work hours, or find novel experiences to do together so your relationship continues to feel fresh.

Breaking Up When You Work Together: As a breakup recovery expert I am often approached by people who feel genuinely trapped in the most heart wrenching of circumstances: breaking up with someone they work with. Breakups can be tremendously painful, anxiety provoking, and downright gutting under the best of circumstances.

But when you have to see your Ex every day at work, and can’t avoid contact with them, it makes the suffering and pain so much more intense. When you work with your Ex, it also makes it very difficult to get the distance you need to recover and move on after heartbreak. A significant percentage of people find the experience of working with their Ex so painful that they feel they must leave their job. In this way, a failed office romance can have devastating consequences not just personally, but on their professional trajectory as well.

Best Practices For Dating a Coworker

I hope this discussion of the pros and cons of an office romance have helped you get clarity about how (or if) to proceed. If you do, please think through all the possible pitfalls — there are many! As always, being committed to living with intention, practicing a high degree of self-awareness, staying true to your values, and mindfully approaching situations with a genuine desire for the health and wellbeing of all involved will help you make good choices.

All the best to you,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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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However, there’s  much more to successful dating (online dating or otherwise) than just showing up and expecting to find the one. After all, you’re not looking for “Someone.” You’re looking for “The One.” And if we’re being really real here, you don’t want to “date.” You want a relationship. Dating is just the means to the end.

That’s why successful dating requires more than just profile writing or signing up for kickball, and hoping for the best. The key to connecting with a compatible person and establishing a healthy, satisfying, enjoyable new relationship involves quite a bit of preparation, thoughtfulness, and intention.

On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m putting on my dating coach hat to give you some free dating advice for how to date with confidence, and hopefully find your true love this summer. I’ll be discussing:

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If you’re single and hoping to find true love this summer, you’ll definitely want to listen.

Xoxo,

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

Music Credits: Ziv Moran, “I Wish”

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