How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

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.

Letting Go Of a Toxic Relationship

We’re approaching a new year, and as such, you may be thinking about changes you want to make in your life. If you’ve been stuck in a relationship with someone who is not treating you well, and who is causing you hurt, anxiety, pain and frustration, now is a wonderful time to consider leaving your toxic relationship behind… and creating a new year full of healing, health and happiness for yourself.

Toxic Relationship Warning Signs

Letting go of a toxic relationship can be one of the hardest things for anyone to do. In my work as a life coach, therapist, and couples counselor, I have had the privilege of walking with many people through the experience of first recognizing that their relationship is toxic, then ending a hurtful relationship, and then healing after the “toxic relationship experience.” Toxic relationships take a toll on you, at every level. And every step of this journey is hard. (Necessary, meaningful, and empowering… but hard). I know, I’ve been there personally too.

Letting of a toxic relationship often starts with people working to improve their relationships.  At this stage they often believe that if only their partner could make changes, then they’d finally get the love, respect, and consideration they deserve. They come in to life coaching or even drag their partner in to couples therapy, hopeful that they can make improvements. (And I will say that almost all the time when two people are both committed to a relationship and willing to make changes, relationships can be transformed).

However, if your relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to be healed in marriage counseling or couples therapy. Instead, you’ll continue to feel frustrated, hurt, angry… and then elated when it seems like your partner is finally hearing you and caring about your feelings… only to be crushed when they disappoint you again. [Read: “Are You Addicted To a Toxic Relationship?”]

But in many genuinely toxic relationships, the biggest “warning sign” of all is when your partner routinely shows a lack of interest or follow-through in changing anything about the relationship. Instead, you when you bring up your feelings you get yelled at, blamed, rejected, or made to feel that the problems are all your fault.

Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship

In these situations of course, attempts at couples counseling often end badly. Most of the time, since their partners are unwilling to work on things with them, people in toxic relationships wind up entering empowering life coaching or effective therapy on their own.

Only over time (and often through deep personal growth work) do they then learn how to spot the characteristics of a toxic relationship, and come to terms with the fact that the only way to improve their situation is to take their power back and move on.

But until then, people in toxic relationships often struggle. They struggle with the mixed signals they get from their partner, because sometimes they are loving. They’re told that things will improve, and maybe they do for a little while. Many people believe that if THEY work harder at the relationship, are more loving, are more generous, and more patient that their partner will eventually change. (Because often, their partner is telling them in both overt and covert ways that the relationship problems are their fault).

Over time, a genuinely toxic relationship will destroy your self-esteem, interfere with your other relationships, make it hard to focus on positive areas of your life, and consume all of your time and attention. But through self-reflection, self-love, self-compassion (and sometimes excellent therapy or life coaching) you can begin to see that you have become attached to a profoundly unhealthy partner who is never going to give you the love and respect they deserve.

Then you can work to create positive, empowering changes: Like insisting that you are treated well, and setting firm, clear boundaries with anyone who doesn’t — especially the one who’s supposed to love them the most.

Can a Toxic Relationship Be Healed?

Ending any relationship is hard, and even people who are addicted to profoundly toxic relationships can hold on hope that the relationship can improve, sometimes for years. Many people (understandably) need to know if their toxic relationships can be healed before ending them permanently.

In fact, I get many, many relationship questions on the Growing Self blog about this very subject. Of course the writers of the questions are not labeling their relationships as toxic. They are instead describing extremely frustrating, hurtful, even crazy-making relationship experiences and then asking, what should I do? (Usually phrased as, “How do I get this person I love very much to stop treating me badly?”

If a relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to change no matter how hard YOU work at it. Why? Because it lacks the fundamental building blocks of a healthy relationship: Empathy, commitment, personal responsibility, and true love.

Your toxic relationship will finally be changed forever, when YOU decide that you’re not going to participate in it anymore. When you commit to yourself that you are worthy of love and respect, when you recognize your toxic relationship addiction for what it is, and when you learn how to cultivate the type of healing mindset that will set you free, you can end your toxic relationship for once and for all.

Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship

Because so many people have been reaching out for relationship advice on how to deal with these types of toxic relationship situations, I decided to devote an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to this subject. On this episode we’re going to be talking all about toxic relationships, including:

  • How to identify toxic relationships. I’ll be sharing the top 5 signs that you’re in a toxic relationship. Listen and give yourself the mini, “toxic relationship quiz” to find out if your relationship is actually toxic, or just temporarily frustrating.
  • Why toxic relationships are so addictive. Instead of beating yourself up for remaining in a bad relationship, learn why you’re biologically predisposed to developing intense attachments to others and why toxic relationships are actually MORE addictive than healthy relationships.
  • The difference between healthy vs toxic relationships. Just because your relationship feels hard and frustrating does not mean it’s toxic and irredeemable. Learn the difference between toxic and healthy relationships, and get access to some relationship resources to help you determine whether you should keep working at this, or move on.
  • How to leave a toxic relationship with your dignity intact. Too many toxic relationships end with, ironically, the person who was caring, trying, and hurting getting broken up with. If you’re in a toxic relationship, don’t continue to dangle on this string, waiting and hoping it will get better until they end it. Take your power back, and decide for yourself to be done. If you’re realizing that it’s time for you to pick up your self respect and move on from a toxic relationship, we’ll talk about how. We’ll discuss how to cultivate  self-compassion, self-respect. and the ability to stop depending on an unreliable, hurtful person to love you, and instead, learn how to love yourself.

 

You might be listening to this podcast at the cusp of a new year (or other major life change) and ready to leave this relationship for good. You might be just starting to explore whether or not the relationship you’re in is salvageable. You might be realizing that your relationship is toxic, but still in love and not sure how to end things. You may be caught in a toxic relationship cycle of breaking up and getting back together again. Or, you might be sitting in the pain, anger and heartbreak of just having been hurt again for the dozenth time, and looking for answers.

This podcast is for YOU.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: One of the tools I mentioned if you’re still in that “can this relationship be saved” space is my relationship quiz that can help you learn whether your relationship is fundamentally strong, or fundamentally toxic. Here’s the sign up box in case you’d like to take it. xo, LMB

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How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

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

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Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Have you been holding on to feelings of resentment for a very long time? While it is normal to feel resentful at times, it shouldn’t get the best of you and your relationship. Letting go of resentment in a relationship can be tricky and puzzling, but it is possible! Sometimes it’s possible to release resentment on your own, and other times it may take the support of a great online marriage counselor or relationship coach. Either way, working with your partner productively is the only way to heal, release resentment and move on.

In todays episode of the podcast, I’m going to share HOW to release resentment.

How to Let Go of Anger and Resentment

In this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, you will learn more about why resentment in relationships happens. I speak with many couples in my Denver marriage counseling or online couples therapy sessions about how to deal with resentment that’s built up over the years.

Today, I’m sharing the same ideas and strategies with you: We will discuss why we should overcome these feelings of bitterness and resentment before they are blown out of proportion and ruin your relationship. I will also talk about the importance of counseling for couples with unresolved issues, if it feels like it’s impossible to move past resentment using the techniques I outline in this episode.

Tune in to this episode to learn more about resentment and how you can work toward overcoming it.

“Letting Go of Resentment” Episode Highlights

Listen and learn about:

Two Types of Resentment in Relationships

  • The difference between the two types of resentment depends on the origin and nature of resentment. [More about repairing trust here.]
  • Current resentment: It is a persistent feeling of anger or frustration from a situation that is happening at the moment, like when it feels like one of you is taking on more than your fair share of responsibility.
  • Resentment related to old wounds or past experiences: These are emotionally unresolved resentments and may be related to relationship traumas such as a betrayal or infidelity that you have not moved past.
  • Nonetheless, any type of resentment can create issues in your present relationships and make communication difficult.
  • Feeling resentful toward your partner can make it difficult for you to be kind and loving. You may feel stuck in a place leading to more resentment, over time.

The Experience of Feeling Resentful

  • Resentment can make you behave in less ideal ways in your relationship.
  • It may be hard for your partner to understand your behavior and why you’re acting the way you are.
  • A relationship can become toxic if the resentment starts to translate into negative behavior and actions.
  • It is crucial to deal with resentment productively and directly, through healthy communication strategies.

When Is It Time For Couples Therapy?

  • It might be best to seek help if you cannot discuss the things that are making you feel resentful without it leading to an unproductive conflict. 
  • If you need help, it’s a good idea to get it sooner rather than later. If resentment continues, it can grow and turn into hostility and mistrust. It can damage a relationship or marriage, and it makes your relationship more difficult to repair the longer it’s allowed to fester.
  • Working with a marriage counselor online or in person can help you move past blame, and start focusing on positive solutions instead.
  • A good relationship professional can be your accountability partner when trying to make real and lasting change that reduce resentment-causing behaviors in a relationship.

Why Online Marriage Counseling Helps

  • Couples therapy online or in person helps a couple become emotionally responsive to each other.
  • It provides an avenue for interaction that improves communication and allows for healing.
  • When couples try to address old resentments by themselves, it can be counterproductive and heavily charged with negative emotions.
  • A marriage counselor, relationship coach or couples therapist can help you have productive conversations even when you’re both feeling triggered.

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

  • EFCT is a type of couples therapy that based on a model and process that allows couples to figure out how to have empathy, validation, and emotional responsiveness.
  • Readdressing unfinished emotional business enables a couple to have healing experiences together.
  • Moving on without resentment is an experiential process.

5 Powerful Takeaways From This Episode

“Resentment only happens because of stuckness. There is a stuck place that is leading to resentment.” 

“But this is the reason why resentment is so incredibly toxic in a relationship and why it absolutely has to be addressed in a productive and direct way.” 

“It’s not always okay to act on anger, but always okay to listen to your anger. And then pick up wisdom and guidance from your anger.”

“If you don’t create agreements about how we operate, and if it doesn’t feel relatively balanced and equitable, and resentment continues to fester, resentment will grow, and over time it will grow into hostility and mistrust, and it will damage a relationship.”

“And there’s the path to healing, and it’s possible, and I’ve seen lots of couples do it. And it’s absolutely gorgeous and glorious when it does because it often, you know, along the way people do a lot of learning and growing about themselves, and there is laughter; there are tears.”

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Learning how you could create love, happiness, and success for yourself has never been this easy. If you enjoyed today’s episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

Thanks for listening! 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS. One of the resources I mentioned in this episode is our “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz.” This can be a great way to open the door to a productive conversation with your partner.

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Letting Go Of Resentment

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

Music Credits: Duchess Says, “Negative Thoughts”

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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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Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

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Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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Letting Go Of Resentment

Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love,  Happiness & Success Podcast.

[Negative Thoughts by Duchess Says]

Yes, it’s the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. And as you may have guessed from our musical intro today which was Duchess Says, by the way, with a song called Negative Thoughts. Today we are tackling yet again another difficult and incredibly common life experience, which is the feeling of holding on tightly with clenched fingers to resentment. Feelings of resentment for things that have happened in the past, things that are happening currently that are annoying, angering, hurtful, and feel very persistent. That’s what we’re doing today on the show.

Letting Go of Resentment

If you are in particular holding on to resentment about things that your partner has done or has been doing, this one is for you especially. Because holding on to resentment can make it not just difficult to enjoy your relationship in the present, I know, I know well from my experience as a marriage counselor, that resentment when it’s bubbling around in your relationship can create its own set of relationship problems. So today, this episode is all about how to let go of resentment in your relationship so that you can both move forward and just start having a good time again. Because you deserve that.

And before we jump in, I just want to thank you all for being here. And I have to tell you, I have been really enjoying all of your comments and questions that you’ve been tossing at me lately, both through the blog and growingself.com. And those of you that reached out through Instagram @drlisamariebobby on Instagram. I have been reading your questions. I have been recording your questions, and I have been thinking about how to answer your questions meaningfully. So that’s, of course where this podcast comes from, too. Because I’ve heard from a few of you that this is a major pain point in your relationship. Either you feel like you’re holding on to resentment or you’re feeling really frustrated because your partner seems like they’re not letting things go. So we’re gonna talk about both sides of this today.

And also I want to thank everyone who has left a review for this podcast lately. I haven’t looked at iTunes recently, but I looked the other day and there were so many nice reviews and comments from you guys. And so thank you so much for doing that. Not only does your leaving a nice review and comment, just kind of, you know, make me feel good personally, I like that. But it also more importantly, helps other people find the show. And that’s the only way that people find the show. This is not for profit, labor of love that I just kind of like doing. And so we don’t advertise. I don’t advertise, you know, sponsors or anything like that. So, the only thing we are doing here is really sincerely trying to help people and you’re leaving a positive review on iTunes or sharing this with others is the only way it grows. And so thank you for, you know, helping to bump it up a little bit in the eyes of iTunes and also to share this with a fellow traveler who just like the rest of us might need to hear some of these ideas from time to time. So, thank you.

How to Deal With Resentment

So hey, let’s dive in. And let’s talk about resentment. First, what is it? Where it come from? And then we’re going to turn our attention to the most important part, which is how to release it, and move on, and be free at last. So first of all, it is important to know that there are actually two different types of resentment. They can feel the same in the moment when you’re actually living it. But the origins are different. And it’s important to figure out what kind of resentment you’re feeling and where it comes from, because the path to dealing with them is different depending on the nature of the resentment.

So first of all, there is what I think of as current resentment. So current resentment is like this low greed kind of angry, annoyed, agitated feeling that happens when in the present day today, things are happening in your relationship that don’t feel good for you, that do not feel fair. You often have this type of feeling when your relationship is feeling out of balance or like you’re not getting your needs met. And that it feels very difficult to create change and you’re just kind of like living with it. So, you know, you’ve maybe talked about something and said, “I don’t like this and it keeps happening.” You start to feel resentful that it keeps happening and it seems to be persisting despite your desire to have it be different. So that’s what I think of as being like current resentment.

Now there is another type of resentment that is really more related to old hurts, usually big ones. And things that have happened in the past, often related to, you know, feeling betrayed by your partner or really let down in a big way by your partner. It’s what we think of is like, attachment wounds or something that happened that was so big that it really was quite emotionally at least traumatizing to you. And that it left a mark, you know. And when this kind of resentment is festering for months, years, decades, even after the fact, it means that you’ve probably agreed to kind of “Yeah, okay, move past it, we move on, that’s not happening anymore.” So you’re kind of sticking with it and want to let it go. But you can’t. It is not resolved emotionally. And until you do handle it appropriately and emotionally, it won’t be put to rest and you will continue feeling resentful, even though the original event may have happened like five years ago and is not happening anymore. The resentment experience tells you that there is unfinished emotional business that needs to be dealt with.

Overcoming Resentment

So, two different kinds of resentment. But either way, when you have feelings of resentment inside of you, it will create issues in your relationship above and beyond whatever is leading you to feel resentful. So, regardless of what is triggering the feelings of resentment, what we know is that healthy, happy, satisfying relationships more than anything else require large doses daily of kindness, generosity, appreciation, gratitude, affection, warmth. You know, like that’s really the day to day fabric of a relationship are those things. And it is very difficult to be kind, generous, affectionate, warm, understanding, loving, with someone who you are feeling resentful of. And who you feel is either treating you unfairly in the present or has hurt you really badly in the past and no, you are not actually over it. You know, when you’re in this space, you are kind of low key angry a lot of the time. And you don’t want to give them more, and be more kind and more generous and more compassionate because you, hate is probably a strong word, but maybe sometimes you like hate them a little bit. You know what I mean? And you’re just sort of like walking around with that day to day. So it’s really difficult for you to be the person that you really need to be in a relationship when you’re feeling resentful.

And the thing to know about resentment, and, you know, the key takeaway from this whole episode is that resentment only happens because of stuckness. There is a stuck place that is leading to resentment. If it is a current resentment, you know, present moment based, it’s because you’re needing things to be different, and they’re not being different. And, you know, you may or may not be talking about this openly anymore, but it feels stuck. And that’s what’s driving the resentment.

And if it’s old resentment, if it’s, you know, old wound type resentment, it is even harder to talk about. And because of that, it remains stuck. You know, you may have agreed with your partner that, “Yep, that happened a long time ago and things are different now. And it’s in the past.” So maybe you don’t even feel like you can talk about it anymore. Or your partner’s, like, “Would you stop already? We need to move on when you do bring it up,” but it isn’t over emotionally and so there’s this stuckness. You can’t process it emotionally with your partner, you can’t get what you need because you feel like it’s in the past. And so it removes your feeling of legitimacy to talk about it or maybe your partner has a nasty reaction when you do, so you don’tfeels kind of pointless to talk about. It is just as what it is. And of course that stuckness supports, and festers, and feeds resentment. Stuckness and silence.

The Impact of Unresolved Bitterness and Anger

So, if you are experiencing resentment, if you are experiencing feeling resentful of your partner, and here’s the hard part, and you guys I know this is hard and take it in, it makes you start behaving in less than ideal ways in your relationship. You are not feeling good about your partner. You are annoyed, upset, irritated, and that impacts the way that you show up in a relationship. And your partner may or may not have any idea of what’s going on. You know, they might not be connecting it to the thing that happened five years ago or the fact that they said they would fold the laundry and it’s still sitting in the hamper on the bed. They might not connect the fact that you are now kind of being cold and quiet and stomping around the kitchen with either of those things. They just experience you as being kind of jerky and hostile and cold. And I’m telling you like it seems like a “of course they would know why I’m upset,” they really might not. And again, I have spent a long time as a marriage counselor, as a relationship coach, you would be amazed at what you may be experiencing that other people are not aware of. And they don’t know why you’re feeling the way you are, they don’t know why you’re acting the way that you are. But this is the reason why resentment is so incredibly toxic in a relationship and why it absolutely has to be addressed in a productive and direct way.

Because if it isn’t, it comes out through your behaviors, through your energy, and through your actions. Like, even if you’re not using words to say, “I am really angry, and here is why,” people still feel that anger, but they don’tlike connected to something that they can, you know, change or deal with. And so the narrative that starts happening in their mind is that, “This is just your personality. This is who you are. This is the kind of reaction I can expect from him because, you know, he’s just an angry person.” And that is where people go over time, if resentment goes unresolved. That is how the partner of a resentful person begins to perceive them over time. It’s not fair, it is also true. And we have to operate in reality.

So, anyway. So this is why we’re here. And this is why I wanted to really, you know, not just shoot off a quick little answer in the bottom of a blog post or, you know, say something. It’s not like a one sentence kind of thing that can be like, “Okay, here’s what to do. Yes, there’s resentment in the relationship. Let me let me tell you like one magic thing that’s going to fix it.” None of this is like that, honestly. So I wanted to, like kind of talk you through what it is, where it comes from, why it’s a big deal.

So anyway, so now that we’ve understood the origins of resentment and why it is so massively important to deal with, let’s talk about what to do with it. So that you can actually move into a better place and let it go so that your relationship feels better for you. But also, so that you’re not, you know, creating a little dark negative engine and your relationship that will over time really, really damage it because of unresolved resentmentabsolutely legitimate feelings of resentment, I would like to add. But you got to do something with it. We can’t stay here is what I’m trying to say.

So, anyway. So for current resentment, things that are happening day to day that are, you know, from mildly, moderately to severely annoying. The path out of resentment is, first of all, to listen to those feelings and figure out what they are attached to—like, specifically. It can be very tempting to stuff our feelings, to dismiss them, to deny them, to talk yourself out of them, especially many times for women, but also many times for men, particularly very nice men. You know, you will have a flash of resentment or annoyance, and that very next thought is, “No, I want to make a big deal out of it. It’s fine. She’s had a long day, whatever.” And what that does is over time, it leads to this buildup of resentment. So step one, we need to listen to the feelings. Let it in, go ahead, make contact with your anger everyone. It’s okay to be angry. Listen to it. It’s not always okay to act on anger, but always okay to listen to your anger. And then pick up wisdom and guidance from your anger.

And then really think about, “What am i angry about? What does not feel good?” Many times this like current resentment is often attached to feeling like your relationship is out of balance in day to day stuff. So things like, you know, one person feeling like they’re holding the bag with regards to parenting, housework, work-life balance stuff. You know, if a relationship is non-egalitarian, meaning that both partners aren’t on the same page about what needs to happen and who’s doing what. Often what happens is that one person who often does less will feel like everything is just fine. They’re just doing what they’re doing. And the person who feels like they are doing more will over time become increasingly stressed, and anxious, and resentful.

You know, say one of you has a super stressful job and you are working your butt off nine to five or longer these days if you’re working from home, and then as soon as you’re off the clock, you get handed a toddler. And your partner’s like, “Good luck with that. I am going to go play video games for the balance of the evening.” Like, you know, that can be the reality in a lot of families. And hey, you know, a stay-at-home parent, especially now without the respite of child care and anything else, is also going to be struggling. But unless you guys are really talking about it, and creating agreements around what feels fair for both of you, it is almost inevitable that one of you is going to start feeling resentful over time. Or kinds of other things like, you know, you figure out how to get the groceries home, you make the dinner, and then you’re standing there washing the dishes while everyone else is going off and watching a movie. And you’re like, “Damn it. I feel resentful right now.” I mean, like, you know, it’s legitimate.

Other engines of resentment, a lot can actually happen around sexuality. When one partner perceives the other as being, you know, not interested in sex or rejecting even. Especially if they feel like they can’t ask for it or have it be okay that they would like to be intimate with you, that can lead to feelings of resentment over time. Not being in alignment around goals or priorities. You know, what I’ve actually seen a lot of is one person in a relationship starting to feel really resentful when they don’t feel like they have a lot of time with their partner. And then they see their partner going off and having like, you know, girls’ weekends. Or like spending a lot of time with their friends on the phone, or whatever, FaceTime these days. That can lead to feelings of resentment, too.

And, you know, it really always when you unpack resentment, they’re always very, like much more poignant feelings underneath. Like people feel, their feelings are hurt, or they feel uncared for, or not important. I mean, so like, there’s a lot of soft stuff. But on the surface level, it’s like this, “Dammit. I’m annoyed right now,” feeling. And we’ve talked about a lot of hate just, you know, garden variety super ultra normal couples stuff. And it is normal. It is so common, but it also needs to be fixed. Because if it is not fixed, again, it can turn into a really yucky stuff in a relationship especially over time.

And so, the goal with this kind of circumstantial current resentment is to figure out what it is that is making me feel resentful. And what would I like this to look like instead if this was feeling more balanced for me? What would be happening? What objectively needs to be done day to day in order to keep the show on the road and keep our household going? And then, how can we divide that up equitably? And it’s really a matter of sitting down and saying, “I am not enjoying the way that we’re doing this right now. Here’s what I would like to do differently. What do you think about that?”

And often, it can be hard because the person who is the ‘causer’ of the resentment, so to speak, is oftentimes absolutely not aware. That, you know, and I don’t want to get all like ‘gendery’ on it because this certainly happens in, you know, the other ways. I mean, male partners can absolutely feel resentful as female partners. This also happens in same sex relationships. And it is also not uncommon for men and women to be socialized differently in terms of their roles in the family. You know, little boys who have loving and incredibly competent mothers who have perhaps had a vocation out of staying at home and being moms have, you know, many times had a lot of stuff done for them. And they arrive in adulthood having zero idea of what it actually takes. It is not really magic elves that wash the socks and match them and put them back in the drawer. It is oftentimes the efforts of a woman who loves them very much and wants to take care of them. And that stops working when they are now in a relationship with a partner who has other ideas about equality and what that looks like. And wants them to match their own damn socks because she has enough other stuff to do.

So it’s having those kinds of conversations, getting on the same page about who does what, and also having honest conversations that, you know, perhaps the person who is—I’ve also seen this happen—you know, seething with resentment about all these things that are not being done that should be done, feeling very overwhelmed and, you know, like they’re left holding the bag, can also have a growth moment where they can come to realize that maybe some of the things that they learned through their own childhood socialization about things that should be done and that are important, are actually not important or meaningful to their partner. And as this couple comes to create their own family, they need to, you know, come to some agreements around, “Maybe we can let some of this stuff go too. You know, maybe we can put the clean socks in the drawer without them being matched. You can just put the socks in the drawer. Nobody has to patch the socks. That is okay too. That is absolutely okay.”

When to Consider Denver Marriage Counseling, Online Couples Therapy or Relationship Coaching

But so it’s like this exploration of figuring out, figuring it out together and coming to agreements, and then following through with those agreements. It is absolutely possible to have these kinds of conversations by yourself at the kitchen table. And I will also tell you that an indication that you might need to take this in front of a marriage counselor or relationship coach is when you try to sit down and have a conversation about, “You know, I’m not feeling real good about this,” and it leads to a lot of defensiveness, and denial, and minimization. So it feels difficult to have that conversation in the first place. Or if it turns into big conflicts around who’s right, and who’s wrong, and what should actually be done, and it’s very difficult to get on the same page—that would be another reason.

And then lastly, another reason why it can be important to come and get a third party involved is if you guys do make agreements and everybody’s like, “Yep, we’re gonna do that,” and then there is not the follow-through. There could be a need for, you know, either an accountability partner, or someone to help you take this a little bit deeper to figure out what’s really going on. Because many times when there isn’t the follow-through, it’s either a lack of skills or the presence of other ideas, your feelings—conscious or subconscious—that are not being discussed. So we need to get those out into the open so that everybody can do what they’re supposed to do.

Anyway, so those are indications that you might need help. And also, please take it seriously. I know that the things that we’re talking about right now are absolutely garden variety. They are things that every couple deals with, and they seem like small things. You know, who matches the socks, whether or not the socks should be matched, whose job that is—it seems so trivial. And if you don’t create agreements about how we operate, and if it doesn’t feel relatively balanced and equitable, and resentment continues to fester, resentment will grow, and over time it will grow into hostility and mistrust, and it will damage a relationship. It will take down a marriage for the reasons that I described at the beginning of this podcast because it turns into a malignant force that erodes the fabric of a relationship.

So, I’m probably sounding incredibly dramatic right now, but I really want you to hear this so that you avoid the fate of so many couples that I have worked with who, you know, when you go back and talk to them about like, “When did you start feeling this way?” “You know, like four years ago.” When they’re now, you know, sitting on my couch or my marriage counseling office, literally on the brink of divorce and like, “When did this start?” And, you know, oftentimes it goes back to feeling persistently resentful about things that, you know, “I tried to talk about how I was feeling and nothing changed. And, you know, we could just never get on the same page.” And then what happens, again, is that when people feel resentful, they start behaving differently in a relationship. That behavior creates a negative reaction in their partner, and then it just turns into this snowball, where people are now behaving badly with each other and creating stories about highly unflattering stories about who each other are, and that it’s not possible to change. Anyway, it can get really bad—so take it seriously.

Try to talk about it and make changes, and if it feels like that’s harder than it should be, just go ahead and get some help. Particularly, if you catch it early, you could literally have four conversations with a marriage counselor, and it will be over and done. Seriously, like my husband and I, I remember when we went to marriage counseling—oh my God, what year is it, like 20 years ago now. It was exactly the stuff that was making us both feel so bad. And we, I think, met with a marriage counselor six times, eight times? I don’t know, but we walked away with like a plan. “This is what I do. I clean out the refrigerator, you change the litter box.” We have lived by that plan for the last 20 years, and it has been pretty good ever since. So anyway, get some help if you need it.

Now, let’s also talk about old resentments because these are different, as you may imagine, from how to handle the current resentments. Old resentments are resolved through a different process. As I mentioned at the beginning, if you are feeling resentful about something big that happened in the past, it means that you did not heal after that experience. And again, this is really common for many reasons. I think the biggest one is that people actually do not know how to heal after a big wounding event, and they do the best they can, they do what they know how to do, and many times it is just not enough. Because it doesn’t incorporate the ingredients of healing that people actually need.

So, for example, you know, if there was a betrayal or an emotional affair, or maybe even a capital ‘A’ affair, right? Or another thing that happened that can really create the same kind of emotional trauma is experiencing your partner as dropping the ball in a major way. Like, so for example, say your partner went through a really serious major depressive episode where they were not functioning for a while, and they maybe didn’t treat you well or left you, you know, kind of on your own to take care of everybody and do everything because they were so unwell. Or maybe they had, you know, substance use disorder. You can see this kind of thing if somebody had struggled with addiction in the past and is now better.

What are some other things? You know, I think I’ve seen this come up in couples like around pregnancy, and childbirth, and baby stuff sometimes. Like, you know, I’ve talked with couples where the female partner had a very difficult pregnancy, and maybe even was hospitalized, or something happened, and the birth was very traumatic. Or even like in the postpartum kind of months, if the other partner, you know, often the man, does not really recognize the level of trauma, or fear, or need that their wife has during that experience, and they’re, you know, kind of not adjusting to the role of father in the same way because they don’t have to. You know, when you are pregnant or when you’re a postpartum mom, you’re sort of chained by biology to the experience. And where a male partner can say, “Hey, I was thinking I was gonna go golfing with Jack on Saturday”—the way that he has done for the last five years, and it hasn’t been a big deal. But like, you know, if they’re partners, you know, had a baby three weeks ago, and it’s healing from a C section, and they’re like, “What do you mean you’re going golfing with Jack?” That doesn’t articulate that in the same way.

I mean, these are, again, small, small moments—they seemed small—they don’t seem like they would be as fraught with meaning as they really are. But, if someone is going through something really, really hard, and the other person feels emotionally unavailable or not fully understanding of what their partner is going through, it can create a terrible rupture. Even the other way, you know, like I mentioned, the kind of rupture that could happen if someone goes through a really serious major depressive episode that leaves them not functioning that well for a while. You know, the partner who isn’t depressed can certainly feel abandoned because it feels like their partner’s just withdrawn and dropped out, and that can be an issue, but it can go the other way too. You know, I’ve also seen partners who went through a very serious major depressive episode, or they had an anxiety flare-up. Grief can be another one. Like, say, if they lost their mom or their sister, they had some really serious loss, that their partner didn’t understand the magnitude of, which, again, is understandable.

I mean, these things are hard to talk about. It can be difficult to articulate the level of your devastation when you’re going through it and so many reasons why this can happen, but the end result is that one person feels abandoned, betrayed, uncared for in their moment of deepest need. And even after the crisis has passed, and maybe they’re feeling better, or their relationship has become more functional again, or, you know, in the instance that one partner was engaging in a relationship-disrupting behavior—like an addiction or an affair. Even after that has passed, and people are now in a place where they’re doing what they should be doing again, and everybody’s okay, the legacy of the wound will live on in a big way, and that’s very, very common. So, that’s why it happens.

So in order to go back and get that emotional resolution, and to be able to release the resentment, you really do have to go back into the past, which people do not like to hear that. They’re like, “It’s different. We’ve moved on. That was a long time ago.” I’m just telling you that that is not how this works. You do have to go back into the past and process what happened together in a productive way. There is quite a process that happens with this. I have addressed it at length in another podcast, I think, which one is it? Well, I’ve actually done a couple, one is like affair recovery. I talked about the process. And I think I did another specific to how to restore trust in a relationship that really digs into like step-by-step, here’s what needs to happen. And so if you’re interested to learn more about the process, I would invite you to go and check out either of those.

But, you know, speaking generally what needs to happen is a series of conversations that often need to be facilitated by a marriage counselor in order to help you guys like stay in the ring with the painful parts. Because there’s a natural tendency to get defensive, or dismissive, or like, “That was a long time ago,” and every time people do that, it stops it—it stops the healing. And so people really need a lot of support to like stay in that place with each other, and we need to have lots of conversations, oftentimes, over a period of weeks, if not months. If the wound was huge, like in the case of an affair, it might be longer than months—it might be years.

And just so settle in, wrap your head around the fact that this is a process, and we need to really go back into what happened—how it felt, why it hurt, what the legacy was—and having the person who was hurt really be able to talk about this in a very real way, often, experience the pain and the anger and the sadness all over again. And have the person who perpetrated the hurt, really understand on a deep level, and let it in emotionally, and allow themselves to have all of the expected feelings as a result of that. And oftentimes, you know, even before that part happens, people need a lot of coaching and help in learning how to be emotionally responsive to someone in distress and how to really bump up that empathy and learn how to be validating and kind of learn how to interact with their partner in a way that will allow for healing, which in itself can be very difficult and take weeks or months to even create the foundation to set this stage for those difficult conversations to happen. Like there’s pre-work.

And of course, so this is definitely the kind of thing that you need to get help with this—what will very predictably happen with couples who try to go back and address the old really deep, painful things is that the person who was hurt will invariably start expressing a lot of pain and anger. And the other person will get really defensive, and it feels intolerable, and they will shut it down, and defend, and minimize, and so you just go right back into the stuck place where resentment lives on because you haven’t gotten that emotional resolution. And it just will be there forever basically until you do. So, do not mess around with this. Take it to a marriage counselor, particularly one who really understands an evidence-based form of marriage counseling called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

This is the only one that I am aware of that very specifically has a model and a process to help couples figure out how to have that empathy, validation, emotional responsiveness and then walks them through a process of readdressing unfinished emotional business for the purpose of having healing experiences with each other, that allows them to really feel that it is complete, they have healed, they have reattached, all is forgiven. And then they can move on really without resentment—and it is an experiential process to do. It is not a cognitive like thought shifting sort of thing, although that can certainly be part of it, but it’s really very experiential. And at the end of this process, you will actually feel differently. It is not something that you’ll have to make happen; it is something that happens as a result of the successful work. So, again, and it requires the facilitation of an expert in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.

And there’s the path to healing, and it’s possible, and I’ve seen lots of couples do it. And it’s absolutely gorgeous and glorious when it does because it often, you know, along the way people do a lot of learning and growing about themselves, and there is laughter; there are tears. And at the end of the day, the couples really genuinely often stronger than ever before, and it’s a beautiful thing—and you deserve to have that experience. So I hope that you just take those ideas into consideration that it offers you some guidance about how to really resolve resentment if it’s linked to old, old unfinished stuff.

Okay, so lots of information today. But I really hope that this discussion has helped you understand resentment differently—what it is, where it comes from, why it needs to be addressed, the different types of resentment, and the path to resolving both of them. If you have asked a question on this topic, I sincerely hope that this discussion has answered it. And of course, if not, let me know.

Like, if there’s a follow-up question, you can reach out to our website growingself.com. Cruise over to the blog, leave your comments in the posts. I do read and answer every one of those eventually. And also, Instagram @drlisamariebobby and through Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby on Facebook. I will eagerly await your follow up questions and comments. And I’m going to try not to check the iTunes reviews too often to see if anyone has said anything else nice to say because I don’t want to be that person. But otherwise, I will be back in touch with you soon with another episode of the podcast.

In the meantime, Duchess Says with the song Negative Thoughts to help you, you know, make contact with the anger because that is actually always the first step. All right, talk to you later, you guys.

 

How to be Successful Online Dating

How to be Successful Online Dating

How to be Successful Online Dating

Dating Profiles, First Messages, and Red Flags

As a relationship therapist and dating coach, many of my single clients who are looking for that forever love, come to me asking, “What am I doing wrong?” expressing feelings of confusion, hurt, and even outrage at the current state of the dating world. Today I want to share with you dating tips to navigate the online dating pool of uncertainty and discomfort so that you can enter the dating world with confidence and assuredness that you’re not alone in feeling this way. 

It’s Not You…It’s Your Dating Platform

Okay, you’ve decided to jump in – to try out this online approach to dating, and what better time than now when social distancing is in full swing? It’s not like you can go to the bar or join a club to meet someone new these days, you have to get a little more creative and with SO many people circulating on and through dating apps and websites…where do you even begin?

When it comes to online dating, there are apps and websites galore for you to choose from. The biggest difference between using an app like Tinder vs. a website like OkCupid is that dating sites that require a questionnaire (or a financial commitment) tend to attract people that are more serious about looking for a relationship. Where it is more common to find people that are looking for a relationship as well as causal hookup up on swipe apps. 

Using an app or website is not necessarily better than the other but it may be helpful to think about what you are looking for and to choose a site or an app depending on the type of person that particular platform attracts. I often recommend that people join more than one platform to increase their pool of people.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Dating profiles are intimidating – they’re intimidating to create and they’re even intimidating to read. Dating clients will ask me, “How can I trust that this is real?” And it is true…people have a tendency to answer personal questionnaires as they would like to be, not as they really are. 

We all want to put our best foot forward, especially when it comes to meeting someone new. So, it’s likely that there will be embellishments on dating profiles. Consider the profile similar to a first impression – while you aren’t getting the full impression of the person, you are seeing (typically) who they want to be or believe they can be if they aren’t that person already.

My advice here is to not jump to conclusions. Don’t assume that what you read in the profile is completely true, but don’t discount what the profile says because it seems to good to be true. So while the personality questionnaire may not be 100 percent accurate they may at least give some idea of who that person is or at least who they aspire to be.

Use the dating profile as a jumping-off point to get to know the person, not to judge who they are or aren’t based on the answers they filled out. 

Finding Your Perfect Match: More than a Questionnaire 

For many online dating sites, the questionnaire will allow you to connect with similarly minded people – those who have a high percentage of matching with you based on the answers that you filled out. 

The truth is, there is no foolproof way to succeed in finding the perfect match but there are definitely things that will increase your chances such as having a great profile, clarifying for yourself what you are looking for in a partner and how to assess others for that quality, having a positive mindset about dating, having a positive mindset about yourself, identifying your shortcoming when it comes to dating and taking steps to improve those things, and obviously being willing to go on lots of dates!

Don’t discount a potential match because your “match rating” is lower than others. Dating requires getting to know people – talking, listening, and seeing where your compatibility is outside of the questionnaire answers you both filled out. 

Your Dating Profile IS Your First Impression

You may get the opportunity to turn your matches into real-life dates, but the relationship ultimately starts from your profile. As mentioned before, dating profiles (creating and reading) are intimidating! Some of my tips for creating a standout dating profile are: 

  • Include good quality and thoughtfully chosen pictures. The pictures may be the only thing someone looks at – each picture should have a purpose that gives information about you (no selfie bathroom shots!!!!). It should also be easy to identify who you are in the photo (keep it simple, don’t include a bunch of group photos). For more tips on taking outstanding dating profile pictures, see: Denver Dating Coach: How to Get The Best Online Dating Profile Photo
  • Share something unique, interesting, and important. Give people enough interesting information in your profile that they have something for a conversation starter. Saying “I like dogs and beach volleyball” might be an easy way to plan that first date, but ultimately doesn’t share anything about who you are.
  • Don’t complain. I cannot stress this enough, don’t complain and especially don’t talk about how much you hate online dating in your profile (you’d be surprised at how often this happens). 

When you find a match – or someone you’re interested in getting to know a little more, you may have the opportunity to send them a message. When messaging others, ask a specific question or comment about their profile, don’t ever a start a conversation with nothing but a “hey.”

Avoid Appearing Desperate

Dating apps are often used for casual hookups and brief interactions – and when you are looking for more than just a one-night stand it can be hard to come off as fun and flirty when you know that ultimately what you want may not be what 99% of your matches are looking for. 

Be honest about what you are looking for in your profile, and then behave in ways that are consistent with what you want. If you want a serious relationship then don’t engage in behavior that is consistent with hook up culture – meeting up late at night, texting when drinking, etc.. Also remember that the main purpose of a first or second date is only to see if you’re interested in a second or third date. Relax and enjoy getting to know people without interrogating them about future plans on the first date to avoid coming off as desperate. Be patient, these things take time.

Beware of the Bright Red Flag 

The biggest red flag is someone that waits extended periods of time between responses (days to weeks). People that are committed to this process tend to be responsive and make themself available. People that are looking for a partner are not wanting a pen pal. Limit your messaging to a couple of days and then find a time to meet in person (in public), that way you don’t waste time messaging someone for weeks only to find out that there is no real connection when face to face.

Dealbreakers – What Matters Most

Dealbreakers are specific to each person. You need to decide what are YOUR dealbreakers are before you begin dating. Some people feel like a difference in politics is a dealbreaker where that is totally fine for someone else. Be thoughtful about what you are ok with and what will end up destroying a relationship in the long run. 

If you are looking for a serious relationship, a long-term commitment, you have to be honest with yourself about what works and doesn’t work for you. To say, “Oh, I can grow to love that about them,” or “It’s not that big of deal, really” will only hurt you in the long run. 

Dating More Than One Person at a Time

Your matches are lining up, you’re feeling pretty good about your prospects and the conversations that are unfolding – but is it okay to date more than one person at a time? How many people you choose to date at a time needs to be dependent on each person. If you tend to jump into relationships quickly and put all your eggs in one basket, you’re better off dating multiple people at once. If you tend to struggle to commit, and dating lots of people supports that avoidance, try dating one person at a time. 

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to go about online dating – show up as yourself and be honest with yourself throughout the process. When things start to feel like “too much” know it’s okay to walk away, and if things start to “fit” then move forward. The wonderful thing about dating is you get to choose how you’ll move forward or when you’ll walk away based on your wants and needs. 

Here’s to you and your online dating adventures!
Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

 

Online Marriage Counselor Denver Couples Therapy Premarital Counseling Online Family Therapy Postpartum Perinatal Denver Tech Center Therapist

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

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How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship

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Know Yourself

Know Yourself | Being in a long-term committed relationship doesn’t mean that you lose your personal identity. In fact, the best partnerships are those that encourage personal growth in their significant other and vice versa. Let’s be honest, you being you is the reason why your partner fell in love with you in the first place! 

Falling in love and creating a life together is fun, challenging, and sometimes even consuming. It’s not uncommon that you may find yourself feeling a little lost in your identity from time to time. 

When you have been romantically involved with someone for a long period of time, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, dislikes, and passions often start to mend together. These mending moments are often beautiful and encouraging to a relationship that has worked so hard to be successful. 

However, when you move forward together in your partnership, it’s also important to continue to grow in your self-identity and to truly know yourself – developing your own personality, likes, and dislikes in order to continue contributing to your relationship and its success. 

The happiest and most successful couples do these five things to strengthen their relationship. Here’s how to develop your self-identity and experience personal growth in a committed relationship.

Learn Something New

Life can feel like it’s moving at a hundred miles per hour when you’re busy balancing work, family, friends, home, pets, health, and your relationship. And when the whirlwind of everything and everyone occupies all of your time and energy – it’s hard to see much further past the present moment that you are in (or attempting to catch up to). 

This idea of furthering your education may feel unrealistic or at the very least, impractical with current life events. 

The awesome thing about education is that you don’t have to “go back to school” or even enroll in a class (unless you want to and have the time to do so). All you need is to find a topic or area of study that you are interested in furthering your education. 

Then, support yourself in this learning journey by subscribing to a podcast, purchasing a book, signing up for a newsletter, or even meeting with an expert in whatever field you’re interested in learning more about. 

Then, while you are driving to work, running your weekly errands, or running the kids between afterschool activities you can listen to a podcast, read a chapter while waiting for swim lessons to end, catch up with a weekly newsletter over coffee, or grab lunch with someone who can speak to what it is you are interested in. 

Alternatively, if you struggle to find something that you are interested in learning more about – maybe connecting with an online life coach could help shed some light on areas of interest and beneficial pathways to your personal success.

This simple (and sometimes passive) way of learning will encourage personal growth and personal understanding while you continue to balance all that life throws at you. Not only will you be developing the way you see yourself and the world, but you will also open up new conversation between you and your partner. 

Have a Hobby That’s All Yours

You and your partner may have EVERYTHING in common, and that’s okay…but I promise you, if you take the time to find something that is ALL yours – it feels super rewarding. 

I’m not saying that you have to keep this new hobby from your partner but the more you treat it as your you time the more beneficial it will be. 

For those who have been in a long-term relationship (and I mean a relationship that literally feels like for-ev-er) it can feel intimidating and even difficult to find a new hobby that’s all yours. Try a few things out, if you decide you hate it – try something else. 

The more effort you put into finding that perfect you hobby, the more you will enjoy it and look forward to it. Remember, the whole point of this experiment is to fall more in love with who you are and to continue growing as the awesome individual that you already are!

Make Your Friendships a Priority

Yes, I’m looking at you →  “Well, I have friends but I only see them once a month if our schedules line up, and the kids are away at someone else’s house for the night, and my partner is also friends with my friends’ partners.” ←  Stop overcomplicating your friendships!

Making your friendships a priority is extremely important in any relationship. You need your gal pals or dudes who have completely different and often similar walks of life to challenge you, encourage you, comfort you, and keep you on your toes. 

If Finding Friends You Can Count On feels like a challenge, then it might be a good time to reassess your friendships and begin working towards healthier, more sustainable relationships. It’s important as adults that we prioritize our friendships, here’s more on:  The Importance of Healthy Friendships.

While your partner might be your best friend, don’t forget about your besties. They need you as much as you need them in order to grow as an individual and even flourish in your partnership. A good friend can offer support, accountability, and help you know yourself (or at the very least, remind you who you are when you need it the most).

Develop Your Idea of Art and Culture

For some, the love of art, music, and culture comes naturally. However, a lot of us are a little more generic and may find it difficult to stay interested or appear so at the dinner parties of our most artistic and culturally savvy friends. The thing with art is that there is SO much of it. There are so many fantastic forms of it – painting, drawing, live-action, music, graphic design…the list goes on. Art stems from cultures, lifestyles, fantasies, and often tragedies. Knowing not necessarily the history of art but knowing how it makes you feel is important. 

There is so much that we can learn about ourselves by the music we enjoy, the pictures we take, the food we cook, and the way in how we share these experiences with our world. 

Developing a keen sense into what you enjoy and why you enjoy it will not only promote a greater understanding of the self but you will also have a deeper understanding into areas of you that your partner fell in love with. 

I think we often get swept up in keeping up with the …… (insert your play on this here) and we forget all the little and big things that bring us joy and make you, well…you! If you have ever heard a song or watched a movie that you proclaimed “I use to LOVE this song/movie!” Then you know a little of what I am talking about. 

I encourage you to keep chasing after those passions that may even feel a little juvenile to you now with the chores, employment, family, and general life obligations. The thing is, this passion is still inside of you. Maybe playing guitar for that punk band in high school didn’t end up in a successful music career – but the art of playing guitar, appreciating music, and the drive to be better (or even the best) at whatever it was you were in love with at that time is still a part of who you are. Let that side of you show more and encourage yourself to grow in these areas as it ultimately created a big part of who you are today. 

Set Aside Time For Self-Care

I know you have heard this probably a million times (no exaggeration), but self-care is one of the BEST and MOST IMPORTANT things you can do for you and your relationship. Setting time aside to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually will help set you and your relationship up for success.  

It’s easy to say “yeah, yeah, I get it…self-care, I got it – thanks!” It’s a lot harder to follow through with it and meet yourself where you need it the most. If you are finding yourself needing a little emotional vacay, check out: Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart.

Self-care may be a habitual event for you – like drinking coffee and having quiet time before the family wakes up. Or it might be a little less traditional and change week to week. Whatever your body, heart, and mind are telling you, be sure to listen. Your ability to take care of yourself ultimately affects your ability to take care of others. 

If you find yourself getting irritable, depressed, angry, stressed-out, overwhelmed, or even just complacent – that’s your cue that it’s time for a little me time

Self-care doesn’t mean that you have to spend time alone. Self-care is different for everyone and if that means a weekend (or couple hours) to yourself, awesome. And if it means something entirely different, that’s great too. 

Here’s to YOU and the awesome individual you are in and out of your relationship. 

Xo, 
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.

Let’s  Talk

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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Why Constructive Conflict is Vital to Every Relationship

Having conflict in a relationship is often viewed as a negative thing. In reality, having disagreements is not just inevitable — successfully working through differences is what leads to health and growth in a relationship. Constructive conflict allows you to talk about the most important things, and find positive resolution for both of you. 

Literally, all couples will have different expectations, preferences or hopes around certain things. This causes friction, AND this is normal and expected — not a sign that there is anything wrong with your relationship.

The Difference Between Constructive Conflict and DEstructive Conflict

DE-structive conflict occurs (ironically) when people try to avoid conflict, and let things build up to the point where they’re angry, hurt, or explosively reactive. Generally, this happens between two people who love each other, don’t want to rock the boat, or who don’t know how to talk about their feelings in the moment. 

They tend to NOT engage in conflict until their feelings build up to the point that they are feeling really hurt, resentful or angry. Then they lash out or act out in ways that lead to unproductive conflict that often makes things worse instead of better.

Learning the keys to constructive conflict can help you avoid this.

Learning How to Talk Through Differences Constructively and Compassionately

The first key of constructive conflict is changing your internal beliefs about what “conflict” is. Try this on for size: 

  1. Conflict is NORMAL: Two people will of course have differences of opinion, different needs, different expectations or different wants. All “conflict” is, is discussing those things openly for the purpose of finding compromise and solutions. That’s all! 
  2. Constructive Conflict is GOOD: Talking through differences constructively will not just resolve the issues, these conversations are the vehicle for partners to understand each other more deeply, strengthen their bond, and develop a more satisfying and functional relationship for both people. In this way, “conflict” (at least, constructive conflict) leads to deeper connection.
  3. Not Addressing Conflict is BAD: In contrast, couples who don’t talk through problems openly and honestly will instead often begin to ruminate about unresolved issues, feel increasingly resentful, and feel more hopeless about the relationship itself. Particularly when people have negative beliefs about “conflict,” they may find it difficult to explicitly express moments when they feel hurt, disappointed, or frustrated. Instead, they stuff their feelings, don’t talk about it… and then it festers like an infected wound.
  4. Avoiding Conflict Damages Your Relationship: When “festering” happens, people become reactive. They are walking around feeling low-grade annoyed and resentful much of the time, and when they have a new (even fairly neutral) interaction with their partner, the anger and hurt feelings they’ve been holding on to often come out sideways. People will be snappy, critical, snarky, or cold.
  5. Avoiding Conflict Creates a Toxic Dynamic: Often the reactions seem out of proportion to the current situation because they are the buildup of unresolved feelings that are (ironically) created by attempting to avoid conflict in the first place. But — here’s the hard part — because in their partner’s eyes they’re behaving jerkily, without obvious cause, their partner will react negatively to them. That’s when an actual fight starts.

Avoiding Conflict Perpetuates Problems

Couples who are not able to learn how to communicate with each other and talk through problems constructively will often have repeated nasty feeling fights about the same issues over and over again. Arguments that never end in increased understanding or positive change, but rather partners feeling increasingly distant and alone. Over time, this rots a relationship from the inside out. 

Couples who have been bashing at each other unsuccessfully for years will get to a point where they don’t fight anymore. That’s when couples are on the brink of divorce: They’ve stopped engaging with each other because they have given up believing that change is possible for their relationship. They are emotionally withdrawing from the relationship. It’s only a matter of time before it ends. 

There Are a Number of Crucial Conversations that Every Couple Should Have

On an ongoing basis as the relationship and life circumstances continue to evolve “going there,” and talking about points of potential conflict as soon as you and your partner feel out of alignment with each other will help you both get back on track, understand each other’s perspective, find solutions, and build bridges to the center. These conversations don’t just solve problems and reduce conflict; they are the engine of growth for a relationship. 

Talking About Expectations in a Relationship

Couples (hopefully!) come from different families. Every family has a culture; a way of doing things, and a set of unspoken expectations about what “should” happen that is transmitted to their children — sometimes explicitly, but often not. When two people come together to form a new family they each carry with them a set of subconscious beliefs about what their partner should be doing or not doing as they build their life together. 

These expectations will often lead to conflict sooner or later, as each partner does what feels normal to them — unintentionally ruffling the feathers of their spouse. This is especially true for partners whose families differed in the way that love was shown or the way that people communicated. It’s critical that partners have self-awareness about their own beliefs, and understand that their expectations are simply a byproduct of their own family of origin experience, not necessarily “correct.” 

Being able to talk through their beliefs openly and honestly can help a couple understand each other’s perspective, gain empathy for why the other person behaves the way they do, and find ways of meeting each partner’s needs. Ideally, in doing so, they explicitly create a new family culture together; one that they both feel good about.

Talking About The Way You Talk

Couples will always have to talk about the way they talk to each other. As described above, when people don’t know how to lean into hard conversations constructively, negativity in a relationship increases. Then, when topics do come to a head, there is often a lot of negative energy around them. People then begin fighting with each other about the way they’re communicating, rather than about the problem itself. Learning how to stay calm and listen non-defensively is a core skill that is often hard-won for many couples. 

Furthermore, because people come from different places, they carry with them different expectations about how to communicate. One partner may be more conflict-averse, believing that “if we’re not fighting we are okay.” They may seem distant and uncommunicative to their partner, which is problematic. Another person may come from a high conflict family with an aggressive communication style, and their “normal” may be perceived as threatening or hostile. Still others may come from families where things are not addressed directly, but rather through behaviors. They may feel very frustrated when their partner is “not understanding them” when they are, in fact, not actually saying how they feel, or what they need out loud.

The variations of these differences are endless. But without an open discussion of them, and a willingness to learn new skills and bend in each other’s direction, these types of communication issues can cripple a relationship. 

Talking About Teamwork

When you’re dating, and in the early stages of a romantic relationship, your connection centers around being companions and finding novel ways to have a good time. As you enter into a committed partnership and begin building a life together, each partner needs to be putting time, energy, and work in creating and maintaining that life. 

As we all know, “adulting” is actually a lot of work: Jobs must be worked, homes must be cleaned, meals must be prepared, finances must be managed, yards and cars must be maintained. Throw a few kids and pets into the mix, and very quickly, life becomes a lot of care-taking.

All couples will encounter bumps in the road as their partnership evolves into one of increasing responsibility due to each of their expectations about what should be happening. Frequently one partner will begin to feel that their shared responsibilities are out of balance and that their partner is not contributing enough or in the way that they would like them to. [More on this: How to Create a More Egalitarian Partnership] Sometimes this is as a result of subconscious family of origin expectations or gendered roles that overly burden one partner (often the female, in heterosexual relationships).

This is not bad; it’s normal. All it means is that conversations are required to discuss how you’re each feeling, create new agreements, and find new routines that work for both of you. When this happens, and both people step up and follow through, balance and harmony are regained.

Leaning Into The Three “Touchy” Topics of All Relationships

How to Talk About MONEY

Most couples have conflict about money, sooner or later. This too is inevitable; money means very different things to different people. Each individual in a couple has a different relationship with money, different approaches to handling it, and different expectations about what should be done with it. In nearly all relationships, one person will have a more conservative approach to money (the “saver”), and the other person will be a bit more liberal (the “spender.”)

Again this is completely normal. All couples need to build a bridge to the center and create agreements around what “we” are doing with money that feel good for both partners. Many couples clash and fight about this topic, which is simply a sign that they’ve not yet come to agreements and learned how to work together as financial partners. Having constructive conflict where they each feel heard and understood by the other allows them to create a shared vision for their financial lives, as well as a plan for how to work together financially to achieve their goals. 

How to Talk About SEX 

Sexuality is another emotionally charged topic for many couples. Over the course of a long term partnership, most couples will experience ebbs and flows in their sex life. Sometimes people become disconnected sexually when they have a lot of unresolved conflict in their relationship, or their emotional needs are not being met by their partner. This is especially true for women. Other times, life circumstances such as job stress or having children make it difficult for partners to have the time and energy for a healthy sex life. 

While it’s normal for all couples to go through a “dry spell,” losing your sexual relationship can start to erode the foundation of what makes you a couple (rather than roommates, or friends). Because sexuality can be so strongly linked to attachment needs, body image, and self-esteem issues, people are often hurt or angered by the experiences they have (or don’t have!) with each other sexually. Conversations about this topic can feel extremely tense, uncomfortable, and even hurtful. Many couples find this subject more comfortable to avoid than to address, but avoiding it only leads to increasing distance.

It’s vital for couples to talk with each other about how they are feeling about their sex life so that they can reconnect with each other in the bedroom. Over the course of a long-term relationship, as the road of life twists and turns, this conversation may need to happen over and over again as you both evolve physically and as your family structure changes.

How to Talk About PARENTING

The parenting of children is another area in which couples will always have differences that need to be addressed and agreed upon. This is largely due to our family of origin experiences; we all subconsciously parent the way we were parented. (Or we parent as a conscious decision to NOT parent the way we were parented if coming from a patently abusive or neglectful background). 

There is a spectrum of approaches to parenting that range from more authoritarian to more easygoing. The problem is that couples may have highly negative reactions to the way the other person is interacting with or caring for their shared children if things are happening that are different from the way they think parenting “should” be. This is also an extremely triggering topic for people because of the deep love they have for their kids. When they see their partner doing (or not doing) something that they view as having a negative impact on the children, it’s completely understandable that people get emotional. 

The path to resolution is being able to respectfully talk through each of your feelings, perspectives, and preferences and find ways of parenting together that feel good (enough) for both of you. Remembering that there is no “right” way to parent is often extremely helpful for couples attempting to find unity in this area. 

Remember, addressing conflict openly, authentically, and compassionately IS The Path to a strong healthy relationship. (NOT the symptom of a problem!)

Differences are normal and expected. After all, you’re not marrying your clone! Getting married is an event. Becoming married is a process. All couples need to have a series of conversations as they do the work of coming together and creating agreements for how they communicate, how they show each other love and respect, how they work together as a team, manage money, and parent children. These conversations are critical, not just to resolve problems, but to grow together as a couple. Healthy, productive conflict is absolutely necessary for couples to flourish. Lean in!

All the best to you both,
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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Are you completely frustrated with online dating?

Have you been wasting time on endless messaging that goes nowhere? Are you going out with people who look good on paper, but feel “meh” in person? Do you meet promising people only to have them vanish on you? It can be hard to keep up your hope that online dating actually works, and that you are ever going to connect with the love of your life.

There is a reason why dating coaches and dating consultants are popping up online like mushrooms after a rain: Modern dating is challenging. Lots of people are hating dating, but gritting their teeth and doing it anyway in hopes of finding love.

Here is some free dating advice that could change everything for you:

Believe it or not, there is ONE thing that you can do that will give you a huge advantage over everyone else out there dating. One mindset, one strategy, that can make you addictively attractive to everyone you meet, infuse your first dates with exciting energy, and captivate the attention of your ideal partner.

Even better? The byproduct of this novel “dating” strategy is going to be a happier, healthier, more genuinely satisfied YOU — no matter what is going on in your love life. Not only will dating start to feel productive, but you’ll also enjoy it more. Read my latest article on the Match.com blog to get the unusual dating tip that will make dating fun again, and make YOU the unicorn that everyone is looking for…

xoxo,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Denver Marriage Counselor Denver Life Coach Denver Therapist

Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, BCC

"Hi, I'm Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. For over a decade, I've been helping people all over the world create Love, Happiness and Success in their lives through positive, compassionate and effective Marriage Counseling, Therapy and Life Coaching. I'm so pleased to be able to help you, too. There is help for you here, and I'm glad you've found us.

This website is devoted to your wellbeing, and offers loads of free information and actionable advice that you can start using today to create positive change in your life. Browse around to meet our experts, get free advice on our blog, listen to a podcast, or take our "How Healthy is Your Relationship" quiz. Or, if the time is right, you can schedule a free consultation with any of us to talk about your situation -- and, most importantly -- your hopes for your future." -- Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

We Are Personal Growth Experts

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Hunter Tolman, M.S., MFT-C

“Hello, I’m Hunter Tolman and I’m excited to partner with you in your journey towards a happier and more fulfilling life.

My passion is helping people just like you reach their highest potential both individually, and in their most important relationships. 

Whether we work together in couples counseling, family therapy, individual therapy, or life coaching, my focus will be understanding your deepest desires for your marriage, your family, and yourself so that I can help you create your most gratifying life. Our work can help you heal, gain understanding and compassion for yourself and others, and live with intention.” 

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Amanda Shaeffer, M.S., MFT-C

“Hi, I’m Amanda. I can help you understand yourself more deeply so that you can become empowered to make positive changes in yourself, and your relationships.

I became a therapist, life coach and marriage counselor after a career as an educator, and I believe I still have the heart of a teacher. My approach emphasizes learning and practicing new skills, so that you're not just talking about change — you're living it.

I'm available to meet with you for therapy, marriage counseling and coaching in Denver, Broomfield, and also online."

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Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT

“Hi, I’m Brenda. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach with almost twenty years of experience in helping my clients strengthen themselves and their marriages.

I use positive and effective individual counseling, for both adults and teenagers, marriage counselingpremarital counselinglife coaching, and dating coaching. I am here to help you enjoy your relationships with your partner; recover from depression and anxiety be able to live a more fulfilling life and cultivate meaning, joy, and love in your life.” 

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Anastacia Sams, M.A., LPC, MFTC

“Hi, I’m Anastacia. I'm a Couples Counselor, Colorado-Licensed Therapist, and Life Coach with years of experience in helping people heal and grow. My approach is holistic, and helps you connect your mind, body and spirit. My compassionate, non-judgmental way of being will help you feel understood, and safe enough to talk about the most vulnerable things.

Whether you're struggling with hard feelings, coping with a breakup, or facing a big life transition, I can help you move confidently and authentically forward into a joyful and satisfying new future. I'm available to meet with you in our Denver Colorado office and our Denver Tech Center office,  as well as through online video."

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Lisa Jordan, M.A., LCPC

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I use a blend of thoughtful, insightful counseling and strategic, solution-focused coaching to get you unstuck and moving forward again. I am licensed as a therapist in Illinois, and available to meet with you online."

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Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC

"I'm Silas, a therapist, life coach and couples counselor with Growing Self. I've had my therapy and coaching clients share that my down-to-earth style and sense of humor help them feel comfortable, and like they can talk about anything with me.

If we work together, I'll help you understand yourself more deeply so that you can heal, grow, and make positive changes. I'm available to meet with you for therapy in Broomfield, Colorado and for online life coaching.

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Georgi Chizk, M.S., MFTC

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I am available to meet with you for therapy or marriage counseling in Bentonville, Arkansas. If you are a resident of Arkansas, I'm able to meet with you for online therapy or online marriage counseling."

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Tomauro Veasley, M.A., MFTC

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I am available for online therapy if you live in Tennessee, but I work with people across the US and internationally as a life coach online."

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