Boundaries in Relationships

Boundaries in Relationships

SETTING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

Relationships, by definition, include two people. But sadly, there are times when people forget to take care of themselves because they prioritize others so much. They may slowly feel exhausted and lost, and this affects the energy in their relationships. However, you can prevent this from happening by learning how boundaries in relationships can be beneficial.

In this interview with Denver Therapist and boundary expert, Kathleen Stutts we discuss the significance of building healthy boundaries in your relationships. Kathleen gives us her thoughts on how to maintain lasting relationships with others while respecting yourself. She also talks about the different signs of having poor boundaries in relationships.

Listen to the full episode to know how to set healthy boundaries in your relationships!

In This Episode: Boundaries in Relationships. . .

  • Learn the importance of having healthy boundaries in your relationships.
  • Learn the common misconceptions and fears about building boundaries.
  • Understand why it's difficult for you to develop your boundaries.
  • Know how you can help the people you care about while taking care of yourself.
  • Know the different signs that you're in an unhealthy relationship.
  • See examples of healthy boundaries in relationships.
  • Discover how to handle people who disrespect your boundaries.

Episode Highlights

What Are Boundaries?

For Kathleen, setting up boundaries is a “healthy and clear understanding of what you need to do to take care of yourself, what you're in control of and what you're not in control of.”

There are a lot of misconceptions about boundaries. Usually, people associate them with conflict or relationship barriers. However, it's the complete opposite, as boundaries nurture and protect relationships.

Many people are afraid of setting up boundaries in their relationships. Here are two reasons why:

These fears push people not to build boundaries in their relationships. However, they are just products of misconceptions of these limits. 

Why You Need Healthy Boundaries in Your Relationships

We need to develop healthy boundaries in our relationships to honor and respect ourselves

To be a good and decent person means having boundaries in your relationships. When there are no boundaries in your relationship, you're just stretching yourself thin. You'll end up burned out and exhausted.

When we become assertive and build boundaries, we reach a compromise with people. For Kathleen, letting your foot down means “we're taking care of ourselves while respecting other people.”

Being a people pleaser and taking other's responsibility as your own will only leave you exhausted. You'll always feel anxious maintaining that sense of harmony within your relationship, even at the cost of your stability. 

Kathleen reminds us that it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. We must take care of the things we can directly control and let go of the things that we cannot. 

Examples of Setting Boundaries in Relationships

It is difficult to see someone you care about getting hurt or having a hard time. However, it does not mean that you should shoulder their responsibilities or that you owe them. Remember that a healthy and loving relationship and setting your boundaries aren't mutually exclusive. 

Kathleen tells us that “It feels bad to see someone hurting if you're a good, kind person and you have empathy, but acting on that is not always the right or nice thing to do.”

In moments like this, you can do the following:

You can Show Them Support. Instead of owning what someone else is going through, you can instead let them know they're not alone. You can be supportive while establishing your boundaries in that moment.

Offer Help. Offering help if you feel they need it, is always on the table. However, only commit to assistance you can provide. Keep in mind that you also have boundaries to keep.

By being transparent with your limitations, you can help and support the people you care about while also taking care of yourself. Just as Kathleen says, “The beautiful thing about boundaries is that it is not really requesting something of somebody, it is letting them know what to expect from you.”

Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries

Boundaries must be present in your relationship, and it goes both ways. You must know the limits of your boundaries, and the person in your relationship must realize their boundaries as well.

Here are the common signs that you have unhealthy relationship boundaries:

You're taking other's responsibility as your own. 

When people you care about have a hard time, you step in and do everything for them. This action is a sign that you have unhealthy boundaries in your relationship because you're taking the opportunity from them to learn and grow.

Kathleen adds that “When we try to rescue people from them, we're taking away, we're violating some of their rights—their right to feel bad.”

Others don't respect your boundaries.

You must be aware if another person is always stepping on or over your boundaries. It's okay to follow through with your limits and let others know what they're doing wrong.

You need boundaries to establish what is and isn't good or okay for you. You can't brush off instances like these when your boundaries are disrespected or overlooked, they'll only get more frequent and hurt more in the end.

You might not speak up because you're afraid of conflict and/or making people uncomfortable.

When people have wronged you or have stepped on your boundaries, you should let them know right away. Keeping silent about what you feel will only make things worse. You and your relationship will suffer.

Remember that setting up boundaries does not mean conflict. You must steer away from this common misconception. 

What to Do When Someone Crosses a Line

However, there would be times when people would disregard your boundaries. You must be wary of these instances, especially if they happen more than once. If it happens almost always, then you might be in a toxic relationship.

Here are the things you can do when such situations happen:

  • Let them know that they're disrespecting your boundaries.
  • Show them there are consequences to crossing your boundaries.
  • Reach a compromise. 
  • If following through with limitations or the situation is too much, consider working with a coach or a therapist.  

Building Healthy Boundaries: Where to Start?

Kathleen has helped many of her clients build healthy relationship boundariesLearning how to create boundaries is a process. You cannot impose them in your relationships, especially if you were unaware of their importance. 

Luckily, Kathleen shared some of the things you have to consider in learning how to build healthy boundaries. Here are some of them:

Understand why you're feeling this way. Have some time to reflect and ask yourself why you're feeling anxious, exhausted, or inadequate.

Here are some of the questions that may guide you in your introspection:

  • Why do I feel this way?
  • Why do I struggle with standing up for myself?
  • Why am I feeling bitter, resentful, or angry?
  • What makes me exhausted and burned out?

Develop a sense of self-compassion. For Kathleen, this means stepping back and looking at the whole picture while being compassionate with yourself.

By seeing the bigger picture, you learn why building boundaries in your relationship is complicated. It may be because this is how the people in your life taught you to treat your limits. 

Learn how to self-validate. Once you know why you have difficulty building boundaries, you must remind yourself that what you're feeling is okay and valid. 

By learning these things, you get to shift your perspectives, seeing relationships and boundaries in a new light. Hopefully, you can start standing up for yourself and make healthy boundaries slowly. 

In the end, for Kathleen, building boundaries means being authentic. “That means that we're opening up the opportunity to have intimacy and closeness with that person.”, Kathleen says. 

Sometimes we avoid building boundaries for many reasons, but you're developing deeper and meaningful relationships by having limits. 

Resources

Kathleen Stutts has shared with us the importance of building healthy boundaries in your relationships. What are the things you picked up in this interview? How did this interview change your perspective on building boundaries? Don't hesitate to share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.

Did you like this interview? Subscribe to us now to discover how to live a life full of love, success, and happiness! 

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Boundaries in Relationships

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: edapollo, “Relearn Me”

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

[Relearn Me by edapollo ft. Akacia plays] 

That was the song Relearn Me by edapollo. I'm not quite sure how to pronounce it. But the song is gorgeous. And it's the perfect, I thought, introduction to our topic today because today we are going to be talking about how to create and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships. And I know that this is a topic of great importance because we hear about it all the time from our therapy and coaching clients. Here at Growing Self, a lot of people are working on this. And we've also had so many listener questions come through on Instagram, Facebook, on the blog at growingself.com around how to establish healthy boundaries in a way that allows you to have positive, high-quality relationships and maintain really good connections with others. 

That is where we're going on today's episode of the podcast. And I am so pleased to include in our conversation today, my dear, dear friend and colleague at Growing Self, Kathleen Stutz. Kathleen and I have worked together for many years. And Kathleen is a true expert on the subject of healthy boundaries. She is a licensed professional counselor here. And she also does team training for us from time to time. And we have people from all over our group come and sit at Kathleen's feet to learn how it's done. And today, she is sharing her wisdom with you. So Kathleen, thank you so much for being here.

Kathleen Stutz: Hi, thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here. 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: I can't wait to talk with you about this topic of how to create healthy boundaries. I know that you frequently do this work with your clients. Again, you train others around this. But I can also attest to somebody who has had a personal relationship with you for many years, that you live it.

Kathleen Stutz: Thank you. Thanks very much. I take that as a very, very good compliment. That means a lot to me. 

Dr.Lisa: It's good. You really—you're like a role model for me. I'm like, “I wish I could be more like Kathleen.” Because you have so much clarity around what you can do, what you can't do. And when you say no to me, like I feel happy anyway. There's something about the way you say it.

Kathleen: Definitely one of my passion topics, a topic I'm passionate about. And I love to talk about it. So I'm happy to be here. 

Define Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: That's wonderful. Well, what do you say we just, we take it from the top? Because I think sometimes just the term boundaries gets thrown around all over the place to mean all kinds of things. So from your perspective, what do boundaries mean? What is a boundary in the sense of, you know, what we do? Because sometimes, like an aside, sometimes I think people use the word boundaries. It's like telling people—telling other people what to do can be a boundary, or like, yeah. Like don't say this to me, it could be like a boundary. But what do you think of as being like a boundary? A reasonable boundary? Right.

Kathleen: Right. You're so right. I can't tell you how often I hear professionally, but personally, too, people have so many different, either negative associations with boundaries about you know that’s a barrier. It means that something is wrong. It means conflict, or just complete, you know, they come by it, honestly. But just misunderstandings about what boundaries are. So, to me, a boundary is, it's this healthy and clear understanding of what you need to do to take care of yourself, what you're in control of, and what you're not in control of. 

It’s just this healthy, clear understanding of the things that I can empower myself around versus the things I need to practice radical acceptance around or letting go of. So having that understanding between you and any person in your life, in any situation. I know that sounds very abstract, right? But that's because we can use boundaries and we can assert boundaries in so many different ways, in different situations. And they do change and flux in different relationships as needed. Right? So we can get into the details of it more. But from a starting point, that's sort of the general way that I think about boundaries. 

Boundary Issues

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Thank you for clarifying that. Yeah okay. So then, let's start with this other question. Why do you think so many people, particularly women, but many men too, really struggle to have that clarity that you describe? Then also communicate that effectively to others that just the whole thing feels incredibly—to people? Why? Why is that so hard?

Kathleen: I think it's because, and I'm going to say we because I think this is a human experience, you know? I think it's because we're afraid of losing people, honestly. And whenever I talk with people about what is so scary about boundaries, that's always where they go. Now ultimately, “I'm afraid people won't like me.” “I'm afraid it's going to cause an argument” or “I'll lose that relationship.” 

Because we are wired to attach and we need people as the social creatures that we are, I think the fear of putting those relationships at risk is what underlies the fear of setting boundaries and being assertive. Because there are misconceptions around what boundaries are, what assertiveness is, and what it can do for us. People think that it is a threat to those relationships rather than something that protects them, which I think is a misunderstanding—an unfortunate misunderstanding. But ultimately, that fear of losing people I think, is really what makes it scary. 

Dr. Lisa: That is so insightful. There's almost a subconscious thing. It's if I say no, or if I ask for what I need, it's going to damage my relationship with you. You're saying that is a misunderstanding. This actually brings me to another question. So one of the things that I loved so much, I love so many things about your team training that you did with us on this topic. But you had this saying in your presentation, which is that “Good, decent people set boundaries.”You have this as like a concept. And I wanted to ask you, why do you think it's so important to teach people, to teach our clients that good people set boundaries? 

Kathleen: Wow. Because one of the misunderstandings that's so prevalent around assertiveness and boundary setting is that it is aggressive, or mean, or even overly confident, or bully-ish and that you don't set boundaries, if you're nice. Or you can't be nice to people and be liked by people, and be assertive. I think what's happening there is that there's a confusion between assertiveness and aggressiveness. You know, you mentioned earlier people using the idea of boundaries is telling people, “You can't do that to me”, or “You can't say that to me.” That's not that's not really assertiveness. That's a little bit of bullying, actually. And so, I think, all of the confusion between assertiveness and aggressiveness leads to the idea that you can't be nice and set boundaries, which just simply isn't true. And as a matter of fact, to be nice, I think you really even need to set boundaries. Right? 

If I'm not setting boundaries, I'm going to grow and I think we're all good. I'm sure many people have experienced this personally. We grow tired, we get burnt out, we grow resentful. This can be in our personal lives, in our professional lives. We're not very nice, and we don't show up as our best selves. We don't have anything left to give the people that that we do care about. Right? So I think that the misunderstanding, or the confusion between assertiveness and aggression is the underlying cause there. But that in fact, to be nice, we actually need to set boundaries. 

Setting Boundaries in Relationships

Dr. Lisa: Oh, I love the way you say that. Like you're not doing anybody any favors by not setting boundaries. That really when you don't set boundaries, it's impossible to show up as I mean—I hate to use this phrase but this is what's coming to mind—but as like your best self in relationships because you're going to be exhausted, and resentful, and depleted, if you're not able to know what your limits are and communicate those. So that's part of having positive healthy relationships is actually being good at boundaries. Those two things go together. 

Kathleen: Yes. As a matter of fact, right? What can happen is if we are—if we tend to be people pleasers, and have anxiety in our relationships around that. Say around how our relationships are going, being liked by people, making sure there's no conflict, that there's always harmony, that we’re in a good space. If you find yourself feeling worried or anxious about that, and not saying “no,” or setting boundaries, because of that, what that actually tends to lead toward are the very, very fears and problems in those relationships that we're so scared of happening. Right? It kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Personal Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: Oh. Yeah, I can see that. Well, and another theme that I'm hearing as we're talking is this concept of assertiveness. We could probably talk about assertiveness versus aggressiveness. But first, you've used that word a lot. What do you mean by assertive? 

Kathleen: We are assertive when we treat ourselves with respect, when we respect our basic human rights and means, while also respecting the rights and needs of others. When we do that, we're being assertive. We're also opening up the opportunity to have clear and open communication, and compromise, and negotiation with the other person on how we can achieve that win-win where we can both be treated with respect and both take care of ourselves in that situation. But in a nutshell, assertiveness is when we're taking care of ourselves while respecting other people.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Kathleen: Aggression, on the other hand, is when we are taking care of ourselves while not respecting the basic rights, or needs, or boundary of the other people in this situation. 

Dr. Lisa: That makes so much sense. I've never thought about it that way. That the core aggression is taking care of you without thinking about the person on the other end of it. 

Kathleen: Yes. On the other end of that spectrum, when we're being passive, when we're taking care of others and putting their needs first to the detriment or neglect of our own. Right? So we kind of end up with this sort of continuum here. With passive on one end, aggressive on the far other end. Assertiveness is that sweet spot—that balance right in the middle, where we can say, “I'm okay and you're okay”, and hold space for each other's feelings and needs, knowing that we're each responsible for ourselves. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Oh, and I'm glad that you just use that word—that responsibility—because I'm hearing that to be assertive, it requires a high degree of like, self-awareness, respect for self, respect for others. There's like this responsibility component. Whereas, I kind of got this sense when you were talking about the passive perspective that it's people like, and well-intentioned, like really legitimately doing what they feel is best and trying to prioritize relationships. Maybe you're trying to be the “nice person”, but they're in some ways, like, by over giving or not having almost like having more respect for other people than themselves. There's like this abdication of responsibility a little bit. Have you found that? Yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely.. It is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. Just that in itself is a new way of looking at things, I think sometimes. But absolutely. It's kind of like, if you're at work for example, and you try to do everything, you know? You try to do everything all at once, and you try to do everyone's job because you want to be really great at what you do, you end up not doing some of the basic things you really need to to get to, or a lot of things fall through the cracks. Right? Because we can't do it all. In fact, and this analogy, taking care of other people's basic needs and rights is not really your responsibility. Because it's not really in your control and it's not realistic. So trying to do it means that while you might have the best of intentions, you end up neglecting this core sort of foundational responsibility over here, which is you. That is in your control. Right? With the best of intentions. With that really important piece that sort of the foundation of the rest of your life gets neglected. 

Personal Boundaries Examples

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Well tell us more about the emotional experience of having that kind of, to use your word passive orientation—because I think that people who sort of leaned toward the aggressive end of the continuum are probably not the ones listening to this podcast. Except to that, I mean I have seen this as a therapist and as a coach, that sometimes people who have a really passive orientation can get to a certain point where they become aggressive.They kind of swing back and forth a little bit. 

For the benefit of somebody listening to this podcast, and trying to figure out where they are on that continuum. I mean, what have you heard your clients say that maybe come to you for help with boundaries? With who, or without maybe even realizing it, doing a lot of the things that keep them stuck on that passive end of the spectrum? I mean, like, what does that feel like? But also, what do you see them doing that is unintentionally creating that situation that… before they have the benefit of working with you, Kathleen, to get to get much better at this. But like, where is the starting point? 

Kathleen: Let me say that I can answer this question from a personal space. Right? Because the reason I'm so passionate about boundaries is because I don't always—I don't—I'd love to say that, “Yeah, this is what it's like.” Every, all the wonderful compliments you gave me at the beginning of our talk. But I'm always working on boundaries. I don't always set the best boundaries. And I've been a people pleaser, and can be a people pleaser. Right? So I… this is important to me. And I like to help people with it because I'd like to think I have some empathy around what it's like. Right? So whether it's from a personal place, or what clients have shared what, what family members have shared, friends, right? 

I think that being in that passive place where we're not taking care of ourselves feels really exhausting, and it feels really anxious. Anxiety comes to mind a lot because we're scrambling around trying to manage things that we don't have control over, trying to prevent the outcomes that we're so afraid of happening. So anxiety comes up a lot, and exhaustion and inadequacy. If I had to pick three big feeling words, those would be the three. Right? Because never enough, never good enough. Again, because we're trying to do the impossible, quite frankly. Right? So I think that's how people feel. 

To give you a short answer, there are a lot of emotions in that: guilt, shame, resentment, and anger as well. Because what we're doing, what it looks like, is now saying yes when you really need to say no. Stretching yourself too thin and taking on too much. I think a lot of those things that we might think of off the top of our heads when we think about people pleasing. Also, it looks like reading every little nonverbal cue, and your significant other when you think they might be in a bad mood and thinking, “Oh, no, that's not okay. I need to fix that.” Or keeping a long to-do list and beating yourself up at the end of the day because you didn’t manage to get enough things done. Aso help your neighbor, and your best friend, and run your parents’ errands for them. You’d do everything on your list to be that, be that exceptionally functioning person helps everybody right. 

Dr. Lisa: And showers.

Kathleen: And showers. Yeah, yeah. It also looks like I'm not speaking up too. Right? Not being so scared of having direct communication because you're so afraid of conflict, or making, or someone else feeling uncomfortable or unhappy, possibly with you that we don't speak up. We stay silent. We stuff our feelings and sweep things under the rug. Those are just a few examples that I think a lot of people can relate to. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. No, definitely. I can certainly relate to the part abou—I think the guilt is always what gets me. That, like, I could do it? If I rearranged some of my personal priorities, I could do this for you, and therefore I should. Yeah.

Kathleen: Oh, that's a great example. 

Dr. Lisa: That's my Achilles heel, for sure. Okay, so—oh, you're about to say something? 

Kathleen: Oh, just just that's such a great example. Just because we can do something doesn't mean that we should. I think that even that idea that “I could,” even if it means, right, that I'm not taking care of myself, or I'm going to have these negative consequences as a result, but I could. I could do it so therefore, I should. I think, right, is one of those not necessarily accurate beliefs that a lot of us hold. Isn't it also connected to the idea that if somebody else needs us, needs help, is unhappy with us, or even just experiencing any kind of negative or uncomfortable emotion? That sort of trumps up most other things. Isn't that something that I think is sort of in the background, as a belief, or a feeling even? When we want to people please, when we feel guilty? 

Boundary Violations in A Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. I'm hearing in what you just said. It occurred to me a couple of minutes ago, when you're talking about the anxiety component of that passive orientation. There's some kind of relationship here with codependence and having trouble setting boundaries. I think I'm hearing this. Is that true? 

Kathleen: Oh, sure. Yeah. I mean, codependency is another one of those terms that is misunderstood. Sometimes. That makes sense because it is a broad term that can refer to a lot of different things. Totally non-scientific, by the way. Codependence is nowhere in the DSM. It's a self help term, I guess. But I find it helpful to simplify it and think of codependency as a lack of healthy, clear boundaries in your relationships. So definitely, right?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Kathleen: I think, for me, I literally define codependency as a boundary issue. 

Healthy Relationship Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: Well, it really is. It's that, you know, “Where do I stop and you start?” That “What is my responsibility and what is your responsibility?” “Can I function independently, even if…” like going back to your point just a minute ago, “even if you're upset, and not feeling good?” or, “Is that maybe not actually my problem to solve?” Yeah.

Kathleen: Right, absolutely. There are all these beliefs that we sort of take for granted that are at the root of codependency, of not having clear boundaries. That your feelings are mine to solve, that having uncomfortable feelings is just catastrophic. We've got to do something about it. That if I can do something, I should do something. None of those are actually necessarily always true. This is the part I'm just thinking out loud here. This is the part in our conversation where I have this feeling that people are wondering, “Yeah. But that sounds pretty cold”, or, “How do you be there and support somebody that you care about? Aren't their feelings your responsibility if you care about them? Or shouldn't you care about their feelings?” Those kinds of questions. 

I think it's just a good time to say that you can care about someone—what they're feeling, what they're going through. If they're struggling, you can even show up for them and support them without taking ownership, or responsibility for their feelings or situation, while having clear healthy boundaries. That those things are not exclusive. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. What an important message. That you can care very much about how somebody is feeling, and even help them in healthy ways, but without taking on their problems as your own. That's huge.

Kathleen: Yeah. Look, I understand it's easier to talk about that than it is to do, as so many things are. 

Dr. Lisa: Right. 

Kathleen: Having healthy boundaries and being assertive while still caring for people and supporting them requires a lot of self-awareness, and mindfulness, and a lot of emotional regulation. To be able to feel your feelings and feel empathy, or concern, or worry, or for this person that's in your life from whomever they might be. Hold those feelings, carry them with you without them taking over, and sort of becoming the driver in the driver's seat. Feeling those feelings, but still showing up in your behavior in your words with assertiveness and healthy boundaries. 

How to Set Boundaries in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, as you brought up, Kathleen, very much easier to talk about this than it is to actually put it into practice. I mean, I know that the path of growth in this area is far beyond the scope of what can be learned through a podcast. Right? I mean, I know that you have worked as a therapist and as a coach, for, I mean, years sometimes with people who are really working to develop these skills. So I just want to say that to people listening, because sometimes I feel like I am all for self-help and kind of advice and sharing ideas. 

I think sometimes people feel like if they heard it, or like, “Oh, this is what Kathleen said. So I should be able to do this.” Like it was easy. I don't want anybody to feel badly if they can't just magically do these things that Kathleen is sharing. Okay, this is a growth process.

Kathleen, if you were to start with a client as either like a life coach, or a therapist who is really working specifically on boundaries, what would you imagine the arc of the work would look like with that person? Like what kinds of things would you guys be working on or talking about first? Then how would that evolve over time? Not that you have to talk through every moment of the growth process, everybody's different. But like, what are some of the starting places that you've experienced with clients? 

Kathleen: Gosh. I think that one of the starting places is probably because if we struggle with assertiveness, we tend to beat ourselves up, quite a bit. Right? Compassion—self-compassion is in short supply. So one of the starting points is really understanding, “Why do I feel this way?”, “Why do I struggle with standing up for myself?”, “Why am I feeling resentful, jealous, bitter, angry, burnt out, guilty?”, “Why am I feeling that, and where did I learn these kinds of… just this way of showing up in my relationships?” Because it's important, self-compassion is stepping back and looking at the whole context, considering the full picture. To see yourself as with compassion. Like, “I learned this stuff, this was passed on to me. I learned to think about relationships this way I learned, this is how I need to be for people to treat me well or to get my needs met. These are the sort of unspoken rules that were taught to me about being a nice person, or finding love.” Right? And so that's usually where we start. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, there's this whole exploration process of unpacking. Like, “how do I feel?” “Why do I feel this way?” “Where did these beliefs come from?” So there's just, like a whole, like self-discovery is the word that's coming to mind, in a very compassionate way. That “how do I make sense?”

Kathleen: Yeah, and self-validation too. Like these feelings make sense. It's okay—not only is it okay and valid—and I'm still a good person and a nice person. But it makes sense too. That I'm angry or resentful. Those are the big feelings that come up a lot when we aren't setting boundaries that we then have feelings about. Even so, it becomes this negative snowball. So a lot of validation. 

Also, a lot of—this is one of the other sort of starting areas because they kind of do overlap. Surprising—surprises, I guess I'll just call it surprises. People are often surprised to learn new perspectives on this. Like the idea that we can be nice and assertive, or that we need to be assertive in order to be nice. Just even that process of shifting your paradigm, your perspective, and looking at boundaries, and assertiveness, and relationships in new and different ways. It can become sort of this eye opening experience. And I think—I don't think—I have seen what a relief it can be. 

Emotional Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, these new ideas can be so liberating. I'm thinking of a moment in my own life, where I felt like I'd been struck by lightning. It was this idea. I think, probably from my work and becoming a therapist, potentially. But I think also supported by like, the whole Montessori, and we Montessori families are very much around this idea. But the idea of like, that somebody else's emotional experience, like a painful emotional experience, can actually be an incredibly positive thing. Because if they feel badly, then they become motivated to do their growth work, or healing, or learn, or change something. That if I am trying to like rescue, and fix, and make it better, and overstep, and whatever, that I'm actually depriving them of the opportunity to have that motivation and to have that kind of self-directed growth. Like if I take away their natural consequences. 

That idea totally changed my life. And I think, made it a lot easier for me to set boundaries, personally. Just going back to what you're saying. And I hadn't thought about that, until you just mentioned those surprises. And I'm sure that they're very different for different people. But that was a huge one. For me this idea that pain is positive. Yeah. That changed a lot of things for me. So you're saying in your work with clients, you help them kind of work through those old beliefs and find new ones that are liberating in similar ways? Maybe? 

Kathleen: Absolutely. And that is such a good one. Right?

Dr. Lisa: For me, yes. Yeah. 

Kathleen: Yeah, I think I've definitely had that in my own way. I had that moment too, where I came to that emotional understanding. Not just intellectual understanding of… those really difficult feelings are good. They can be good. They're definitely necessary. That when we try to rescue people from them, we’re taking away, we're violating some of their rights. Their right to feel bad. Go through that growth process. A good—what is this—a metaphor that I found at some point and love and use sometimes is that of the butterfly in the cocoon. I don't know if you've heard this one but… 

Dr. Lisa: I don't think so. Tell me.

Kathleen: Your cats have heard the story. They would like to tell us their thoughts on this, that is setting boundaries with them. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, how do you set boundaries with cats?

Kathleen: To be continued, right. But do you know, when a butterfly—when a caterpillar has changed into a butterfly and is ready to break free of its cocoon, it will struggle to sort of shed that cocoon, and break free, and fly away. If we were to stumble across that and say, “Oh, wow. That butterfly is struggling, it needs help. I'm going to rescue it. I'm going to help it because it feels good for me, and I'm going to do that.” We steal away from the butterfly, the opportunity to strengthen its wings through that natural process, that flow process, that challenging process. It won't be ready to fly and it will possibly not make it. Right? It's at risk, it’s vulnerable because it hasn't gone through those literal growing pains. Right?

Dr. Lisa: You're saying that that's like actually how the butterflies muscles develop is through that exercise of liberating itself from the chrysalis. I did not know that. But what a perfect metaphor. That if you're like, “Oh, I'll save you.” Then the butterfly then like, “Thanks!” And crashes to the ground. Right? 

Kathleen: Like yeah, right. It feels good to help. It feels good for us to help people. It feels bad to see someone's if you're a good kind person and you have empathy. But acting on that is not always the right or nice thing to do for others or possibly for yourself too. Yeah, so that’s a good example. 

Examples of Healthy Boundaries

Dr. Lisa: This is such an important idea. I also—just knowing my listeners that are very practical folks—we are, and if we don't talk about this, Kathleen, we're going to get questions asking us. Can you please give us some examples of healthy boundaries in action? What does this look like? We should talk about this now to just go ahead and get out of the way. 

Kathleen: All right. Well, let's start with this example that earlier that we're talking about just now, which is maybe seeing someone that we care about struggle. How do we care and support with healthy boundaries? That looks like—I'm just full of metaphors today but let's imagine that they're swimming, and I'm gonna get practical and real here in just a second. So let's imagine that they're swimming in choppy waters and struggling. If we jump in there with them, right? We might both go down. 

In that case, how would you support them? You might throw them a lifesaver, or perhaps they're, I don't know, swimming in a triathlon. You might stand on the sidelines and cheer them on, see if they need anything that you can give them. With that, having healthy boundaries might sound like, “I'm so sorry that you're going through this. I can see this is really difficult for you. I hate to see you in pain.” You know, empathy. “Is there anything I can do for you?”, “What can I do for you?” At that point, you may or may not be able to give that thing to them that they're asking for. That depends, and we—the assertiveness continues on from there—we can talk about that. How to say no assertively, and so forth. But supporting someone looks like, supporting them from the sidelines. 

Respecting Boundaries in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yes, and offering to help in the way that you can. But I'm also hearing like the next thing here. So that would be like one example of setting a boundary. But I think like what I hear a lot from my clients, and I'm sure you do too, ss this question around, “Well, I've set a boundary with someone and now they're doing the thing anyway.” So like, going back to your example, you say, “Yeah, let me know how I can help you, friend.” 

The friend doesn't maybe say this, but they do start calling you at 11 o'clock at night, sobbing hysterically, and wanting to tell you all about everything, and texting you like nine times a day, and being annoyed with you when you don't respond right back. Or asking you to do things that are actually starting to interfere with your life and ability. You're like, so I'm imagining Kathleen would say being appropriately assertive would be like, “You know? 11 is pretty late for me. I'm usually in bed at that time. I'm happy to talk with you when I'm free. Can I call you on the way home from work? Sometimes in the afternoon, I'm in the car anyway.” You have this nice conversation. And the next day, your phone rings at 11:30 at night. I thought, “What would Kathleen do?” Because that's the thing that I hear a lot about my clients is like, “Well, I told my mother-in-law to not talk to me that way anymore”, or “I told so-and-so to not do this.” I think people sometimes feel that setting that boundary is like requesting something of someone else. Then when that somebody doesn't do that something else then they're like, “what do I do?” 

Kathleen: That they’re still stuck and feeling helpless. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. So like, what's your take on that aspect of it? So like, “Please don't call me at 11.” 

Kathleen: Well. First of all, that was a great example—the way that you verbalize that was beautiful. Right? But they keep calling anyway. You got to, when that happens… the beautiful thing about boundaries is that it is not really requesting something of somebody. It is letting them know what to expect from you. This is what I'm going to do and this is what I'm not going to do. 

Dr. Lisa: There it is. 

Kathleen: Right? So if they're not respecting the initial boundary, and they continue to call you at 11:30. “I asked you not to call me that late because I'm usually in bed by then. I know that you're going through a really difficult time, I'm not able to talk at that time. Here are the—here's when I can support you, or I will call you during this time. If you keep calling me at 11:30, I’m gonna have to…” and then you can fill in the blank with a boundary that you feel you can follow through. 

I think that's really important with setting boundaries is that whatever you choose, it's something that you know, you can stick to. Whatever that is, wherever you are with that is okay. So maybe it's, “I'm gonna have to turn my phone off at night.” Or it may be something a little bit, let's say, more drastic. “I'm not going to be able to talk with you if you don't respect this boundary.” It depends on the person and the situation. If you have somebody who's really actually getting angry with you, and criticizing you because you didn't text back right away, or you're still not picking up the phone at 11:30, even when you asked them to call at that time. That's a pretty difficult situation. 

I just want to validate that if you're experiencing something like that, that's a pretty toxic relationship. Those are harder to be assertive in. It's giving you information. When someone doesn't respect your boundaries, it's giving you information about if that relationship is healthy for you. So I just want to context that.

Keeping Boundaries in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. No. That's good to say that. That's actually a sign of an unhealthy relationship is like when you say, “Please don't do this” or, “Please respect me in this area.” Somebody continues not just to do it, but gets upset with you for setting boundaries. Like, you should actually be paying attention to that is what I'm hearing, you say.

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. That's a red flag. To answer your question directly, we set boundaries. When they're not respected, we need to up the ante and set a boundary that's, if you want to call it a little further out, if you will. Let them know, not to be patronizing, but just as you would be disciplining a child, “If you don't do this, here's the next consequence.” So, “If you don't stop calling me in the middle of the night, I'm gonna have to shut off my phone.” “If you don't stop talking to me that way, I'm gonna have to take a break from our relationship for a while.” Let them know what it is going to be. If you're having trouble upping the ante, so to speak, or finding a boundary that you feel you can follow through with, or struggling with a difficult person like this, that's something to work with a coach or counselor. Because it's pretty difficult at that level.

Dr. Lisa: It really is. I think also—many people experience these kinds of dynamics with their families. So it's sort of people that you're… it's hard to like, and it can be done. I mean, some people limit relationships with certain family members, and it's a positive thing. But it can be a sticky situation for many. So,but that's good advice. 

How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

Oh my gosh. We could talk about so many different aspects of this, Kathleen, but I want to reiterate what I'm hearing you say, which is setting boundaries is not about controlling anybody else. It is about deciding what you're going to do, and what you're okay with, and how you're going to communicate that. You being responsible for your actions. That we can't actually control others. 

Kathleen: Exactly. Right. Healthy boundaries, non-codependent boundaries are assertive boundaries, rather than passive or aggressive ones. Or about taking care of yourself and making sure everybody knows what that's gonna look like. It's not about bargaining with people, or getting certain reactions out of them, or even asking things of them. Even when we compromise, again, that is, “Well, here's where I can meet you. Where can you meet me? Is there a place that overlaps?”

Setting Boundaries in Romantic Relationships

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. So much good stuff. Well, and I want to be respectful of your time. Do you have time to tackle a little listener question with me  for a couple of minutes?

Kathleen: Sure Okay. 

Dr. Lisa: So with all of these things in mind, we had someone get in touch. I'm not sure if it was through Instagram, it may have been. It may have been through the blog at growingself.com.

But this person writes, “My hope is to be able to have a healthy relationship where I'm not sabotaging things or letting my anxiety ruin it. But a big piece of this is me getting better, and my ability to maintain healthy boundaries, and also be comfortable asking people to meet my needs, while at the same time being able to meet theirs. 

What are a couple of things that I could do to get better around the boundary aspect of this?” Just as I read this question out loud to you, my immediate reaction is that this is not an answerable kind of question. This is, like, enter into this growth process that will probably take a while. Is that your reaction to this question? Or am I—maybe there is an easy answer. I don’t know.

Kathleen: Based on what this person is saying. I'm hearing that sabotaging relationships and anxiety. So I think I'm hearing—they're saying that their anxiety around asking for what they need, setting boundaries, etcetera, there might be other stuff there, creates the sabotage. So this is a complicated, multi-layered.

That being said, though, maybe this is because I've been reading Brené Brown. Maybe it's because it’s a quote that I saw earlier today. I wish I could pull it up real quick. But what's coming to my mind is that when we set boundaries assertively, which is so nice, and kind, and compassionate, and all of that good stuff. We are being authentic. Right? That means that we're opening up the opportunity to have intimacy and closeness with that person. That can be scary, and it can feel risky. Sometimes, when we avoid that, we end up sabotaging those relationships anyway. But sometimes we need to sort of dip our toe in that vulnerability pool and see how the person reacts. I'm not talking about “Let's move my boundaries based on how they react”, but rather, “Let's see, is this person safe?” 

If they do respond with love, and compassion, respect, empathy, validation, and respect my boundaries, then maybe next time, I can lean into my anxiety a little bit more and express a little bit of me that makes me little bit more scared, and see what happens. Like learning to feel less anxious. If your partner's a healthy partner for you and a safe partner, we can ease into the practice of setting boundaries and expressing our needs in relationships. 

Dr. Lisa: That is amazing. Yeah. You're saying to do reality testing. “What happens when I do ask for something?” Then there's almost like this exposure therapy component. Like, every time I ask—and it's positive—I'm kind of on, like, a healing those old ideas about who I need to be, and what boundaries mean, because it is actually okay. It's like that healing in the context of the healthy relationship. 

Kathleen: Exactly. Reality testing. Exactly. Especially if you've been with this person for a while already. You know them well, what… are they someone who can hold space for your needs and respect your boundaries? Still—what's the word I'm looking for—still have a strong sense of self and a hearty self-esteem in order to just stand by your side. That, if the evidence is there for that, then it's appropriate to slowly lean into that anxiety. Well, but yeah, that's the process. 

Dr. Lisa: Definitely. And if they can't, or they fall apart, or they get mad at you, or try to punish you, I will refer you back to the recent episode of the podcast in which I discussed narcissism. And there's also one about when to call it quits in a relationship. Just saying it. It might not be the case.

Kathleen: But that's a really good point. Right? All of those things are not okay. 

Dr. Lisa: Not okay. 

Kathleen: Right? We can—we feel like we don't say that enough, right? Hearing things, like well, defensiveness. Even just defensiveness, right? We all feel defensive sometimes. I think that's a natural human emotion. But again, can your partner feel defensive and still be self-aware enough, and regulate to show up with love and respect?  “Oh, wow. I'm feeling defensive and I want to be here for you. So let me take a moment and come back.” Or “I notice I’m feeling defensive, and your feelings are valid, and really important to me.” Or something like that, right? But acting defensive with minimization, invalidation, blame shifting, that's not okay. 

Dr. Lisa: Not okay. Yeah. 

Kathleen: You don't have to live with it.

Dr. Lisa: What a powerful message and what a nice note for us to land on. It’s beautifully, just affirming, and empowering conversation about boundaries, and what they are, and the path to growth around them. But that also that's a big takeaway for me. That if you encounter these kinds of reactions in someone when you're trying to set healthy and appropriate boundaries, it's not you. It's that. Then to not get tricked into believing otherwise. That's an important message for a lot of people to hear, I think, especially for women.

Kathleen: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great point. It’s not a reflection of you or the appropriateness of your boundary.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, we could talk for a much longer. So this is such an interesting conversation. And maybe we can revisit this topic and have a part two at some point. But I've really enjoyed your time today. It has been wonderful. 

Kathleen: Well, thank you. I really appreciate being able to be here and talk about this. And it has been, I think, fun. This is my idea of a good time anyway.

Dr. Lisa: We're letting our nerd flags fly, Kathleen. I love it. I had a good time too. Thank you.

Feeling Good About Yourself and Your Body

Feeling Good About Yourself and Your Body

Feeling Good About Yourself and Your Body

Some Things Your Body Wants You to Know

Have you ever had a really good, confident day? Maybe you were really feelin’ yourself, your outfit, your hair. Perhaps, on that day, you smiled and made eye contact with everyone you passed. You weren’t concerned about what others might think of you because, well, you felt good about yourself. 

On the other hand, have you ever experienced a day when you felt like you just couldn’t stand being in your body? Maybe it was just one thing that started a negativity snowball, like a blemish on your face or a few extra pounds. But that snowball quickly turned into an avalanche of feelings. And, where you might have once felt confident, say, wearing less makeup or running errands right after a sweaty workout, today you can’t even bring yourself to leave the house. It’s an awful, shameful, stuck feeling.

We’ve all occasionally experienced feelings like self-consciousness or insecurity. These are natural. But when these feelings start to become a regular occurrence and take over your life, locking you into negative thought patterns and keeping you from truly living, they become a serious issue that leads to feeling chronically unhappy, likely depressed, and utterly unworthy of love

In my work as a body-positivity therapist, I help clients build self-esteem and a healthy body image. While we all have something we may not particularly like about ourselves, it’s important to get support when it begins to impact the way we show up in our relationships and how we interact with others, ourselves, and our bodies.

The expression “body image” refers to the relationship you have with your body, how it looks in your mind’s eye, and how it feels to you. Essentially, body image is the way you think and feel about your body and its appearance. 

Self-esteem, on the other hand, is your level of confidence in your own intrinsic value and worth as a person. It’s reflected in how you answer that big question: “Am I loveable?”

If having high self-esteem means you truly believe you have worth, character flaws and shortcomings included, then this applies to your body, too; High self-esteem empowers you to feel your body is also worthy of being loved, regardless of perceived physical flaws or how attractive you think you are. 

[Take the Self-Esteem Quiz Here]

The Relationship Between Your Body Image and Self-Esteem

Even now, as I write this, I can hear so many readers saying, “It’s because I don’t like my body that I don’t feel good about myself” or “If I could just lose __ pounds, then I would feel good about myself and finally be happy (or achieve my other goals).”

While body image and self-esteem do live together on a two-way street (if we think we’re unattractive, our self-esteem can certainly take a big hit), I’d say that our self-esteem primarily shapes the way we think about our bodies. We say, “I don’t look like that supermodel. See, I knew I wasn’t good enough. This must be why…and it’s something I can do something about.” Then, over time, seeing our bodies as not good enough reinforces how unworthy of love we feel we are. 

Doubt in your own self-worth shows up as a struggle to manage and improve your body. Think of it this way: negative body image is a symptom of low self-esteem.  

The chicken-and-egg of what comes first, body image or self-esteem, matters less than this:

If you're truly focused on changing the look of your body or just feeling better in it, it’s wise to start by working on improving your self-esteem.

What Shapes Your Body Image & Self-Esteem?

Our self-esteem is first shaped by what we learn being loveable requires of us, and how we’re told we stack up to that. These messages aren’t always explicit. Nevertheless, as children, we soak up these messages from everyone around us like little sponges.

Body image is also shaped by what those closest to us teach us… about beauty, the human body itself, sexuality, and gender. Of course media (pop culture and the fashion, beauty, food, and diet industries) also has its say in how a beautiful body “should” look. Heck, it even tells us how we should move our bodies, how we should use them, dress them, how much they should be seen and, yes, even heard, even how they should smell (think of feminine product marketing). This is true for both men and women. It’s overwhelming and it creates feelings of shame.

How Body Image And Self-esteem Affects Your Overall Health

How you feel about yourself affects how you treat yourself. And your body is no exception. 

Self-esteem and body image are so closely tied that what we’ve been taught about our loveability shows up in how we feel about, treat, and interact with our bodies. 

Remember that day we talked about earlier, the one when you’re feeling so bad about yourself you don’t want to leave the house? Well, when you don’t feel worthy of love, it’s a struggle to feel worthy of self-care, including getting out of bed, getting outside, and seeing people. Eating well, going to the doctor, getting fresh air or good sleep, can all suffer when we don’t feel important or loveable. Afterall, we invest in what’s important to us. 

When a lack of consistent, basic self-care (and other not-so-healthy ways of coping with feeling bad about ourselves) leads to inevitable health issues or weight gain, we tend to say, “See, I knew it. My body is my enemy. I generally suck. What’s the point? I’ll never be healthy, happy, beautiful or loved.” 

And, just like that, those ideas that your body is ugly or too fat, that you are intrinsically flawed, seem so true. And you’re stuck there, not sure how to get out, except of course by losing weight or changing how your body looks as best you can. It can feel overwhelming and impossible to escape. 

Cue the diet industry. When in this rock-bottom place, going on a diet for something close to a quick-fix can seem like the only way out of hating the way you feel in your skin. 

The beauty, fitness, and weight loss industries are intrinsically built on people feeling bad about themselves. They market to your insecurities and sell a branded image of perfection. And while there are many well-intentioned people in what we call the “wellness” industry, seeking perfection is always toxic for you. [Read more about shifting from a Dieter's mindset to a Body Positivity mindset here!]

Research shows us that dieting not only leads to overall weight gain and more health problems, it’s also linked to depression and anxiety. That’s right: dieting actually increases weight and lowers self-esteem in the long-term.

Unlike what these industries tell you, your imperfections are not shortcomings. What idealistic beauty standards define as imperfections are actually parts of what a human body is supposed to be.  Exactly as you are, exactly as your body looks today, you are loveable and desirable.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Finding Freedom in Your Body

So how do we break out of the low self-esteem and body image trap? First, start by building a strong foundation of self-esteem, on which a better relationship with your body can be built. 

Ask yourself:

  • What are the messages I got growing up about my loveableness? 
  • How do I know I am worthy of love and have value?
  • Do I believe lovability and worth are intrinsic or have to be earned? 

Now, set aside some time to write a list of all the qualities you love or like about yourself. Think of as many as you can and remember what others have shared or how they’ve complimented you. Ask those you trust for help adding to the list. Put this list where you can see it every day and add to it regularly.

The good news is while working on your self-esteem, you can also start building a new relationship with your body! These go hand-in-hand!

  • Notice the messages you get daily about beauty and your body. Being aware is the first step in challenging and changing your own perceptions of beauty…and your own body image. 
  • To build a new perception of beauty and a new body image, expose yourself to new, more balanced ideas of beautiful bodies. Follow body-positive social media accounts (I list a few of my favorite ones below). Simply look at more different types of bodies, notice how you feel, and notice what is interesting or unique about them.
  • Time to write another list! Think of and write down as many things as you can that you like or appreciate about your body. **Don’t limit yourself to appearances.** Your body is more than what it looks like. What is amazing about it? What does it do for you every day? How does it support you? How does it heal you? Where is it strong, flexible, or resilient? 
  • Try writing a letter to your body. What would you want to say to him or her? And how do you imagine your body would respond? What does your body really want you to know?

While these are helpful tools, I encourage you to reach out to a counselor or coach who can help you practice new ways of showing up for yourself every day, with both support and accountability. 

It can be an extremely rewarding journey, one that leads to true peace and ultimate freedom. You, and your body, deserve it. 

Kindly,
Kathleen

@thefuckitdiet
@thenutritiontea
@newmoonrd
@bodyposipanda
@thebirdspapaya
@rootedinflowing
@jennakutcher
@jameelajamilofficial
@bodyimagepositive *
@drdorie

#haes
#intuitiveeating
#bodypositivity

denver therapist online therapy Kathleen Stutts Therapist, Life Coach, Marriage Counselor, Dating Coach

Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed, LPC, helps you build your self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfort

 

 

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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How Boredom And Space Help You Understand Yourself

How Boredom And Space Help You Understand Yourself

How Boredom And Space Help You Understand Yourself

What Have You Been Avoiding?

[social_warfare]

Understand Yourself | We're –s-t-u-c-k- safe at home. For some of us, as we continue to transition into this new lifestyle this means more stress and even busier schedules. Living almost minute by minute, taking care of young kids who are home (all the time), while still striving to meet the slow-to-change expectations of employers.  

But if that isn't you and you find yourself with more time and fewer outlets than you’re used to, you're probably feeling bored, listless, and maybe even a little lazy. Counting myself among this group, I'm struggling to feel motivated even as I write this! All this time at home can lead to an odd combination of frustration with not having enough to do and a lack of drive to do what you can or even need to do. Maybe even questioning yourself and wondering, Who am I?

I'm sure you've also seen the two social media messages floating around about this experience: 

  1. Start a hobby! Learn something new! Now is the time!
  1. Just chill. It's okay to feel whatever you feel. Take it easy if you need to.

Both of these approaches are valid and helpful. Pick what works for you – and change your mind as needed. But here's what these messages don't talk about: How boredom and space can help you understand yourself. 

Boredom has always gotten a bad rap. Now more then ever, our internet tribe is talking about the big, bad boredom-monster. We're taught to avoid boredom at almost any cost, by staying busy, distracting ourselves with tune-out technology, and being “productive.” Maybe this is because slowing down to get to know yourself better can actually be pretty uncomfortable and scary. Because understanding yourself better can lead to confronting some things you've been avoiding with all that business and distraction. 

As an online therapist and life coach, some of my clients too are struggling with some long-term issues that have recently been “brought to the light.” I want to encourage you to allow yourself to sit with these feelings. With a little bit of boredom and space, here are a few not-so-comfortable (but important) things you might uncover:

 

Relationship Issues

You may know your relationship isn't perfect (I mean, who's is?). When focused on the hustle of life, we can put off dealing with relationship concerns and the difficult conversations they demand. Now, alone with each other, it gets harder to ignore what isn't working. This is a good opportunity to notice what's coming up for you, to understand yourself in the context of your relationship and get curious about what your relationship might need, and consider if you're ready to start making some gentle repairs. 

What You Really Want

Anxiety is up with the Coronavirus epidemic. But for some of those who experience it under ordinary circumstances, anxiety has actually gone down during quarantine! With boredom and more time on your hands comes less pressure and obligation. Suddenly, many are finding themselves relieved of the unspoken but ever-present expectation to be busy and constantly moving toward worthy goals. What arises from this new space is the question, “If I'm less anxious now, did I actually want these goals for myself or did I just think I should have them?” Boredom and space can help you separate what you really want, enjoy, and value from what others think or want.

 

Big Beliefs

Having more time with yourself, you might pay a little more attention to your thoughts. Following those thoughts can lead you to your core beliefs. We tend to assume, for example, that our value comes from things like productivity, social engagement, or helping others. Right now, our ability to do each of these has been limited, which can lead to new, healthier beliefs about intrinsic value from being, rather than doing.  Boredom and space means we can sit with beliefs and consider them with curious objectivity. We can question them and change them, if we wish. Opening your mind to these personal growth moments will help you in your journey to understand yourself. 

Deeper Feelings

As we slow down and get back to basics under quarantine, we create room for more things to grab our attention. You may notice more synchronicities, remember more dreams, or be inspirationally struck with new, creative ideas. These are just some of the ways that deeper, unaddressed feelings work their way to the forefront. Slowing down to embrace a little boredom, what feelings come up and what are they trying to tell you?

Surprising Strengths

Challenges create opportunity for solution-finding. Obstacles illicit creative thinking. Under self-quarantine, we are called to find new ways to connect, help one another, practice self-care, and maintain our hobbies, responsibilities, and goals. Leaning into boredom and space gives you a chance to surprise yourself, to truly understand yourself. 

Is it uncomfortable? Definitely. Scary? Yes. But what if this boredom thing is also an opportunity to slow down and sit with an old friend…yourself? Who knows what you might discover?

Wishing you the best,
Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC

[social_warfare]
denver therapist online therapy Kathleen Stutts Therapist, Life Coach, Marriage Counselor, Dating Coach

Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed, LPC, helps you build your self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfortable and understood.

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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How to be Successful Online Dating

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Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart

Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart

Emotional Self Care When Your Life is Falling Apart

Sometimes life just throws you a major curve ball…

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You know that feeling? Your jaw just metaphorically drops, the days seem to run together like one long, surreal dream. Making decisions or taking action can feel like walking through mud. There is understandable shock and disbelief. It rocks your foundation, leaving you with questions like, “When will this end?” and “HOW will this end?,” which can be really scary. 

Understandably, the COVID-19 outbreak has left many of us feeling shell-shocked in this way. 

Whether a pandemic, natural disaster, or something smaller in scale but no less devastating (like a death, divorce, or job loss), these major life curveballs have something in common: 

The impact is felt throughout every area of your life. 

The coronavirus concern has created instability in our homes, work, financially, at our schools and hospitals, even in our simplest of daily routines. 

While there is a lot of information available about how to be responsible, stop the spread, and take care of physical health, we also desperately need resources and support around how to take care emotionally for our mental health. 

Not only as an online therapist and life coach, but also as a New Orleans native and “survivor” of hurricane Katrina, I have an intimate understanding of what it's like to have your life fall apart.

The good news is: it doesn't last forever. 

The other good news is: there are very real things you can do to make it feel less catastrophic while reducing stress.

Here are eight steps to emotional self care when your life is falling apart.

Know This Pain Is Temporary

I put this one first because it is so important. Every day, several times a day if needed, it's good to remind yourself that what is NOW is NOT FOREVER. This will be over. And that means you can ride it out. You can make it through. Knowing it will end helps ease the anxiety of not knowing exactly when. It helps with the unknowns. 

Envision Life In The Future

Since you know that what is now is not forever, you can imagine what you want your life to look like after it's all over. It gives you something to look forward to and to focus on. 

A lot of helpful people will tell you to stay in the present when coping with your life falling apart (and they're not wrong – I'll get back to that later). This is because future thinking can create a lot of anxiety over things you can't even control

But if you are thinking of the future from an empowered, hopeful place planning ahead and looking at what you may be able to do now to work toward it, or even just to get excited about what it could be – will feel better. 

Envisioning your future when you can rebuild your life creates motivation, hope, optimism, and a sense of productivity and purpose.

Remember What You Do Have (Practice Gratitude)

Okay, here's where we get back to present versus future thinking. If you find yourself obsessing over the what-if's of an unclear future, bring your mind back to the now. 

In fact, focus on what is GOOD about what IS, right NOW. You can make a gratitude list. You can take a few minutes each day to appreciate your blessings. But you can also gratefully embrace any present moment by mindfully tuning in to the right now with your five senses [also see: Living in a Beautiful State for more on mindfulness]. Let's give it a try…

Take a minute after reading this paragraph to close your eyes.

Take a deep breath. Listen to your breath. Feel it fill your lungs.

Notice what you hear around you.

What do you smell? 

What emotions come up as you notice?

What can you feel right now with your body? 

What are you grateful for in this moment?

Focus On What Is In Your Control

Part of making through what is out of your control is focusing on what is in your control. The meaning and the why you choose to make out of what is happening to you can dramatically shift its impact on you emotionally and mentally. 

Maybe you would never choose to lose a job you love, to struggle financially, or have your life turned upside down. But why are you going through this?

It's an odd question to ask about something forced upon you, I know. But bare with me. If you could choose a why, what would it be? Because you can. You can create the “why” you want. What you are going to take away from this experience is yours to decide.

Be Nice To Yourself (Practice Self-Compassion)

Someone recently said to me, “You are your own best friend for life. Be nice to yourself.”

Would you kick a friend when he's down? Of course not. So be nice to yourself when going through a tough time. Remember you aren't the only one struggling when life falls apart. You are not alone.

Give yourself grace and space to make mistakes, to struggle, and to hurt. You're human. We all are.

Ride Those Emotional Waves (Until They Pass)

When we fight our feelings with criticism or denial, they tend to grow stronger (or we just add more negative emotions on top of what we're already experiencing). 

It's okay to feel all the feelings right now; they aren't YOU and they pass. Observe them without self-judgement (“Wow, I'm really sad right now”). Ground yourself by practicing that mindfulness exercise above; close your eyes and tune into your five senses. Breathe. It will pass on its own. Repeat as needed.

Self-Care, Keep It Simple

It's tempting to let everything go when you are overwhelmed, routine is out the window, and resources are limited. So keep it simple. What are your top three self-care needs? 

Sleep, nutrition, physical exertion, creativity, social connection…these are just some examples. 

Don't worry too much about what you get done or don't when it comes to self-care; just focus on the top three things that help you most. And, when working on those, stay simple. 

Not motivated? Start with one small step (as small as needed). For example, if you know you need exercise to stay mentally and emotionally well but aren't motivated to run five miles on your treadmill, you could start with 10 jumping jacks, 15 minutes of yoga, or vigorous house cleaning. 

Check in with yourself at the end of this step and ask yourself if you want more.

Reach Out

Even the most introverted of us need someone to talk to, even just to chat. Check in with your friends, family, and loved ones. If texting with them still leaves you feeling isolated, go old-school and make a phone call! Or take advantage of modern technology and video chat. 

And remember it's okay to ask for exactly what you need most, and not for what you don't need. So if you're yearning for normalcy and want small talk with a friend, it's okay to say “Hey, can we skip the coronavirus conversations right now? I miss our girl talk.”  

Give yourself permission to be vulnerable, ask for help, and just generally share how you're feeling with a fellow human!

Online Emotional Support

Sometimes friends and family can't support us in the way we need (which is okay, too), especially when they are going through something themselves. If you are unsure of where to turn for help and stuck in self-quarantine, know that there are many online resources available, such as online therapy, virtual couple's counseling, and online support groups. [And for more on building community while social distancing read “CommUNITY during social distancing and self-quarantine“]

When your life is falling apart around you, know you can get through it and it will pass. Even if the old normal isn't quite the same again, take comfort in the knowledge that a new, positive normal will eventually fall into place.

In the meantime, keep emotional self-care simple and be gentle with and kind to yourself.


We're in this together! 

Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC

 

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Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., LPC helps you build your self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfortable and understood.

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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Cutting Cords To Toxic Relationships

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Cutting Cords To Toxic Relationships

When to Walk Away

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As an experienced Denver marriage counselor and therapist, I know first hand: Relationships take work. No one is perfect, no relationship is perfect. No boss, friend, loved one, or partner is perfect.

But how do you know when a relationship has crossed over that tipping point from imperfect to toxic? How do you know when cutting cords to toxic relationships is necessary?

Whether you are struggling with a bullying boss, a caustic friend, or even questioning whether to walk away from a long-term relationship or marriage, no one usually wants to walk away.

Walking away is hard. Change is hard and scary. And there is a natural and healthy desire for things to work out and for everyone to be happy.

But when you've found that a relationship is causing you misery, you're wondering if the bad has started to outweigh the good, and questioning, “should I burn this bridge?” here are a few questions to ask yourself:

How Did We Get Here?

This step is for getting curious about the patterns you notice in this relationship and creating a narrative from the beginning of it until now. In other words, what is the story of your relationship? What is the relationship's dynamic, or the dance you and this person create together?

Go deeper: When you reflect back to the infancy of your relationship, do you notice red flags you didn't necessarily see at the time? How has the relationship evolved since – and were there milestones or critical incidences that contributed to these changes? Can you see where negative energy crept in or was always there?

After spending some time here, zoom out again; what story do your reflections tell you?

What Can I Accept?

Instead of focusing on what you CAN'T control (which includes everything about the other person), focus on what you can accept. Acceptance means not trying to change, help or give advice, not judging or fighting against. It means that, even if you don't like or agree with something, you let go emotionally. You lean into the fact that “it is what it is,” whether you like it or not.

When working with my DTC relationship clients, I like to ask them to think about (or even list on paper!) all aspects of the relationship over which they have no control. This includes the other's perspective, reactions, and feelings, just to name a few. Be honest with yourself on this one. Can you let go of some of these?

What Can I NOT Accept?

After asking yourself “what can I truly live with?,” you may now know more about what you CANNOT abide. Daily stress? Financial instability? Walking on eggshells? Compromising your values for the sake of the relationship?

These are the pain points that will need to be addressed if you choose to continue your investment in this relationship.

Let's look at how to address them…

What Have I Tried?

Up to now, our questions have focused on what IS NOT in your control. Let's shift gears and look at what IS. Your perceptions, feelings, behaviors…

What have you tried so far to improve this relationship? Some key areas to think about include communication, compromise, and education.

Have you tried being appropriately vulnerable? 

Have you gotten curious about and tried to understand the other person's needs? 

Have you looked for where you and the other's wants or needs can overlap and lead to compromise? 

Have you asked for help or accessed resources and education (coaching is a great example!)?

Think about all the steps you (and possibly the other person in the relationship) have taken to create positive change.

What Am I Able And Willing To Do That I Haven't Yet Tried?

Is there anything left? Really challenge yourself here to think outside the box and brainstorm. Is there anything you can do, that's in your control, you haven't yet tried?

• Information gathering?

• Learning how to have a different emotional reaction in the relationship?

• Classes or coaching?

This step can be uplifting. Even if your hope for the future of the relationship is dwindling, it can feel empowering to focus on what's in your control, your options and choices (no matter how sparse), and what you can do to help yourself.

When we focus on what we can change (our own behaviors, tools, and resources), we feel more resilient and we open up possibilities for the relationship to improve and grow. What do you really have to lose here?

Now, of these – what are you interested in, able or willing to actually try out now? It's okay if the answer is “none of them!” Be honest with yourself, about how you feel, and if you aren't motivated to work on the relationship…honor these feelings. They are valid. And they must be heard in order to answer the question, “should I burn this bridge?”

What Can Change And How Much?

Now, realistically, knowing what you and the other person have done, or could yet still do, and what you can accept and what you cannot, what is the likelihood of change?

What aspects of the relationship that you know must change for your own wellbeing are actually changeable? And how much, or to what degree, is this change realistic, based on the evidence and past experience, as well as your own ability and willingness to try?

For example, it's possible someone can become less argumentative, but they might still be that way from time to time.

It's also important here to view change with a “dimmer switch mindset.” Basically, know that change doesn't flip like a light switch in a moment, but occurs as a slow, gradual process and this healing process takes time. This relationship can be improving in small increments, not necessarily visible in the moment but easier to see over time.

Keep this realistic view of change in mind when you consider what you can accept if you stay in the relationship and your own ability to grow for the sake of its success. And don't forget to make note of what the other person has really done to work on things and appreciate it.

Sometimes the devil you know feels safer than the big, scary unknown. This, and the knowledge that no relationship is perfect and they all take work, can make it hard to know when it's time to stop giving it your all and walk away from a toxic relationship. I hope these questions help you explore with your own intuition of what is best for you.

And, remember, it's okay to take care of yourself!

Kathleen C Stutts, M.Ed., LPC, NCC 

P.S. Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below!

 

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Kathleen Stutts, M.Ed., NCC, LPC helps clients build self-esteem and create strong, meaningful relationships in a non-judgmental, productive space where you will feel safe, comfortable and understood.

Talk with a Coach or Counselor Today!

 

 

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.

Read More by Kathleen 

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

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

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

Food is Good, and So Are You.

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

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

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

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

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

How to Tackle Emotional Eating

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

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

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

Intuitive Eating Principles

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

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

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

All for you! Listen now…

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

 

 

 

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

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

Music Credits:  Egozi, with “Cookie Dough”

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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

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