How To Appreciate Your Partner

How To Appreciate Your Partner

How To Appreciate Your Partner

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

Music Credits: “Anything and Everything” by J Lind

How To Appreciate The Partner You Have

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I completely understand the importance of having a great relationship. Working on your relationship through marriage counseling or relationship coaching in order to make it as good as it can be is a worthwhile endeavor. Working on yourself in service of your relationship is also an incredibly noble and positive thing to do. The energy you spend in cultivating a healthy relationship pays off in every aspect of life.

However, truth be told, I’ve also seen a dark side to this quest for self-and-relationship-improvement as well, which is never feeling satisfied with your partner, or your relationship. This type of “relationship perfectionism” can take many forms, including comparing your relationship to what you imagine other people’s relationships are like, having overly high expectations, over-focusing on your partner’s flaws, or overlooking their strengths. This makes it difficult to feel in love with your partner, or even content in a relationship — even a really good one!

Love and Appreciation

Love and appreciation are key to happy, healthy relationships. Getting hyper-focused on relationship problems will actually start to create relationship problems because it shifts the emotional environment away from acceptance and emotional safety, and towards criticism and contempt. When those communication issues are present, even the best relationships will start to feel harder than they need to.

All relationships, just like all people, are a mixed bag with wonderful parts, challenging parts, and “growth opportunities.” Learning how to appreciate your partner for who and what they are is often the biggest area of growth for couples in counseling — and the most fruitful. 

Learning how to show appreciation can be the best thing that ever happened to your relationship. Also, paradoxically, showing appreciation (and feeling appreciated!) for your partner can be one of the fastest and most effective routes to creating positive change and growth in both of you. 

When any of us feel understood and cherished for who we are, we flourish. The same is true for you and also for your partner. On today’s episode of the podcast, I’ll be talking more about how you can release negativity and embrace the type of mindset that will help you and your relationship, heal, grow, and thrive.

In This Podcast Episode: How To Appreciate Your Partner, Learn How To. . .

  • Realize the importance of love, respect, and acceptance when it comes to relationships
  • Learn how to appreciate your partner
  • Understand how people can change, especially in a supportive relationship
  • Learn the importance of letting things go and minimizing control
  • Be made aware of the signs of an unhealthy and overly critical relationship
  • Discover what unconditional love means
  • Accept your partner for who they are and what they can give
  • Learn how to foster kindness and generosity, and stop negative relationship patterns

You can listen to this episode right here on GrowingSelf.com, or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Don’t forget to subscribe while you’re there! If you prefer to read, I’ve also included episode highlights with links to all the resources and additional information I referenced throughout the podcast. Scroll further and you’ll find a full transcript too. 

Thanks for joining me, and I hope that this episode helps you and your partner create the type of loving and emotionally supportive relationship you each need and deserve.

Xo, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How To Appreciate Your Partner

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

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How To Appreciate Your Partner: Show Notes & Episode Highlights

Focusing On The Positive in Your Relationship

If your relationship has been feeling challenging lately, you’re probably thinking more about the issues. Wanting a better relationship is normal – and it’s completely valid. 

Often, a partner who initiates marriage or couples counseling has this unspoken hope that they can change their other half in pleasing or gratifying ways. However, the secret to a good relationship isn't in trying to change your partner in a way that agrees with you. 

Instead, “it is really about growing in your own capacity for love and appreciation and learning how to create an environment that nurtures growth that brings out the highest and best in both of you.”

Instead of zeroing in on the bad things, focus on the positives of your partner and your relationship. By shifting your view towards what's good and what you appreciate, you can improve your relationship and fall back in love with your spouse or partner.

Can People Change?

Finding the positive in your partner also has to be balanced with knowing your boundaries.

Your partner may hold beliefs or do things that you will not stand for. In this case, it’s okay to draw a line and say that you will not continue in your relationship unless things change. 

If you’re unclear about whether or not your relationship is unhealthy, refer to these past Love, Happiness and Success podcast episodes: 

But if you've decided that you are fully committed to your relationship and want to make it work, here's what you should be ready to give: acceptance, appreciation, and unconditional love.

When couples focus on understanding and appreciation, they foster goodwill and respect. All of a sudden, they stop being defensive. Only from this positive place can real change and improvement occur. 

Stop Negative Relationship Patterns

In a relational dynamic filled with negativity, relationships tend to self-destruct from the pressure and toxicity. 

You may think that this is because of personal differences and issues. Dr. Gottman, psychologist and relationships researcher, labels these as “perpetual problems.” Examples of these include:

  • Personality differences
  • Ways of being
  • Habits
  • Quirks 

These “perpetual problems” exist in every relationship, but here’s the punchline: it doesn't matter. What does matter more than anything else are negative feelings such as criticism and contempt.

Criticism may sound like the following phrases:

  • “Do that differently.”
  • “That's not right. I'm right and you're wrong.”
  • “Why don’t you do this?”

On the other hand, contempt is often expressed in the following words:

  • “You are ridiculous.”
  • “You suck.”
  • “You are hopeless.”

Criticism and contempt create rocky relational dynamics and elicits a lot of negativity from the other person. 

To stop this negative cycle, grasp your point of control, which is understanding: “What am I putting into this relational system and how can I think about this differently? How can I do this differently so that I am no longer part of the problem?

Understanding Your Partner

We are living in our own experience, so we understand why we do the things we do. We might feel groggy because we didn’t get any sleep. Or cranky because we had too much coffee. However, We often don’t have the same information when it comes to other people, even our partners. That’s why, in a negative relationship system, we start to tell ourselves a story focused on our partner’s flaws

To break out of this system, we have to understand our partner better. For this, we can look at outside factors and even internal reasons for why people are the way they are.

Grow, Together

“In addition to all of us individuals having our strengths, we also do have growth opportunities, and so does every relationship.”

So, aside from your partner, you should also consider your relationship as a whole. To learn more about your relationship, check out the How Healthy is Your Relationship assessment and then take our Attachment Style quiz for insight into you and your partner’s attachment styles. This will help you and your partner better understand where you are each coming from so that you can grow together instead of apart. 

So much unhappiness comes from subconscious expectations. They can be:

  • How love should be shown
  • Who should be in charge
  • What should be controlled
  • How people should communicate
  • How people should parent

In short, anything that has the word “should” can be a form of bias or unrealistic expectation. 

“There is a wide range of acceptable behaviors, and there is no one ‘should'. There is no truth with a capital T.”

The gap between what you believe should be happening and what is happening creates bad feelings in many people. Doing shadow work and examining your inner narratives about this situation helps prevent this gap from widening.

Doing this work also allows us to pull ourselves back from feeling hurt or annoyed when we’re not getting all of our needs met. Instead, we can think about what it feels like on the other side: “What is it like to live with me?”

This question is a good starting point towards having a growth mindset. All relationships will eventually encounter junctures that either one or both partners don't know how to navigate. 

When you have unconditional love for your partner and you aim to grow together, you can figure out how to go through difficult times together as well. 

By shifting into an appreciative and generous stance, we can create positive changes in our relationship. But remember: it has to start within ourselves. Only then can we bring that to the table of our relationship and do something great. 

Resources: How to Appreciate Your Partner

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[Intro music: Anything And Everything by J Lind]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you're listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. That is J Lind with the song Anything And Everything, as in, tell me everything about you and let me love you unconditionally for all of it. It's a beautiful song, it is a beautiful idea, and it's one that can be hard to put into practice, can't it? Today, we're talking about how to appreciate the partner you have because we all want an easy, fulfilling relationship that's full of light and love and fun. 

Sometimes, in our quest to create the kind of relationship that we really want, it's easy to get focused on all the things about our partners that are not ideal. While it is true that we all need to work on ourselves and grow in service of our relationships and bring our vessels to the table, it is also true that the royal road to a truly delightful relationship is often less about getting people to change than it is about figuring out how to accept, appreciate, and even cherish our partners for who and what they actually are, as they are. 

How do you find that balance between acceptance and unconditional love, and also growth and people being the best they can be? How do you feel genuinely loving towards your partner as they are, even if they are imperfect? This really is the holy grail of happy, healthy relationships. Creating exactly that is what we're talking about today on The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast so I'm so glad you're here joining me for what I hope is going to be a fantastic conversation. 

If this is your first time listening to the show, hello. I'm so glad that you found me and found this. I am your host, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I'm a licensed psychologist and I'm also a board certified coach and I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self counseling and coaching. I think because of this weird cluster of experiences, I come to this conversation with a little bit different of a perspective of the family therapist, all about systems and understanding how people interact and create positive or helpful interactions with each other. 

But also, as a psychologist, I'm always interested on how individuals are creating their own inner experiences, how people think, feel and behave. Then also, because of my coach training, for me, it's all about what you want to do with this information. Insight is not enough so on the show, we are always talking about topics that go deep. My goal is to help you achieve true understanding of what's going on underneath the surface. Also, then, talking about how we put these ideas into action and ideally, help you create more positive outcomes in your life as it relates to your love, happiness, and success so I'm glad you're here. 

Also, just a side note, if you're a new listener or a regular listener, I am so interested in what you are thinking about or dealing with in your life or what you think would be interesting or helpful for you to be hearing about on this podcast. You can always get in touch with me directly: hello@growingself.com with any questions or comments. You can track me down on Instagram: @drlisamariebobby to ask questions and jump in the pool of the conversation. You can also leave comments on the blog pages of posts or podcasts that I put out. 

I always check those and answer those personally. Anyway, we will have a conversation about what is important to you because that's why I'm here. I really care about that and I do these podcasts to be genuinely helpful to you. Interestingly, I recorded a podcast not too long ago with Jennifer Sands about making meaning after tragedy. 

In a conversation with her, I really kind of came into contact with something that I had known, but I think not fully appreciated: how much I get out of being here with you making these podcasts for you. It really brings me great pleasure and enjoyment to be of service to you so thank you for doing this with me and again, let me know how I can be of service to you because that's why I'm here and I'm listening so thank you. 

Focusing On The Positive in Your Relationship

On that note, to be of service to you today, let's talk about our topic because I'll tell you what, I have been a marriage counselor for a long time, a relationship coach for a long time. One of the things that I see over and over again is how difficult relationships can feel when partners are very much focused on negative aspects of each other, of their relationship, and also the dramatic difference it can make in a relationship and the way people feel about each other. 

When they are able to shift that focus into the things that they really genuinely like and appreciate about each other, it just feels so much easier and it could also be surprisingly easy to do depending on what your goal is. It can be extremely easy, even in marriage counseling, to spend a lot of time talking about problems and personality differences and early family of origin experiences that create these issues in both of you. 

Again, while it's always helpful to have some context for who people are and why people are, it can also really obscure the fact that everybody has strengths and growth opportunities. Everyone has gifts and sometimes, really by shifting the focus and figuring out how we can enhance the good parts of a relationship, it doesn't matter where you come from or why you are the way you are. It's figuring out how to be the best and how to appreciate each other for who you both actually are and honor that and prize that. 

It's just extraordinary when couples can learn how to do that. That's why I really wanted to share this with you. Let's face it, if your relationship has been feeling challenging lately, if you're like most people, you're probably thinking a lot about the issues, right? I have been there too. It's easy to feel irritated or resentful or wish your partner would do something differently, they could talk to you differently, the tone they're using, they could do things that would help you feel more connected or more in love with them

I think that wanting a better relationship is fantastic. Also, let's just acknowledge the fact that you've been listening to this podcast or other relationship podcasts hoping to get some tips just says so much about your hope for yourself and for the relationship and that's wonderful. People can absolutely improve their process, I believe that 100%. A lot of times, when people begin in marriage counseling with me or couples therapy or relationship coaching, yes, there is that hope for improvement. 

There is also often this kind of secret, unspoken hope that by getting involved in marriage counseling or couples therapy, often, and the person who initiates all this and makes the appointment, right? The secret unspoken hope is that this is going to help their partner change in pleasing and gratifying ways, right? I too, again, have been there, right? My husband and I went to marriage counseling. It was fantastic, a couple of years after we got married and that was my secret hope too, just like everybody else. 

That “Oh, this is going to get him to change and understand me and think, feel, and behave in ways that are more gratifying to me, maybe even be more like me because I am right.” I wouldn't have said that out loud at that time but if I'm honest, that was sort of a secret hope. I think that we all are living in our own perspective all of the time, right? The things we feel, the things we think, the way we perceive situations, that is what makes sense to us. 

That's easy. It is much more difficult to really look through the lens, the eyes, the perspective, the feelings, the thoughts, the history, the context of another human and understand how that makes sense and how that can be even strengths are positive, especially if it's something that we disagree with, or be different. This is hard for people coming into the process of couples counseling or marriage counseling and it was hard for me too when I did this and it's worthwhile. 

I have now been, as of October, married for 25 years, would you believe? Even to this day, if somebody invited me to sit down and make a list of all of the things that were different about my husband, I certainly could do that. It would be extensive if I was motivated to do that, it might even be detailed. As I was putting together that list of things, I could probably, if I wanted to, let myself feel bad about some of them, right? Grieved, annoyed. We're all human, right? 

There are always stuff that comes up that's a little bit annoying but the point is that I have learned over the years that just sitting around thinking about things that I'm unhappy with in my relationship, with my husband, are not helpful because I am committed to him and to this relationship and have found other ways of being that are just so much more productive. Not just in having a nice time day to day, but also in creating positive change and supporting growth in both of us because over time, we've both grown and changed so much. 

I see that often in couples that I work with. People do grow and change and evolve and yet, are fundamentally still the same people. Some things, people can change, but things like personality, ways of thinking, core values, core beliefs, those are much more difficult to change. Sometimes they don't change at all and that's okay. My husband is a much different person than he was and so am I. 

It's also true that the things that annoyed me about him and 1996 are still very much alive and well and that's all okay because the secret to a good relationship is not trying to get people to change or to be different so that they meet your needs in exactly the way that you want them to or that they are always agreeing with you or seeing things from your side of the table. It is really about growing in your own capacity for love and appreciation and learning how to create an environment that nurtures growth that brings out the highest and best in both of you. 

Can People Change?

In addition to that, I will say that this work does also mean finding a balance between figuring out your boundaries, things that feel legitimately intolerable for you and that you will not stand for, and that you cannot continue in this relationship until these things change. That's a thing and that happens and that is also very valid. You might be in a relationship where really, legitimately unhealthy, unhelpful things are happening and unless that is different, you cannot continue in this partnership, 100% valid. 

Get clear about what those are and find a way of talking about that productively with a goal of, as you may have learned from past podcasts that I've put out about having healthy boundaries, the goal here is not to say, “I demand that you do this differently.” It is to say, “Here's what I am going to do differently” or “This changes, and here's how long you have to show me that you can do that. If not, here's what you can expect from me essentially.” I will refer you back to the healthy boundaries podcast for more on that subject. 

That is a thing and that does require sometimes working on yourself enough to know when a relationship is actually unhealthy or even toxic and might even be irredeemable when it's time to call it quits. I have made podcasts on those subjects on what is a healthy relationship, leaving a toxic relationship, and also when to call it quits in a relationship. If you look back through the podcast feed, you can find information that I've put out on all of those. 

Again, that might be the case and some things for you to figure out in your relationship, but if you have done some of that work and decided fundamentally that you are committed to this person, that there is enough here for you that you would like to work on the relationship and invest in this relationship, and that you would like to have a more positive relationship with somebody that in your heart of hearts, you know, fundamentally, is a decent person. They have some rough edges, they have some sharp corners. 

There are some things that they do that are challenging or annoying or even hurtful, maybe not hurtful with a capital H, but low grade hurtful. Maybe you'd like to feel more connected, you'd like to have more fun, you'd like to have more communication, or more emotional intimacy. Those are wonderful goals to have in a relationship and the path to creating those are very often paradoxical. They begin with, ready? Acceptance and appreciation and unconditional love. This is a tremendously important paradox and it's true in psychotherapy. 

Back in the day, old school psychotherapists noticed that when people understood themselves and were in a positive relationship with a therapist who understood them, and also unconditionally had positive regard for them that they were not just understood but accepted for who and what they were when they experienced this relationship as being non-judgmental, as being affirming, validating, and appreciative for who they were, it became safe for them to say, “I would like to work on this aspect. I have made peace with these parts of myself and in doing so, I have become intrinsically motivated to continue growing in a direction that would help me feel more positive about myself and get better results in my life and feel better and have better relationships.” 

This is a fundamental paradox of change and it's true for individuals and it is also true in relationships. I have seen it happen so many times. When couples stop fighting with each other and really focus on understanding each other and understanding each other's perspective and appreciating it, there comes this feeling of goodwill and a mutual appreciation and this respect, this unconditional positive regard that all of a sudden, people stop being defensive. Like, “No, this is why I'm right. You're wrong,” and it turns into, “Yeah, I could see how you would feel that way and yeah, I should work on that.” 

It's just amazing. I think we're sort of conditioned to believe that we need to fight for our rights and that the way to get people to change or to promote growth is to be not aggressive about it, but very direct about it. While there's certainly a time and place for direct communication, people tend to respond better to all of us when we're in a positive relationship that feels good for them and that makes them feel like they want to be better partners for us. That's to say it very plainly but that's true. 

Now, again, if you are in a really, fundamentally unhealthy relationship where that is never going to happen, you should know that so that you can make different plans for yourself. Again, I have more information about that but for everybody else, if it's a generally healthy partnership that deserves a little time and energy and growth work to make it be fantastic, there's a lot of opportunity. Here is why, here's why this is. We just look at this from an individualistic perspective of how people do change and grow is through that self-acceptance and self-compassion process, but there's also a lot of research in the field of couples counseling around what happens in a relational dynamic where there's a lot of negativity. 

Stop Negative Relationship Patterns

I often refer back to the work of Dr. John Gottman, who has just done beautiful studies to explore relationships, healthy relationships that grow, and also relationships that ultimately fail. He has noticed, along with other researchers, that when negative relational cycles take hold and in particular, certain ways of being in a relationship take hold, it's just so toxic for both people and the relationship will self-destruct under that pressure. 

Interestingly, this is also true in the context of the fact that all relationships, all relationships have a certain percentage of stuff that Dr. Gottman has labeled perpetual problems. These are personality differences, ways of being, habits, quirks, stuff that is never going to be different and is not ideal feeling for one or both partners. Those are perpetual problems. They exist in every relationship and here's the punchline, it doesn't matter. Does not matter that your relationship has perpetual problems. 

It doesn't matter that you have angry fights, does not matter that you have bad habits, or don't communicate perfectly, or have annoying quirks, or even have significant differences in values, interests, ways of being, routines. There is all of this commonly present in the very best relationships and it does not matter. What does matter more than anything else are negative things happening such as criticism and contempt, compared with positive things that we're putting into a relationship: kindness, appreciation, gratitude. 

When things like criticism and contempt are very high in a relationship, it creates so many difficult relational dynamics and it elicits a lot of negativity from the other person. Criticism would be like, “Do that differently. That's not right, you're doing it wrong. Why can't you x, y, z?” Contempt would be, “You are just ridiculous. You suck, you are hopeless.” Kind of a meta message is, “My way of being is so much better than your way of being and I think that you might even be a bad person.” 

Criticism and contempt will tank our relationship and when those kinds of expressions or feelings are very much alive in a relationship, things start to get really bad. When you are critical and contemptuous in a relationship, i.e. when you are focusing a lot on the things about your partner that you wish were different, that will automatically create a negative response to you. Your partner will start responding to you negatively. They will begin behaving in unloving and unkind ways to you because they feel judged and criticized. I'm not saying that this is your fault. 

Relationships or systems, meaning that people fall into these patterns where they are having reactions to each other's reactions. I'm sure that if you are feeling critical and contemptuous of your partner, it's because that you have had experiences with them where they're doing things where you're like, “Ah! Stop.” It doesn't feel good to you. The point of control any of us have in our relationship is not saying to somebody else, “You need to be different so that I can have a better reaction to you.” 

It is understanding, “How am I reacting? What am I putting into this relational system and how can I think about this differently and do this differently so that I am no longer part of the problem? How can I be doing my best to keep my side of the street clean, to work on myself, and to be as positive and productive as I possibly can and the situation. Because if anything is going to change in this relationship, that's going to be why, is when I start taking responsibility for me.”

In a relationship where you're focusing on the problems, it is very, very easy to slip into criticism and contempt and frustration. That is not helpful and it isn't productive and it will make things worse. It will damage your relationship in the short term, but I'll tell you, that will also really begin to severely damage a relationship in the long term because here's what happens. When you have had experiences in your relationship over a long period of time that have been disappointing or hurtful or annoying or you're trying to tell your partner to change and they keep not changing, we are also all vulnerable to something called the fundamental attribution theory. 

That is a big, fancy term for saying something that, I think, has a lot of common sense wisdom, which is this: when we understand why people do what they do, we can either look at the situation and the context and say, “Oh, okay. That's why they behaved that way. They had a bad day, they were having a reaction to something that I said that maybe rubbed them the wrong way.” 

We can look at outside factors that help us understand why people behave or we can look for internal reasons why people are the way they are. “They are a negative person. They have character flaws, they are fundamentally unable to be loving and emotionally intelligent. They are broken in some way.” It's how we understand why people are the way that they are. Every single one of us humans walking on this planet is vulnerable to — when it comes to us and the way we behave — we have many situational reasons why we do what we do. “I'm tired, I didn't get enough sleep last night. I drank too much coffee so I was a little bit raa!”

We are living in our own experience, we understand why we do the things we do, we have reasons why and they're often true, but when it comes to understanding other humans, it is much harder to do that because we don't have all the information. We don't know that somebody drank three cups of coffee or didn't get enough sleep last night. We look at somebody who's being kind of aggro and we say, “Oh, that's a bad person right there” or “Wow, what's wrong with them?” 

When we have been living in a negative relational system with our partner for a while, we can begin to attribute a lot of this dispositional causality, meaning we start to tell ourselves a story about our partner that is focused on their character flaws, their personality flaws, these sweeping things about them that are negative and hurtful or unhealthy and that are never going to be different. That is why relationships end, is when people have been telling themselves that story about their partner to the point where they have come to believe it. 

I have much more information on that topic in yet another podcast that I did, which is how to stop a divorce and save your marriage. If any of this is feeling familiar to you, you should probably check out that podcast as well. This is super important to know because, again, when we have high standards and high hopes for a relationship and want it to be great to the point that we are focusing a lot on negativity, the biggest risk to your relationship is making those mistakes around perceiving your partner in such a way that kind of allows you to feel almost entitled to be critical and contemptuous of them. 

That it goes on long enough that it really begins to change your belief about who they are as people, how they are irredeemably unhealthy or too different from you, or “We're just not compatible.” Where do you go after that? There's no growth possible if you have convinced yourself that is the reason that you're having problems in your relationship. The answer is to become self-aware that this is a thing that we all do and we're all vulnerable to it. I also am vulnerable to this and everyone is. I'm not saying that with any criticism but it's just a fact. 

Grow Together

How do we become self-aware of our own tendency to think in these ways and then very intentionally and deliberately find different ways of thinking and feeling and behaving that will be much, much healthier for you and for your relationship and will actually promote the growth and positive change that you want? Because people can change and that's a question that I get a lot, “Can people change?” I have people ask me this who are in long-term relationships. “Can people change?” 

Sometimes, I also do dating coaching and people will meet somebody and start a new relationship and already be thinking, “Okay, is this who this person is? Can this be different? The short answer is yes and no. Again, many things about our personalities are hard-wired. I actually am going to be going in-depth into this in another upcoming podcast on compatibility and personality variables that often trip up many couples, honestly because these are things that are kind of baked in and that can't be different and that's okay. 

We'll talk about why that is, but it's also true that even though we all have fundamental ways of being, we all have life experiences that shape us, cultures that shape us. Every family of origin has a unique culture that shapes us. We will always see the world and other people through those lenses. We also have fundamental attachment styles that are very difficult to change. We can become very self-aware and intentional and over great many years, change attachment styles that were formed in very early childhood but that's okay. 

You can have a good relationship anyway even if you have an attachment style that's a little off-center as many people are. There are also other things like ways of thinking, core beliefs, even if somebody is kind of ADD, that is never going to be different and again, doesn't matter. Being different is not the goal. It's figuring out how to be self-aware and to use tools and skills and strategies to be a fantastic partner anyway, and also to embrace this new idea, which is all ways of being come with gifts.

They are strengths. There is light and dark in all things and it's very easy to get real fixated on problems and to completely lose sight of the gifts and opportunities and really positive things that people are bringing to the table, not in spite of their challenges or differences, but because of them. It's coming into a relationship with this kind of perspective that can really change everything. I will say, in addition to all of us individuals having our strengths, we also do have growth opportunities and so does every relationship. One easy way just to get a snapshot as to what some of those strength and growth opportunities are for your relationship is just to do a simple relationship assessment.

I have put one together on our website. There are many others, of course, but if you'd like to take my How Healthy Is Your Relationship Quiz, it's at growingself.com/relationship-quiz. It's about 22 questions, it's fairly high level. We have much more in depth relationship assessments we use for our clients, but I'll give you a snapshot on a number of different domains that are really important for most couples around what are strengths for you. 

I bet even if your relationship has been feeling difficult lately, it's unusual for somebody to take that assessment and not have any strengths or positive aspects about your relationship or about your partnership. If you've been feeling kind of “Ughh” about things lately, that might be a good place to start. It also offers, I think, a more structured roadmap around like, “Okay, here are things that we can work on” as opposed to just falling into bad feelings about each other because that tends to not be productive. In addition to embracing this idea of strengths, growth opportunities, and gifts, and all things, it is also really important to have an appreciative relationship that is founded on positivity to also become self-aware about your, and when I say your, I mean our, expectations about what should be happening in a relationship. 

I cannot even tell you, as a marriage counselor, how much unhappiness, and even mayhem, stemmed from people going into relationships with unexplored, and often subconscious, expectations about what relationships should be, what love is, how love should be shown, who should be in charge of what, how people should communicate, how people should parent. I don't know if you're noticing a pattern in what I'm saying here, that “should” word is the apparent part of this because we all have our biases about what should be happening that are very much coming from our life experiences, our cultural norms, what we learned in our families of origin or from other people. 

There actually are many different ways of being that are all just fine. There is a wide range of acceptable behaviors and there is no one “should.” There is no truth with a capital T. There are, if you imagine, kind of a bell curve at the extreme ends of that bell curve. There are sets of behaviors that are actually not helpful for anyone. There is abusive behavior, there is neglectful behavior. We don't want to go into those corners, but there's a wide range of behaviors in the middle of that that are actually okay. 

Getting very stuck on things being the way that you were taught they should be is just a recipe for unhappiness. One of the easiest ways to shift into appreciation and positivity is to get clear on what you were taught and what subconscious things might be bubbling around in your brain about what should be happening. Because that is often the cause of a lot of unhappiness and bad feeling, is like when there is a gap between what we believe should be happening and then what is actually happening in a relationship with ourselves, with friends, at work. 

This is not just unique to relationships, but the bigger that gap between what you believe should be happening and what is actually happening is what creates bad feelings for a lot of people. Sometimes, when we have feelings of distress or dissatisfaction, that's a signal to us. Like, “Okay, maybe I do need to make some changes here.” A lot of times, the easier way is like, “Okay, what am I telling myself about what should be happening? What is my own inner narrative about the situation?” 

When we can tap into that, that's really very, very powerful. I've additionally done some podcasts around getting in touch with your shadow self or how to understand subconscious thoughts. There are a lot of applications for those things in many areas of our life that if you're interested, you can just look back in the podcast feed for those episodes, as well. I'm going to put links to all these stuff in the show notes for this episode too so it'll be all in one place for you. 

When it comes to our subconscious beliefs about what our relationships should be, there are a lot. Think about just for a second what your ultimate relationship dream fantasy if your relationship was as good as it could possibly be. Most people, it's some combination of being with a person who really knows you, gets you, understands you inside and out, and loves you for exactly who and what you are, who does not judge you, or criticize you, but understands your point of view, who has compassion for your pain and for the things that you've lived through in your life, and who knows that you are doing the very best that you can do like every single day, you are trying really hard. 

Your ideal partner is somebody who you can be vulnerable with, who is emotionally safe for you, who loves you unconditionally, and who knows and has compassion for everything about you, even things in your past that you might feel bad about or even ashamed of like it's okay. Also, in addition to that acceptance, somebody who inspires you to be your best and who lifts you up, who encourages you, someone who you can learn from, grow with, build a beautiful future with together.

There's that but also you'll have somebody who doesn't expect you to be perfect. They accept your imperfections and instead, I think, focus on your growth, your wins, the best part of you. You are working so hard and trying so hard, are doing such a good job and you are better today than you were six months ago. Really seeing the impact of how hard you try, and if we wanted to get real granular, this ideal person also has a great relationship with their parents and with your parents, but who is also really good at setting boundaries. They are super patient, they don't ever yell at the kids. 

They're great with money, but they're not controlling. They're just good with money. They're fun. They like to do the things that you like to do. They make you laugh, they're easy to talk to. They're fun to have sex with. They smell good. They are hard workers but not workaholics. They are great parents. They're conscientious. They're successful in their careers. They're responsible, but they also like to have a good time. They're interested in you. They're interesting, they're educated, they have lots of friends, they're socially savvy but they really want to hang out with you. They're hot. 

They do things around the house without being asked. You don't have to bug them about it, and basically, they're psychic. They know what you're thinking, what you're feeling, what you're needing, what you're wanting without you ever having to say it. They shower you with love and attention, they make you dinner, they buy you presents, and feeling their love and appreciation of you no matter what. 

Okay, so as I'm saying all these things out loud, I just made this little list, but I have heard all of these things from couples that I work with, even me in my own life. If any one of these are feeling a little bit out with my husband, it's very easy to say something about that. When we think about this all as a whole, dump it all out, all of the expectations, all of the hopes and ideas that we have about what a relationship could be, I think it becomes easier to see that, “Oh, nobody can actually be all of this.” I think here is a moment of humility like, “I am not all of those things. I can't do all of that consistently every single day perfectly for my husband. 

I try to do most of those things sometimes but not all the time and yet that hope, that true need that we have inside of all of us is that hope to be unconditionally loved and accepted for who we are, even if we don't always say the right thing, or do the right thing, or even know what to do, that we make mistakes but that we're seen for the best parts of ourselves and not the worst parts of ourselves, right? I think just keeping that idea in mind, the things that we want from others, “How do we be that?” 

That's the real work that is available to any of us in a relationship and very consciously pulling ourselves back from getting hurt or irritated or annoyed when we're not getting all our needs met and thinking about “What's it like to live with me? Who am I?” I think, from that place, that growth mindset, that commitment to acceptance and unconditional love and positive regard can also be nicely combined with this growth mindset and this idea that we all have a responsibility to grow and learn and be the best that we can be. 

In every single relationship, there's going to be a lot of that happening throughout a long term relationship because we don't all learn how to be perfect parents or manage finances perfectly or talk about sex. Who gets taught how to have those conversations? Communication skills are not overtly taught unless you go to Montessori School for your whole life, emotional intelligence. These are things that people go to coaching to learn how to do because you don't get taught them otherwise.

In any relationship, we should, I'm going to use the word “should,” we should all expect that at some point, we are all going to run into points where like, “Oh, I don't know how to do that” or “My partner doesn't yet know how to do that,” but shifting into that growth mindset, this basic idea. “These things can be learned. People learn how to do this, we can learn too and let's figure out how to learn it together.” This will always ebb and flow over time. Case in point, my husband and I now have a 13 year old. We had figured out how to parent a younger child. Now we're like, “Oh, we're doing this.” I think we're both running into walls and have different perspectives and different ways of being. 

Trying to figure out what's a middle path and how can we kind of grow in our new approach to parenting a 13 year old, which is a total different ballgame and in a way that honors and respects both of our perspectives, but it's also the best interests of our child. Trying to figure out how to learn how to do this together really intentionally because it's very, very easy for especially parents to get into passionate conversations about how parenting should be happening, right? 

There are so many parts of a relationship where it's easy to do that. Money, who does what, priorities, time management, so many things, figuring out “How do we grow here and resist falling into negativity around it.” I think the principles that do hold true for good parenting also hold true for positive relationships and marriages and that we have warmth, unconditional love, unconditional positive regard and support and kindness and appreciation and generosity and high standards. This basic idea that people really should be trying and striving and growing and learning in the service of a loving relationship, that's good parenting and it's also good relationship skills for everyone. Applying those ideas to your marriage is what tends to work. 

Okay, I could go on, but I feel like this is probably enough information for one episode. I do hope that this conversation about learning how to appreciate the partner you have has helped you appreciate the importance of doing this — how it can lead to so many damaging and destructive things in a relationship while ironically, we think that we're trying to make it better, it's actually making it worse. How by shifting into this appreciative, positive, generous stance, we can actually begin to create really positive and powerful changes in our relationships, but it has to start with ourselves and then we can bring that to the table of our relationship and do something great with it. 

This podcast is going to be at growingself.com/appreciate-your-partner. growingself.com/appreciate-your-partner. There, I will include links to all of the past podcasts that I've referenced. You'll find a link to the relationship quiz that I mentioned. I will also link to some other articles about how to support appreciation, love, respect, healthy communication, and also some resources to the things that might be growth areas in your relationship. 

How to manage finances as a couple, how to talk about differences in sexual desire, communication skills, emotional intelligence, we all have stuff to learn and learning and growing is a solvable problem. In that spirit, I will let you digest all of this and I will be back in touch with you next week with another episode of The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. Until then.

[Outro music: Anything And Everything by J Lind]


Embracing Your Cultural Identity

Embracing Your Cultural Identity

Embracing Your Cultural Identity

 

Embracing Your Cultural Identity

Feeling connected to your cultural identity can be an important part of life satisfaction for many people, and it can be a large part of one’s identity as a whole. In my work as a therapist and online life coach, I have the opportunity to sit with people who are on this journey. Knowing one’s cultural identity and embracing it is not a requirement for feeling satisfied and it does not have to be a necessary part of happiness or contentment, but the key piece here is whether that is an intentional choice for you. 

For many people living in the United States, and across the world, knowing and embracing your cultural, racial, or ethnic identity can be a complex task. For the purposes of this article, I will use ‘cultural identity’ as a broad term to include race and ethnicity (although culture and cultural identity are not limited to these 2 areas), but it is important to note these terms are different and distinct from one another. Cultural identity can also include language and location among other things, and is largely socially constructed.

Embracing Your Cultural Identity 

Why might embracing your cultural identity be important anyway? There are many answers to this question, but from a therapist and life coach’s perspective, a big factor are the emotional impacts that can arise when we don’t. 

Feelings of shame, guilt, isolation, disconnection, and emptiness may arise when we feel confused or cut off from our cultural identity, and this can be especially complex in the face of white supremacy. It would be a disservice and unrealistic not to address the role white supremacy plays on how our cultural identity forms, how culture is communicated to us, and what it can mean to us. 

Embracing your cultural identity can help you feel more satisfied, more connected to yourself, your relationship, and your loved ones and give you more confidence in who you are. 

White Supremacy and You

Connecting with your cultural identity while fighting the current of white supremacy is no easy task, and has been something our ancestors have been doing for many years whether they are conscious of this or not. As America is generally recognized as a nation of immigrants, the issue of striving to feel connected and validated in our culture while being a part of “American culture” can feel like a balancing act. 

This is particularly salient for first and second generation immigrants, and immigrant families as a whole regardless of how many generations have come forth since immigrating. Walking the tightrope of trying to assimilate into a new country and culture while holding on to your own racial and ethnic culture is no small feat, and can lead you to feel criticized or invalidated at every turn when you aren’t “American enough” or “white enough” and you also aren’t “____ enough” for your cultural group. 

Understanding this for ourselves can be challenging enough, much less in the face of colorism and microaggressions that can permeate every day life. Colorism is a way in which white supremacy can show up within racial and ethnic groups, where proximity to whiteness is met with either giving or taking away power and privilege based on the tone of one’s skin. 

Families may have learned or had the experience that embracing their cultural identity, and not hiding it in the face of white supremacy, is dangerous. For many people across the globe, embracing and embodying your cultural identity is not always safe. This is an unfortunate reality, and being able to discern when you can embrace your cultural identity and when you can’t is a critical skill. 

However, what I see as a beacon of light in these situations is that you can cultivate and embrace your cultural identity in the privacy and sanctity of your own home or living space, as well as in your mind. Now that we have been able to acknowledge the role of white supremacy, let’s talk about ways to embrace and cultivate your cultural identity even in the face of challenge so that healing can begin.

Cultivating and Connecting with Your Cultural Identity

In order to begin cultivating and connecting with your cultural identity, you first have to identify the parts that make you, you. There are many routes you can use to discover your racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup, depending on how deep you’d like to go. 

Trace Your Family Journey

If you are able to speak with family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins they may be a great place to start tracing the journey your family has made across different states, countries, or cities. Depending on your relationship with them, this could be an opportunity to connect and share stories about family members and the history of your family.

Research Your Family Tree

Another great option is to complete genealogical DNA testing, or to complete some genealogical research on your own via a family tree. You could complete this yourself, or outsource to hire someone else to do this research for you. As mentioned before, culture can be broad and comprise the various parts of your identity, which may include your geographic location, the way you speak, and your personality. Regardless of how you define your cultural identity, it starts with identifying the major pieces of you that may or may not be visible. 

Explore Your Identities

Once you have started to recognize your identities, it is time to explore them and be curious about what they mean to you. This may be a little more challenging than it seems on the surface, as you will have to sort through the messages you may have received about a particular identity compared to what you actually feel or believe about it. 

This process is not always linear, clear cut, or easy, and it may be a continual process until you feel firmly rooted in what you think and feel about your identities. I also use identity in the plural sense, as we are all intersectional in that we are made up of many identities including but not limited to: gender, ability, age, race, ethnicity, and sexual identity. 

Connect with Others On a Similar Path

As you are exploring and integrating these various pieces of you, it may be helpful to engage with others who are similar to you to either share in the struggles of this work or find that you are not alone in how you feel. Many times we may feel isolated or misunderstood in who we are, but from my experience as a therapist and coach, all of us can relate to one another more than we may think. 

As you are doing this work, your emotions may range from joy, surprise, and excitement to confusion, frustration, or disbelief. At the end of the day, I encourage you to give yourself patience and permission to stand in your truth and not try to force yourself into neat and tiny boxes. People may share different opinions than you, but no one can define you or tell you who you are, only you can do that. 

Embracing Your Cultural Identity While Combating White Supremacy 

Embracing your cultural identity can be freeing and satisfying, but does not come without its own challenges, as white supremacy can be insidious in its various forms. As you are going through your own journey, doubts and inner criticism may arise as you’re exploring your emotions and beliefs about your identities. 

Paying attention to these emotions as they come up and exploring what may be beneath them can also help you better understand yourself, your fears, and anxieties about showing up in this new way. The tools you will need in your toolbox as you are embracing and understanding your cultural identity will be:

  • compassion
  • patience
  • kindness
  • curiosity

You will be using each of these tools often, so be prepared to keep them accessible to you. 

You will need to give yourself compassion as you feel conflicting emotions, patience as you feel confusion or stuck-ness, and kindness towards yourself all along the way. Curiosity will be important to combat feelings of judgement, and to explore every thought, belief, or emotion. 

Curiosity may look like, “Where did I learn this?” or “What is the origin story to this reaction or belief?” and, “Do I really believe/think/feel this, or did this come from someone else?” Feelings of shame or pain can be difficult to process, and here is where giving ourselves compassion and kindness is crucial. 

Going along with society or those in power is a survival strategy, and yourself and your family did what you had to do to get to this point and there is no shame in that. However, at any time we all have the choice to pivot and make the choices that best serve us now, which may include opening ourselves up to integrating all of who we are. 

I may make this sound easy, but please give yourself patience in understanding this, like everything else, it is a process that takes time. There is just as much value in the journey as there is arriving at the destination, and you may need to remind yourself of this often. 

When confronted with white supremacy or microaggressions, you have the power to remind yourself of your truth and who you are. You are able to reassure yourself of your identities and what they mean to you and about you, and no one can ever take that away from you. 

Embracing your cultural identity may look like not censoring yourself or contorting yourself to fit the majority, but it is important to recognize you may not always have the privilege and safety to do so. In those cases, reminding yourself of your values and identity in those moments will be important to insulate you from the effects of that. Giving yourself compassion in those moments and recognizing the strength and skill it takes to adapt and protect yourself is a huge aspect of this work, and will cultivate resilience within you. 

Embracing your cultural identity is not the path of least resistance, but is a trek worth embarking on. You can utilize these tools along with the support of friends, family, and people in your community you feel safe sharing with along the way, as social support is invaluable throughout this process as well. Please know, people across the world and all around you are working to embrace their cultural identity right along with you.

 

Warmly,

Josephine

 

 

 

Josephine M., M.S. MFTC Couples Counseling + Therapy

Josephine M., M.S., MFTC is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.

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How to Deal with Stress at Work

How to Deal with Stress at Work

How to Deal with Stress at Work

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

Music Credits: “Train” by Starcrawler

Dealing With Stress at Work? Help Is Here!

Are you dealing with stress at work? Hey, in this era, who isn’t! Work can always be stressful, but in this particular life space many people are dealing with anxiety at work, dealing with burnout at work, and dealing with difficult situations at work that are simply next level. 

Whether you’re trying to figure out how to stay productive when working at home; dealing with conflict at work (or favoritism); coping with anxiety about needing to go back to work in person; dealing with burnout because you’re understaffed and doing the job of three people; are in a leadership position and trying to figure out how to keep your employees happy; or are evaluating whether to leave your job and carve out a new career path… help is here.

In this episode, I’m sitting down with my dear colleague, Growing Self career coach Dr. Kristi to discuss her top tips for dealing with stress at work, how to deal with burnout, and more. Together, we’re exploring a variety of different career-related stressors you might be facing, and how to deal with all of them. 

She shared so much helpful information during this episode around how to stay clear and empowered in a potentially disempowering situation, how to use mindfulness and self-care to manage stress on the job, how to communicate with your team in order to advocate for yourself, and how to make choices if you’d like to make changes to your working situation. (Whether that’s leaving a job, or working to create a better workplace environment in the position you have now.)

Dr. Kristi works with career coaching clients from all walks of life: leaders and business owners, as well as working professionals, and she has advice for you too. We’re talking about how to juggle work and life, how to set healthy boundaries, and how to stay sane whether you’re working from home or online. So much good stuff!

If you're under a lot of stress, feeling stuck at work, and looking for a way to reclaim your zen, tune in to the full episode!

How to Deal with Stress at Work

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

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How To Deal With Stress At Work: Podcast Episode Highlights 

Listen and Learn How To…

  • Pick up strategies for coping with work-related stress 
  • Discover how to use your bargaining power and advocate for yourself in order to feel more empowered 
  • Learn how to deal with stress at work 
  • Understand the importance of self-care for better work-life balance 
  • Know how to manage your stress levels both at work and at home
  • Avoid burnout at work
  • Grasp how career coaching can help you navigate work-related concerns

Tips For Dealing With Stress at Work 

The Stress of Working From Home 

The pandemic has brought about many changes and challenges in our everyday lives. As a career coach, Dr. Kristi has noticed some trends with parents who have to balance working remotely and parenting simultaneously. She points out that you are not alone. Many struggled to navigate through everyday life due to the pandemic. 

However, Dr. Kristi reminds us to look for silver linings in tough situations. She views these things as silver linings: 

  • More family time 
  • Taking stock of what’s important 
  • No time wasted on daily commutes 
  • Increased productivity at home 

About a year and a half into this pandemic, Dr. Kristi shares that more parents have seen more meaning in working remotely because it has paved the way for better work-life balance and more family time. 

Workplaces are slowly opening, but many people don't want to go back to their offices. Dr. Kristi points out that this uncertain time has made people reflect on their priorities and lives. 

Concerns About Work 

Dr. Kristi shares some of the concerns of her clients: 

  • Not feeling safe about going back to the office
  • Missing collaboration and teamwork in a physical working environment 

She believes that it is essential to stand up for yourself and voice out your concerns to your employer or supervisor. She says, “reach out and do some creative problem-solving.”  

If you have a leadership role in the company, listening to your employee’s concerns is crucial in making everyone feel safe and protected, especially during this pandemic. The more creative leaders get, the better everyone seems to do. 

How to Cope with Feeling Unsafe at Work 

With the virus going around, people are concerned about going back to work. They feel unsafe in places that don't strictly enforce health and safety policies. 

Dr. Kristi's advice is to find a workplace that is supportive of your personal safety. If you don’t feel supported, advocate and reach out. If it's still not working, find the best fit for you. Dr. Kristi reminds you to know the following:

  • how valuable you are
  • what you want
  • what is acceptable to you

“You are not stuck. You have choices.”, says Dr. Kristi. It can be a sign to assess your career path and explore growth opportunities. If your job isn't valuing you, it may be time to make changes — or even leave. It helps to assess your work environment to determine what to do next. Don't be afraid to advocate for your salary and negotiate! Understanding your worth is critical to getting what you need.

How to Help People Deal with Stress at Work 

If you’re a leader, you have the responsibility to help your team stay afloat through these uncertain times. Part of the balancing act is to incorporate mindfulness and other stress management techniques. Remember, calmer people make a better workplace

It can be as simple as starting a meeting with a five-minute meditation. “Doing just a little bit everyday can really help overall stress levels, so that you have more clarity, and you’re better able to handle all the unknowns,” says Dr. Kristi. 

Dr. Kristi emphasizes the importance of doing something to keep your stress levels at bay. 

Various tools and techniques can teach you how to deal with burnout at work. When it is hard to control what’s going on around us, it is helpful to focus on things we can control, which is ourselves. 

How to Deal with Change at Work

While working from home is advantageous to some, it can also be a source of stress for others. This setup blurs the lines between work and personal life, especially for parents with small children.

Moreover, extroverts find the lack of social interaction challenging. Remote work also makes it hard for people with ADHD to stay organized and focused on their own. 

There are several strategies you can employ to set yourself up for success. You can hire a part-time nanny to look after your child. It’s also helpful to schedule your day like you would at the office.

If you're struggling with making it work alone, seek assistance from your supervisor. Doing so is understandably challenging for high-functioning people. But you have to remember, “strong is asking for help.” 

How to Deal With Being Overloaded at Work

Because of COVID, more and more people have realized how short life is. Thus, they have become more empowered to leave their jobs and pursue their passions. 

While that’s great for them, it can mean bad news for their co-workers. If you have to fill in for your team, remember to set your boundaries. Nobody can consistently work for 60 hours and not get burned out or sick.

Also, realize that you now have more bargaining power compared to the past. Find the best way to approach your supervisor and communicate your concerns. 

Dealing with Burnout at Work through Self-Care

In these trying times, burnout prevention and recovery are very crucial. Increased stress levels can cause tension in relationships, affect your immune system, and make you more irritable. Now more than ever is where the importance of self-care comes in. 

Dr. Kristi shares some ways to practice self-care: 

  • Get enough quality sleep 
  • Spend time outside or in nature 
  • Take five minutes to meditate, do deep breathing, stretching, or journaling 

There is power in starting your day right through meditation: “You're starting out your day from a place of being centered and calm.” It's a way of training your brain to cope better during stressful situations. 

Taking a moment to pause and collect yourself instead of pushing yourself to run on empty can help you become more productive

Career Development Resources For You:

How to Deal With Stress at Work: Show Notes

The music featured in this episode is by the band Starcrawler, with their song “Train.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://starcrawler.bandcamp.com/album/starcrawler Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

Enjoy the Podcast?

Did you enjoy the podcast? What did you learn about how to deal with stress at work? What’s your biggest work-related pain point these days? Do you feel more empowered to use your bargaining power for your welfare? Tell us by commenting on this episode!

[Intro Song: You Bring Me Home by The Sudden Leaves]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you're listening to The Love Happiness and Success podcast. 

[Intro Song]

On this episode of the podcast, I'm so excited to talk to my colleague Dr. Kristi who specializes in career coaching. What I love about Dr. Kristi is that it's above and beyond like, “What am I going to do with my life” kind of career coaching. That's very valid but Dr. Kristi goes deep and really helps people figure out how to navigate a lot of stressful concerns related to jobs and professional development. 

The Stress of Working From Home 

Dr. Lisa: I am so excited to talk with Dr. Kristi today about how to deal with stress at work in this particular point in time where there's so much uncertainty and potential pitfalls and just weird things to even think about thanks to pandemic life. 

Dr. Kristi, thank you so much for joining me today. You with your pretty girl hair, it's always a pleasure. Always a pleasure but thank you. 

Dr. Kristi: Oh, thank you so much for having me. Yeah, it's been just a strange, not even just a year now, it's been going on for a year and a half. Going on to two years of just insanity with COVID. I've just noticed a lot of trends so I want to just sort of talk about those today. One, so people can feel they're not alone. A lot of people are in the same boat. Also to look at ways they can help themselves during this time. 

I think at the beginning of COVID, everybody was sort of… Nobody knew what was going on and then all of a sudden, everybody's remote, right? For working parents, that presented some unique challenges. Many of us also didn’t have kids at home. I know you, me, a lot of people we know. People like you, I think it was even harder on the ones with the younger kiddos. 

My kids are teens, they are old enough that they could discipline themselves around organizing school time and things like that but my clients with preschoolers, kindergarteners, first grade, oh, that’s just such a tough age to have to be navigating working from home and trying to school your kids. It was an especially challenging year. 

I think it was almost harder that things got better and seemed there was a light at the end of the tunnel and then Delta variant hit. A lot went up in the air again. Now, most of us, our kids are back in school although mine was just out again. I've gotten six notices in one week that they were around positive COVID cases.

Dr. Lisa: Really? Oh, Kristi. 

Dr. Kristi: It's not a normal school year even though they're in school. I think the vaccines obviously are helping things move in a more normal direction and I feel better about my kids being in school because they're old enough to get vaccinated, but I've had parents, again, my clients with younger kids have expressed anxiety that their children aren't old enough to get vaccinated. 

Yet, this new variant is hitting kids a little harder than the last one so it's just a lot of anxiety in general, and then now, what does work look like? I think that work has changed and I personally think we're going to see some permanent changes in what work looks like based out of this whole year and a half. I think some of it is good. I really do and I try and look for silver linings in horrid situations. 

So much about the past year and a half has been out of our control and hard but I think some silver linings were people, one, got more family time. We were all together holed up at our homes for a while there, and then, I think we also were able to take stock of what's important. I had a lot of clients tell me they really enjoyed having greater work-life balance without having a commute, especially people that had much longer commutes. They also told me they had increased productivity. 

Sometimes, again, the kid thing was a little hard when the kids were home too. But increased productivity with not being involved sort of in all the water cooler workplace chit chat, they were able to get more done in an earlier period of time. They were able to stop working and then not have the commute so they could be with their families and they really enjoyed that. Now, conversely, after a period of time, some people miss that social interaction. 

Again, it comes down to personalities. I have some people who were so overjoyed to be at home all of the time. They were fine not interacting with a bunch of other people. Whereas other people who are more social by nature and the Zoom thing just was not cutting it for them. The Zoom fatigue thing is real and they were just done and they wanted to get back in the office at least part-time. 

Now, we're at this weird place in time where some companies are saying, “Everybody back in by x date” and other places are saying, “Hybrid, you're in two days, out two days. We're staggering it because we're still following COVID guidelines, things like that.” Other companies have made pretty cool changes. A large company that I just did a stress management presentation for announced they're moving permanently to a four-day workweek because they recognized that increased productivity in people, but also, the work-life balance thing is so important to people. 

I think that companies that are doing well throughout all this are being creative because what's happening, at least what I'm seeing, is the companies were like, “Everybody's back full time starting on x date.” All of a sudden, I'm getting a lot of clients because they're like, “I'm not going back. I'm not doing that.” Because, again, they've realized throughout this pandemic that certain things are really important to them. 

Family time, work-life balance, and some taking stock of what they want out of life because unfortunately, many of us, and I know you dealt with this, have lost family members, right? We're seeing how short life is. I personally was extremely sick back at the beginning of all this. When you realize what's important in life, you're less willing, I think, to make concessions that aren't in line with who you want to be and that ideal version of yourself. 

I've had people reach out realizing through this time, they're like, “Wow, I don't love what I'm doing so why would I want to go back into an office five days a week when I either didn't love the job the begin with or I didn't necessarily love my coworkers all that much either.” 

Dr. Lisa: Right, right, and now, I'm risking my life for the pressure of being there. 

Dr. Kristi: Exactly, exactly. I think that's been nice. People are like, “I get to choose. I get to do something different.” Sometimes, even the act of enough people making that choice has shifted the employer into saying, “Oh, you know what? Okay, we'll go hybrid” because replacing employees is expensive. It takes time. It takes resources. 

Dr. Lisa: It's a new kind of collective bargaining. I don't know how organized it is but yeah, a critical mass of people are getting the attention of leadership. 

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely. Yeah, for the first time, I think, in a very long time. There has been some good that's come out of it. My hope is that people can really look at themselves and what they want looking ahead, and to speak up for themselves. Because a lot of times, people might be unhappy with how their company is responding or a certain policy, and when I say, “Well, did you address that?” “Well, no.” Well, then, first, changing jobs also takes energy and time and applying for jobs and looking for things so if it's something that's potentially is fixable, try to fix it. Speak up. Advocate for yourself. 

Concerns About Work 

Dr. Lisa: What an important message right there is that I'm hearing you say you might be more empowered than you realize. I think historically we're used to kind of doing what we're told in employment situations and you're saying that this circumstance has led you to have more power than you might even realize. What are some of the kinds of things that people listening or the career coaching clients that you've been working with are experiencing as stressful that you've been encouraging them to say, “Can this be different at my job?” What are some of the typical things you're hearing? 

Dr. Kristi: Well, number one is complaints about going back into the office, not feeling safe. That's number one. In those cases, encouraging them to reach out and advocate their manager, their team, because a lot of times, they're not alone and that's where that collective bargaining power comes in. Other times, it's that missing the dynamic. A lot of work environments, even if they don't want to be back full time, they miss that collaboration and teamwork that you don't necessarily get that same thing on Zoom. 

Even if you're having Zoom meetings, which is great to a point, you're still missing sometimes the magic that happens when you're all together in a room talking. I've had clients explain it to me the way they would explain it to their supervisor, and then, again, reach out. Do some creative problem solving and sometimes, it's actually during this pandemic before going back in the office, it's actually even having virtual events that aren't necessarily work-based. 

I've had more people come to me and they are in leadership positions who are my clients. They're like, “How do I get my team to feel good and engaged through all this?” Some of my leadership clients who are executives are doing just more fun online things. Ice-breaking games, fun things such as getting them bonded, and then, engaging in more creative activities. Then, looking at bringing them in one day a week for a joint meeting where they can do some of that dynamic collaboration type activity. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, just a totally different way. Listening to what people are saying and “How can we fill their cup and meet these needs” but do it in a totally different way, not just baked into the daily experience anymore and how can people ask for that even if you don't know exactly what the answer is. Because at the end of the day, and I love that you work with so many leaders and I think every leader listening to this podcast will understand that at the end of the day, it's your problem to figure out the how. You know what I mean? That it's their responsibility, I think, of working people to say, “Here's what I want. Here's what would help this feel better for me.” 

Dr. Kristi: For the leaders, that creativity piece, right? Because creative problem-solving right now, that's made the difference, again, with companies I've seen that have done really well and handled this versus not. I work with some leaders who, their organizations are client-facing jobs so it's this weird balance of meeting the needs of the people they serve, the community they serve with their staff who also need to feel safe and protected. It's an interesting balancing act right now for leaders. The more creative I've seen they get with how they address things and problem-solving, the better everybody seems to do. 

How to Cope with Feeling Unsafe at Work 

Dr. Lisa: Definitely. I'm glad we're talking about that but if I may ask, I know that you work with a spectrum of different clients, many leaders. I know that you work with a lot of medical professionals. Honestly, I know you have a lot of physicians that you see. That's probably a different animal. I'm curious to know, what advice or recommendations you would have for someone who might feel unsafe at their job or that they aren't being protected or supported and how to cope with that kind of stress

Specifically, I'm thinking of, and this isn't even a client, Kristi. This is my sister but I know that a lot of people are in the same boat, I'll tell you. She's a high school art teacher and when she started the school year, it was at a school district that was not requiring masks, and she, with what we've been through with our mom, everything that we can, especially also having unvaccinated children at home and breakthrough cases and all that. 

With her first day back to school, she asked students to put on a mask in her classroom. Not only did the students say now, she got in trouble with the administration for asking and she felt very unsafe and unsupported and it's led her to do some soul searching. I don't know exactly what's going to happen there with her career path but I'm wondering in general, you must have clients who are in similar situations where it feels like they cannot protect themselves and maintain employment. 

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely, and that, the teacher thing just breaks my heart because that's going on in our district too, unfortunately. They're out there, basically, they signed up to teach, not to put their lives on the line. It just seems like a basic respect. At our school, there was at least support from administration so there are, and I know this from my kids who are in there, that there are teachers who have said, “You must wear a mask in my class.” The administration has supported that and actually sent an email out saying, “If your child refuses to wear masks, they will be dismissed.” 

This goes back to the leadership piece. I really hope that more leaders step up to do their part in ending this. Now, if you have an administration, that sounds like your sister did the right thing. She spoke up. She advocated for herself and she got in trouble. In that kind of case, I would absolutely recommend there are districts and it's hard because if you love your district, but then, you have to do that inward soul searching of, “Do I find somewhere else?” 

We have had teachers go to other districts for various reasons due to district-wide policies that it's always an option to look at a different district. If you love teaching, I would say, if that's your passion, absolutely. Yes, you could look for a different career but if it's your passion, try to find somewhere that is supportive of your personal safety. It's sad that there are administrations that aren't supportive of that.

Dr. Lisa: I love what you're saying though, that you're articulating this reminder to know your worth and know that you have so many options and particularly in this kind of climate where many employers are very eager to find and retain and keep happy, talented, great help. That you're a catch and you may have other options, If one place doesn't feel good for you, you find the one that does because you don't have to. 

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely. And I will tell you, again, just from all my clients are career clients in one capacity or another and so many of them have gotten jobs in the last, I would say, a month or so. I have gotten more emails the past month because I work with them on that. If you're not supported, obviously, advocate, reach out, do what you can, but if it's not working, doesn't feel like a fit, oh my gosh, so many places are hiring right now. 

Right now, one of my clients, last week alone, he got three job offers and needed to have a session with me to help walk him through which one, which is an amazing problem to have. Another one of my clients, a physician, same thing. She got offers from three different hospitals. It was helping her navigate which was the best fit. Absolutely know your worth, know your value, know what you want and what's acceptable to you, and if you're in a place that absolutely is refusing to support that, you are not stuck. You have choices. 

Even my son, he's 17. He's been at his same first job for eight months and decided there were things that he did not feel were supportive of him. I said, “Go interview. Everybody's hiring right now. Literally go interview.” He didn't even want my help with his resume. I'm like, “Literally, that's what I do for a living, but okay.” He applied to three jobs. The next day, got two calls, interviewed the next day, and was offered a job on the spot and he's 17. Everywhere is hiring right now. Yeah, it's absolutely in your power to do something if you are not happy. 

Dr. Lisa: I'm so glad we're talking about this and I had another question. I'll ask you that in just a second. Now, I have to circle back around. Just for the benefit of our audience here, say that we have somebody listening who is being showered with job offers because they are amazing and they have so many great opportunities. Do you have a couple of the sort of go-to ideas that you will assist your career coaching clients with in trying to evaluate different positions and which one to take if you have a lot of great opportunities? 

Dr. Kristi: Yeah, so it's hard because everybody's different. A lot of the work I do with people is identifying their personality, their value system. I do a lot of work with people on values and what drives them. A lot of times, you can have a similar job but the mission of the company might be different, or the specific field or way in which you would be using your skill set might be a little different, could be the area. 

Yeah, working with people to make sure whatever choice they make is in line with who they are and their values rather than external factors like parents saying, “You should take that one. It's more money.” Well-meaning family members. But at the end of the day, you are living your life and so you want to make the decision that it's best for yourself so I help people with that. 

Dr. Lisa: Oh, that's good because it's difficult, I think, to look at just hard metrics. What you're saying is even a couple thousand dollars difference in salary, which you could negotiate, is at the end of the day, so much less important to well-being, and health, and happiness, and reduced stress, and more job satisfaction, and a good fit with your personality, and the company culture. 

The meaning that you get from the work and how it sort of creates this whole life experience as opposed to just, “Well, this one has this kind of health insurance and so I'm going to do that.” That can be exactly understandable. All that matters but, I don't want to say short-sighted, but that's the word that's coming to mind. It has to go deeper. 

Dr. Kristi: Yeah, I have them look at it holistically. Negotiating salary, that was something I just had multiple people do. Not to be stereotypical, but I do think I've seen this enough that I think it's true. Women seem to have a harder time advocating for their salary and negotiating salary than men. It's like, “Okay that's what you offer me? Well, okay.” Whereas my male clients are more like, “No, I'm not going to take that.” I'm like, “Okay.” Working with people on how do you go back, so you love the job but you are wanting a higher salary. 

I just helped a woman do this who had never negotiated a salary in her life. We had the next session and she was shocked. She said “They did. They raised the offer” and I was like, “See? Because you're worth it.” I wish women understood their worth as much as men often do. Again, that's not always the case but more often, I think women are not as comfortable advocating for themselves that way. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that's such a great reminder. I know I would struggle with that too. I don't know. It's a hard one. What we're talking about right now, just, I think, reminding everyone of the power of their worth, the number of opportunities and choices that they have, I think that those ideas in themselves reduce stress so much because it's like, “Oh yeah, I don't have to do anything. I have lots of choices.” 

Advice to Deal With Stress at Work 

Dr. Lisa: I'm wondering too if we could talk a little bit about people for whom for a variety of reasons, they are happy enough with their role, their job, they're not making big plans to stay, or maybe trying to find something different is harder than just dealing with the mixed bag of the current situation because nowhere is perfect, but there are other stressful situations that people are facing. 

I know when we were kind of corresponding, you mentioned a unique kind of stress that's coming up where it seems like people in a team are maybe getting different privileges around staying home or having to come in. It's a different facet of office politics. There's a resentment. Can you say a little? I don't know if I'm articulating that well but there are new wrinkles in working relationships these days. 

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely, because with the hybrid model, a lot of employers I think are implementing in more corporate-type jobs with the two days in, two days out, or however they work it. But some places, if people are resistant to coming back in, some of the conflict that's come up is resentment by the in-person workers against the at-home workers, right? They're like, “Well, are they really doing all the work that we're doing? Because we're here and showing up every day and we don't see them.” 

I think there's, again, it's been more of my work with leaders and leadership-type roles where they've described this to me. Part of the work leaders have had a challenge is bringing them together in virtual meetings but also making sure that the work is known. Because it's easy when you're remote that you're doing your thing and working and they are really productive but the in-person team doesn't necessarily know that. It's how you relay that, but then, also, how do you make it feel safe enough? At what time do you then implement people coming back into the office? 

They can't stay home forever by logistics of the job itself. Then, it's been navigating gently, bringing these people back in, and changing those expectations as vaccines have rolled out. Because now, everybody can be vaccinated for the most part. There's obviously some high-risk cases, immunocompromised people, that kind of thing but for the most part, vaccines are widely available, widely effective. That has changed things again. Before, it was certain people it was understandable they didn't want to be in the office because it wasn't safe. Well now, it is much safer, not that you can't have a breakthrough case but they're finding it’s often, if you're vaccinated, not life-threatening. 

Then, it's a challenge of bringing resistant people back into the office, mending some of those feelings of resentment that they've been home longer than everyone else kind of thing. I think that's, again, a challenge that leaders have right now and it's where they've had to be creative. Again, it's where I've walked them through by doing some different activities than maybe they used to do, changing up team meetings in a slightly different way where everyone does a little check-in reports on what they've been working on that week. Again, everybody knows what everybody else is doing. 

There are all kinds of ways until we're all sort of either back. Some places are staying hybrid, which is, I think, great, but everyone's expected to come in at least two of those days or however it works. I think once we get to that point, it's going to take this balancing act basically by managers, directors, leaders, on how to make everybody sort of feel included and decrease that potential for conflict along with just the other thing I'm hearing: overall stress management techniques. It's a stressful time for everybody, whether you're in the office, out of the office, hybrid. 

Dr. Kristi: I've noticed an uptick in people in leadership positions bringing in mindfulness and stress management techniques to the regular team meetings which I love because I teach that to my clients anyway and it's so needed right now. It's just such a stressful time in general. I love that they're incorporating that. Just one of my clients told me they introduce their team meeting and started with a five-minute meditation. That's amazing. That's what we need right now. Everybody's up here with their cortisol levels and that's when you get sick, is when everybody's stress hormones are at a high level so even incorporating more… 

I had a huge national corporation bring me in for virtual stress management training and as a corporation, I would not have thought would necessarily, I don't know again my own thing, necessarily bring in mindfulness training and they wanted that. That was for several hundred people and they loved it and they said they'd been needing those type things just to manage day-to-day stress. I think people also underestimate the power of five minutes of stretching a day or meditation or just even deep breathing, five minutes of yoga. 

Doing just a little bit every day can really just help overall stress levels so that you have more clarity and you're better able to handle all the unknowns. There's so many uncertainties still right now. We don't know for sure what this next year is going to look like. There's new variations coming out every day it feels like, right? All we can have control over is us, not the world around us as much as we wish we could. By taking control of ourselves and engaging in a daily practice of stress management, and again, that can be anything. 

Some of my guys kickbox, that's their mindfulness. I have people who go run, people who rock climb, or whatever your thing is. Just something consistently that keeps your stress levels down during this time because that also boosts, besides your natural antidepressants, your serotonin. All the feel-good: serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, all those feel-good chemicals in your body. That also then increases your immune system so that with all these things going around, you're more likely to be able to handle it without getting super sick. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, definitely but what a great reminder though. It's like there are sort of these all these different spheres and things available to you to deal with stress at work but starting with yourself, taking a look at your personal daily routines, a mindfulness practice, maybe some thought-shifting. I love what you said is like finding ways of taking control, really over your inner experience. I know for me personally, I get stressed out when I feel I'm not managing my time well and when I don't have enough time to do important things and I'm doing all these other things instead. 

It sounds so dorky but my biggest stress management tool is making my list, making my plans, those kinds of… Yeah, it's so powerful. What I love is just this reminder to people that in addition to your personal kind of stress management practices if it's physical or if it's mental, there is opportunity right now to ask for that to be supported by your leadership in your workplace

Say, “Hello, Mr. person or Ms. person, let's have a Dr. Kristi come in and teach us some mindfulness techniques that we can use on the job” or “What are we doing to support mental and emotional and physical wellness in our group right now? Because I need that” and to have that be heard and respected.

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely, and then, that makes for a better workplace because people are calmer. They're not as stressed. It's a win-win for everybody. 

How to Deal with Change at Work

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Oh, that's such a good reminder. Are there other pain points that you've heard your clients describe lately about just areas of stress at work that are kind of unique to this modern experience that we're having that we should address? For example, and this is one thing that came to my mind, many advantages to working at home, cutting out the commute, potentially more time with your family. 

There are some people who experience working at home as being more stressful in some ways because there's this smooshing together of work and life in a way that isn't actually good. Whereas you had this boundary and a different space when we went to work. For some people, it's time management and productivity stuff. Has that come up for your clients? 

Dr. Kristi: Oh yeah, absolutely, especially with small kids in the home, right? I've had clients, again, have to get creative. If both parents are working from home, they've made actual schedules where they trade out. Someone has a meeting, the other one is doing. Some of them have even brought in a part-time nanny into the home so that they're able to do the meetings they need to do but they've gotten creative with putting a sign on the door like a stop sign that their three-year-old knows means daddy's in a meeting or mommy's in a meeting, that kind of thing and but also for them, for the clients. 

They told me they've had to look at that too because they say it's too easy to go out and want to go play with their little one or go read a book or go out to lunch. Again, it's something that you encourage how do you set boundaries around that. If you take lunch anyway, sure, go have lunch with your little one or however that is set up and then you go back into your office as though it's your workplace until your ending time whatever that is. That has been a challenge for sure because for some people with little kids, I think everything about this year and a half has been more stressful. 

I also have clients who don't have kids and it's stressful because they're either super extroverted and social people and it is really driving them nuts now because they've been home for so long or some of my clients have some ADHD tendencies. Staying organized and focused on their own is super challenging if they don't have someone there saying, “Okay, you need to do this, this, and this” or at least other co-workers that are also working, and then it keeps them engaged and focused. 

Some of my clients with some of those attention wandering or they get distracted, then it's working with them individually on creating some techniques to help them stay focused and engaged in the workday, but part of that also has been reaching out and saying, “Hey, I need a little bit extra help” from their manager, supervisor. In fact, one I had earlier today finally reached out. Super brilliant person in a brilliant line of work and I think sometimes, when people are super high functioning, it can be harder to ask for help because they feel they shouldn't need it because they're so smart when really, we all need help at different times. 

Encourage them to ask for this thing that would help them stay a little more on track during the workday and their manager said, “Sure, we'll start tomorrow” and started doing it. It really is going to be really beneficial for this person but it took them… He's also male, which sometimes, males have a little bit harder time asking for help and have shared that with me, that they feel like, “Well, I should be strong.” I'm like, “Strong is asking for help.” 

Dr. Lisa: “What does that mean?” 

Dr. Kristi: Exactly. He was like, “Oh my gosh, it totally worked.” I'm like, “Yes, it did and now, you can keep doing that.” That kind of thing, I think there are challenges based on certain personalities that working at home is harder and that's okay. It's working with that to set yourself up as much as possible to succeed. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, what a growth moment though because I've had that too and I have personally felt surprised. One client I'm thinking of is just phenomenally accomplished. She is also a physician doing so many things. That and working from home, experience is kind of floaty “What do I do next? Let me look at my email again” kind of thing. It's so interesting, this growth opportunity that people have, I think, who have been relying for a long time on this external structure and expectations of other people to kind of keep them organized, keep them on track. 

Then, in the absence of that, really having to develop this internal motivation and this internal organizational system for “How do I prioritize my time and energy? How do I stay focused” and managing themselves in a lot of ways without supervision. What important and cool work, personal work, to have this opportunity to do that. 

Dr. Kristi: Yes, and a lot of the time management work I do is with physicians because they're so busy and with their on-call schedule shifting all the time, it's harder to stay on a regular… Even self-care track with the stress management and mindfulness because their schedule is different all the time. Yeah, they have a special challenge along with dealing with a lot of medical stress right now. 

How to Deal With Work Overload

Dr. Lisa: Well, I'm glad that we talked about just that the work from home stress, different kind of stress. Were there other things that came to your mind when I asked? 

Dr. Kristi: Just one thing that actually came up today and came up with several clients is that so people who are feeling empowered to leave, absolutely. If that's what they're feeling, they should go seek out what's going to make them really happy. I have a lot of those clients. They're like, “Life is short, I want to go do something else.” However, I also have a few clients who are the ones left in a business where multiple people…

Dr. Lisa: Are dropping out.

Dr. Kristi: As it is, yes. Now, they're doing the work of three and four people because of so many people leaving. The stress level is just at the top. With those clients, it's been addressing tools on self-care, stress management. Again, what can be put in place as far as advocating for help during this time and looking at the bigger picture down the road? Are they hiring more people? Are there temp people coming on? Taking on the role of multiple jobs, I've seen more and more. 

I've also had several clients, due to the pandemic, have very unexpected layoffs. They weren't looking for another job but all of a sudden, they found themselves in the position of “Okay, I need to find something.” Again, that just adds to the stress they were already dealing with the pandemic. Yeah, I've seen all kinds of issues cropping up related on all sides. 

Dr. Lisa: I've heard that too and I'd like to talk just a little bit more. Somebody who's working in a job doing their thing, doing a great job, and a couple other related people leave and they're being asked to do their job plus the job of others. I think that there needs to be some balance. With my clients though, I always err on the side of the boundary side, right? But the balance between being able to have boundaries and being able to say, “Actually, no. I'm working 40 hours a week. This is the time I have. What is most important for you for me to be doing? And that's what I'll do.” 

Those kinds of conversations with their bosses versus on the other side, especially, I think, for small organizations, being a team player and having faith that other people are coming and this isn't going to last forever. How do you help people kind of negotiate when to maybe, “Yeah, do a little bit more” and also when to say, “You know what? Actually, no. I'm not working on Saturday. Your problem, boss” without being a jerk about it? 

Dr. Kristi: Yeah, and I think, again, it's a good time that you have more bargaining power to say things like that. Whereas in the past…

Dr. Lisa: I would never actually say that, just for the record, those specific words.

Dr. Kristi: I think you do have more power now than employees did in the past because in the past, they'd be like, “Well then, we'll find someone who will and see ya.” Now, everyone is hiring so they don't want to lose anyone else. I do think places are more willing to work with you than in the past. Again, it depends on the nature of the job and your position in the company, right? Because people who are in leadership positions, a lot of them right now are working 60 hours a week.

Dr. Lisa: And there's nobody else.

Dr. Kristi: There's nobody else to give them the work to but in those cases, if it's someone who just… multiple peers have left and they're taking on that work, we talk about who their supervisor is. One of my clients today, their supervisor is the CEO so it's a little tricky but they have more bargaining power than they realized. Part of it is empowering them and realizing that they have any bargaining power in saying, “No, I don't want to work 70 hours this week.” 

Then, some of my clients, it's very sort of ebbs and flows with that. They'll have to work a lot of hours and then it'll dip back down, but then, based on the nature of the job, if it's a cyclical type job, it goes back up again. Then, it's around stress management waiting for that dip again if it's expected but nobody can stay working 60, 70 hours and not burnout and not get sick. 

Yes, it's teaching them how to approach, again, based on their supervisor’s personality, all those kinds of dynamics. How do you approach them where it would be best received? Then, I actually have them practice with me in session sometimes. If they're really uncomfortable and they are not good at advocating or, not that they're not good at it but they've never done it, I'll have them practice with me just to get more comfortable with doing that sort of thing. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Oh, just the ideas you're communicating too. Yeah, we can all step it up a little bit sometimes but that there have to be limits. The consequences of trying to do everything for extended periods of time is burnout, it has a negative impact on your health, probably your relationships, your mental wellness. You actually can't do it for extended periods of time, then it's unreasonable that somebody would ask you to. 

Dr. Kristi: It would negatively impact your work. You're not doing productive work 70 hours a week. You're just not. In fact, most people aren't even doing really productive work eight hours a day. They've done studies on it. You're usually really productive for four hours out of your day. I think that that's unrealistic, but again, the leaders are in the position of “You don't have anyone.” 

I know my husband, they just lost three people I think. He's actively hiring as fast as he can. Part of it from the leadership position is “Okay, how?” Because a lot of times, there's red tape, and you have to go through HR, and all that stuff, but like, “Okay, how quickly can we get the notice out there that we're hiring to get more people in?” 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, and making that the priority. Yeah. 

Dr. Kristi: It's not an easy answer with that because it's a really hard time right now.  

Dr. Lisa: It really is and I'm glad that we're talking about different aspects of this. There's pockets of stress for employees also for employers, so on both sides of the equation, it can be really stressful. It can be stressful to be at work these days, it can be stressful to be at home. There's opportunities for stress in many different areas. 

How to Deal with Stress at Work through Self-Care

Dr. Lisa: Then, lastly, given all of that, my last question for you before we wrap up is lots of stress. What advice do you give your clients for how to manage their stress in such a way that it doesn't come out sideways either in their interpersonal relationships at work, it's easy to get snappy with people, or with other people in your life, your partner, your kids? What do you do with that stress? 

Dr. Kristi: That is something that I've had expressed to me a lot is because of increased stress, people are getting in more arguments with their spouse or their loved ones, or they're feeling just more snappy and more irritable. That's just where the importance of the self-care comes in. It's interesting because when people most need to use their self-care because their stress levels are high is when they tell me they're so stressed, they're not using them at all. 

Dr. Lisa: “I don't have time.” 

Dr. Kristi: “I don't have time. I don't have time to meditate.” That just kind of compounds the issue. It's just sometimes, people think, “Well, I don't have an extra hour a day for self-care. I barely have time for eating and sleeping and all that.” A couple of things: one thing I work with people on right away is sleep because that is the number one self-care thing. It's the foundation of everything else. If you don't do anything else but you get your sleeping right and you're sleeping quality, good amount of hours sleep, or you're rested, that right there is the best self-care you can do. 

I have so many clients that that's where we have to start because they're not sleeping well or their brain is going about all the things they have to do, they're not falling asleep. Yes, so sleep is number one. I work with people on that first. Beyond that, you don't need an hour a day. I would say if you have that on the weekend and you can go for a hike with loved ones or walk your dog out in nature, being outside at all any time of the day is so good. You get the benefits of the sunlight, vitamin D, again, tends to raise the good feeling hormones in your body. 

You only need a few minutes. Walk outside, walk your dog around the block, walk outside to get the mail, sit outside to have a cup of coffee in the morning, whatever it is. You only need five minutes to do a meditation. A lot of my clients, when they get up in the morning before the hectic craziness of the day starts, they'll take five minutes and meditate. They found it's more effective to do it every day just for five minutes than to wait until you have that magical hour and meditate once a week. You get the benefits, all the benefits just from a few minutes which is amazing. 

They've shown MRIs of what meditation actually does to your brain. It changes how your brain is operating so if you start out your day, you have a good night's sleep, you start out your day with five minutes of just deep breathing or meditation, you're starting out your day from a place of being centered and calm. Then, whatever happens in the day, you've set the tone for the day. Even if something chaotic happens, which often, honestly, it does, you feel like you can handle it better because you started out like, “Okay, I got this. Yes, it's crazy but I can handle crazy because I meditated this morning.” It's just interesting how it resets the pathways of the neurochemicals. I'm a nerd with all that stuff so I go into… 

Dr. Lisa: You're a psychologist. It's to be forgiven, right? 

Dr. Kristi: Yeah, I'm a huge nerd but I'm a big believer in looking at how your brain adapts and how you can change the neural pathways of your brain with the chemicals going around based on certain states you're in. If you get yourself in that state even once a day, you're training your brain to get back to that state easier, and then, you can use that when moments of chaos happen. 

You can get yourself calm faster, much faster. I think people think you have to be a monk who meditates for hours in a cave and we don't have that kind of time and it just takes a few minutes a day. I would say sleep and some kind of morning practice for five minutes, whether it's journaling, breathing, meditation, stretching, yoga, whatever. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah, and I heard some time away in there too. I think these ideas are so important, I think, for us to be talking out loud because I think I know that I do this. When you get super stressed and there’s work and there's all this stuff you have to do, it feels like the answer is to do more and to work faster and to spend more hours and to put in more time. What you're saying is that actually, the answer is to do the opposite of the impulse and stop. Go to bed, stop and meditate, go outside and that is actually the path to…

Dr. Kristi:  Absolutely. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, Thank you, Kristi.

Dr. Kristi: In fact, some of my clients, I will tell them to schedule a lunch break if they work through lunch and I tell them, “No, go walk around, go get some water, do something totally non-work-related because you will be more productive in that afternoon than if you had tried to push through.” You get more done by stopping.

Dr. Lisa: Wonderful reminder. Kristi, I feel you and I got a lot done today in this podcast. You shared so much wonderful information.

Dr. Kristi: Thank you.

Dr. Lisa: I really appreciate your time and your wisdom and I'm sure that our listeners today do too so thank you so much.

Dr. Kristi: Anytime, anytime. Happy to be here. Thank you, Lisa. 

[Outro Song]


Love Language Quiz

Love Language Quiz

What's Your Love Language?

Understanding love languages – and acting accordingly – can change everything in a relationship for the better. Learn more here!

Love Language Quiz

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

Music Credits: “You Bring Me Home” by The Sudden Leaves

Love Language Quiz

As a marriage counselor, couples therapist, and relationship coach, I’m always working with couples who are seeking to make positive changes in their relationships. Sometimes, the reasons why couples have conflict go deep, but honestly, you’d be amazed at how often couples discover that the thing causing hurt feelings, emotional disconnection, or resentment in their relationship is actually NOT a difficult-to-resolve relationship issue. It’s the fact that they don’t understand each other’s love language and that, my friends, is a solvable problem.

Once couples connect the dots, gain an appreciation for each other’s love language, and start showing each other love and respect in different ways…everything changes: Toxic relationship patterns start to unwind, withdrawn partners start to open up, anger fades, and the path forward emerges. All by learning each other’s love language! 

Understanding Love Languages

I’ve seen couples come into counseling feeling very discouraged about their relationship, even to the point where they wonder if they’re in a compatible relationship or whether it’s time to call it quits. They talk about how frustrated they feel with their partner; how the walls between them feel insurmountable. So, when I invite them to take a love language quiz and think, “What’s my love language?” and “What is my partner’s love language?” they can feel skeptical at first. I mean, love languages? Aren’t our problems much more serious? Could it really be that easy? 

Actually, yes. A big piece of repairing a relationship is often that easy, but no one would fault you for dismissing the idea as superficial unless you really understood the significance of it. The idea of “love languages” has been batted around as a pop-psychology term to the point that the full power and significance behind these ideas is lost. When you actually take a deeper look into what love languages are, and what they’re attached to, you’ll understand that they are quite significant. 

Love Languages Go Deep

Much has been made about attachment styles in relationships: how we perceive others, how we show up in relationships, and what our patterns are. Less commonly discussed are more subtle realities around what we were taught about love: what love is, what it means, and what it looks like in action. These messages about what love “should” be are not taught to us explicitly, but we pick them up nonetheless — through every interaction we have with the people we’re attached to growing up.

These messages are subconscious and, as adults, we may not realize we carry a firmly established set of ideas about what love “should” look like. It’s even more difficult to realize that our partner carries their ideas about love as well – ideas that are different from ours (given the fact that they grew up in a different family, with different messages and relationship expectations). 

Virtually all couples who have not done intentional growth work in this area have subconscious expectations of what being loved and cared for should look like in action. Since we are not partnered with a clone of ourselves (thankfully!), it's incredibly easy to show each other love in the ways most natural and pleasing to us without fully realizing that these efforts are falling flat — or even causing painful conflict. This can lead to power struggles, a lack of emotional safety, blaming each other for relationship problems, and more.

Learn to Speak Each Other’s Love Language

We’ve all heard of the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do for you.” However, when it comes to having great relationships, that’s actually not the whole truth. There’s a platinum rule of relationships, “Do unto others as they would like you to do.” Meaning that we need to sensitively show love, care, respect, and affection to our partners in the ways that are actually most meaningful to them, not necessarily to us. 

(More on the 12 biggest relationship mistakes, right here, if you’re interested.) 

But now we have a new problem: How to know your love language so that you can help your partner understand you better and show you love in the way that you can experience. Furthermore, it’s hard enough to get clarity around your own love language and ask for what you need. How do you figure out your partner’s love language and understand what they’re needing from you? 

Love Language Test For Couples!

That, my friend, is what we’re doing on today’s podcast: Love Languages Quiz. I’m going to be giving you insight into what the core needs are of the different “love language styles” so that you really understand yourself and your partner better. Then, I’ll be walking you through some questions (my informal “love language test” that will help you both know how to figure out your love language. With that understanding, it will be much easier to meet each other’s needs in a relationship, connect with your partner, have empathy for each other, communicate, and strengthen your relationship

Good stuff! You can listen to the Love Language Quiz podcast episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or on the handy-dandy podcast players on this page. I’m also including the episode highlights, plus a full transcript for you (below) if you’re more of a reader. 

Thanks for tuning in today. I hope that this Love Language Quiz podcast helps you easily create positive change in your relationship. It’s powerful stuff!

Xoxo, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. If you’d like to do even more “learn and grow together” types of activities with your partner, another great resource is our free “How Healthy is Your Relationship Quiz.” You can both take it and use the results to spark a productive conversation about your strengths and growth opportunities as a couple. 

Love Language Quiz

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

Music Credits: “You Bring Me Home” by The Sudden Leaves

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Love Languages Quiz: Episode Highlights 

Relationship Compatibility and Love Languages

Love languages refer to the different ways that people experience love. Some therapists don’t think they matter. However, learning about your and your partner’s love language can be a powerful and effective way to understand relationships and make them work. They even explain:

  • why we feel disconnected or unloved
  • why there is no positive relational energy in our relationship
  • why we think we’re not compatible
  • why our relationships don’t work

Often, the simpler explanation to these seemingly dire scenarios is that you and your partner have different love languages. Once you begin to understand these differences, you can work on how to get your needs met in a relationship and satisfy your partner’s too.

Love Languages, Explained.

We often hold this false belief that all people are the same and what is true for us is true for others. Unfortunately, this notion is highly problematic. This way of thinking can lead to hurt, anger, resentment, and feeling unloved. 

Love languages help you identify what you and your partner need in a relationship to make it work. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Never assume what your partner’s love language may be or think that you are the same.
  • Respect the things that matter to your partner even if you don’t agree or like them.

Remember: “The key to compatibility is not twinship; it is not being the same. It is respecting and appreciating each other for your differences.”

The Different Love Languages

People feel loved in different ways. We are all individuals with unique experiences, cultures, and upbringings that shape how we think and feel. And this individuality can extend to our love languages.

Gary Chapman coined the term “love languages” in the 90s. He originally proposed that there were primarily five love languages in his book. These are:

  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
  • Gift-giving
  • Acts of service
  • Words of affirmation

I think there are two more love languages: building together and emotional intimacy. We’ll discuss each one so that you can identify what’s your love language.

Words of Affirmation Love Language

People with this love language need a verbal expression of affection. This includes saying:

  • A simple “I love you.”
  • Compliments like, “You look good today.”
  • Appreciative statements like, “This is an amazing dinner.” Or “Thank you for making this.”

Use the power of praise, compliments, and love often. If you find it hard to express your affection aloud, try sending letters, text messages, or cards. The key here is that you put what you feel for your partner in words.

Gift-Giving Love Language

If your partner’s love language is gift-giving, they feel loved when they receive tokens of your affection. They may also love to shower you with well-thought-of presents.

An example of a thoughtful anniversary gift for someone with this love language is a framed ticket of the first movie or concert you went to as a couple. Remember, gifts don’t have to be expensive to be thoughtful. Although, this does not apply to everybody because, for some cultures, the price matters. So, it really takes getting to know your partner to find the balance.

Acts of Service Love Language

As a love language, acts of service stems from the feeling of being together as a team. You’re both working on a shared life with shared responsibilities. People with this type of love language feel valued if you help them out.

This love language evolves as you grow older because your priorities change as more responsibilities come into your life. For example, in your 20s, acts of service may involve very different activities than when you’re in a different phase of life. For example, when you have children, taking care of the kids may be serving to take care of your partner too. 

Acts of service are more valuable when you do things for your partner without them asking. It makes them feel noticed, respected, and loved. In addition, research shows that “there is a direct correlation between the level of egalitarianism in a relationship, meaning that men and women share the burden of childcare, housework stuff, sexual intimacy and relationship satisfaction.”

Quality Time Love Language

People who prefer quality time love being with their partners and doing things together. It is “this sense that you’re partners in crime. And that there are things that they like to do that are important to them. To be able to share them with you, their number one person, is very, very meaningful.”

The type of meaningful activity you do with your loved ones depends on their personality or preferences and can take many forms. Sometimes quality time involves doing something very special together like a fun evening out, or taking a trip. However there are many small, day-to-day opportunities for spending quality time together that are easy to overlook, such as making it a priority to have meals together, tag along while running errands, or even watching the same series together. Small things count too!

Physical Touch Love Language

For some people, physical touch is how they feel loved. They need to literally feel and touch their partner through a big hug, a kiss, or an intimate evening together.

Sexual intimacy is essential for people with this love language, but it doesn’t always have to be the goal. Instead, “practice having a lot of non-sexual touching and physical intimacy built into your relationship.”

Another manifestation of the physical touch love language is being environmentally sensitive. For example, your partner may always want to be in beautiful places or enjoy food. So, you can also show them love through a variety of “creature comforts” in addition to literally touching them affectionately. 

Emotional Intimacy Love Language

Emotional intimacy is an experience of having emotional safety with your partner. You feel as if they’re not only your partner, they’re also a cherished friend who knows you inside and out.

Emotional intimacy can be confused with quality time. The main difference is it must involve meaningful conversations or things that you can only tell your partner. If your partner has this love language and you fulfill it, they will start to feel safe with you. The key is to listen to your partner with empathy.

Building Together Love Language

Building together is sometimes confused with acts of service because they both require doing things for someone. However, this is more concerned with your future together and not the feeling of being understood and respected. 

An example is planning your financial future. You, as a couple, have shared hopes about your finances, so you have plans to achieve it. This love language signifies a commitment to building a life together. 

What’s Your Love Language?

Time to take the Love Language Quiz! 

In this podcast, I’m going through a short love language quiz designed to get to know your love language, as well as your partner’s. You can also share this episode with your partner so they can understand themselves and learn your love language too. Here are some of the questions to think about: 

  • On a beautiful Saturday morning, what do you want to do?
  • What do you want your partner to do for your birthday?
  • After a long and tiring day of work, what do you need from your partner?
  • What is your most favorite thing about your partner?
  • What is one thing that you wish you had more of in your relationship with your partner?
  • What is most likely to trigger an IKEA fight?

In this podcast, I’m helping you think about these answers from a variety of different “love language perspectives.” This love language test for couples is not scientific nor score–based, yet still really helpful in assisting you in uncovering your truth. The patterns in your answers may reveal what really matters to you. The frequency of your choices can explain what your love language is.

As you think, “what is my love language?” during this exercise, you’ll likely find out that you have more than one love language. That is valid, many people do! But you also need to know what matters most to you, because having that clarity is what allows you to express love meaningfully to each other. The key here is for you to understand the needs of your relationship based on the love languages you and your partner have. That’s what makes a relationship work!

Love Language Activity For Couples

Let’s put these love language ideas to work!

Once you listen to my “love language quiz” and think about your answers, I hope that you forward this episode to your partner so that they, too, can identify their own love language. Then, come back together to share your results and talk about the positive changes you can each make to show each other love, respect, and affection in the way that matters most to both of you. 

What’s next? 

Did you enjoy the podcast? What did you learn about yourself, your partner, and your love languages? How do you think love languages affect how you understand relationships? Share your insights in the comments below? And don’t forget to subscribe to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to keep helpful, pro-relationship, positive ideas and activities in your life every single week!  

[Intro Song: You Bring Me Home by The Sudden Leaves]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you’re listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast. Isn’t that a beautiful song? The band is called The Sudden Leaves and the song is You Bring Me Home. I thought that was a nice intro for us today because today, we’re talking about how to create an emotional home base in your relationship through using love languages. Yes, everyone, it is time to talk about love languages. The term love languages refers to how you feel love, how you show love. It’s kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, but I think not the level of respect that it truly deserves. Because I think it’s emerged as this fluffy pop psych concept that sometimes gotten played down by real therapists who are much more interested in talking about mental illness and psychopathology. But that’s not what we’re doing here. 

The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast is all about helping you be happy, and have great relationships, and feel good about yourself and your life. Although I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, analyst, and psychologist. I’m also a board-certified life coach, which means that I want to do what works and bring that to you. 

Relationship Compatibility and Love Languages

Love languages are incredibly powerful and effective when you learn how to deploy them for forces of good in your own relationship. It’s really incredibly important to know how to do this. Because as a marriage counselor, here at Growing Self counseling and coaching, I am often working with couples, who, at least when they start with me for couples counseling or relationship coaching, they’re not feeling good about their relationship. Neither of them, often, are feeling really loved, or respected, or understood, or appreciated by their partner. 

Unfortunately, in the absence of that positive relational energy, people can start to develop this narrative as to why that helps them make sense of what’s going on in their relationship. It turns into thoughts about: “Well, my partner is avoidant.” “They’re emotionally stunted.” “They can’t communicate.” “They had a critical mother; therefore, x, y, z.” Or even worse. If it’s been going on for a long time, they might begin to really genuinely believe: “My partner is a fundamentally uncaring person, and we are incompatible. Maybe they’re on the autism spectrum.” 

I literally have heard people in garden variety relationships with partners who are objectively not autistic. But they are feeling so unloved and disconnected in their relationship that they’re trying to find reasons why it feels so hard between them. They can go into all kinds of places. Big sweeping statements about their partner’s fundamental character flaws can obscure this much, much simpler, and much more manageable idea. 

Perhaps, your partner and you have different love languages. That my friends is a solvable problem as soon as you can figure that out. There are very specific and relatively easy things that you can both do to completely transform the way that you both feel in your relationship through intentionally using different love languages. This is really important. I’m going to spend some time, first, talking about love languages. There are several different kinds of love languages. 

Then, I am going to give you a love language quiz so that you can answer a few simple questions and think through them. Through that exercise, get a fair amount of clarity around what your most important love language or love languages—there can be more than one—what those are for yourself and, moment of truth, also what your partner’s love languages are. With that clarity, you can then begin using these ideas in your relationship as soon as today. By the end of this episode, I hope that you have more insight into this and some ideas about how to use it. Let’s just dive right in. 

How Love Languages Help You Understand Relationships

First of all, I’m going to briefly talk about the different types of love languages, just to give you an overview. Also, just talk about how differences between them can create hurt feelings, let’s say, or disappointment and expectations in a relationship because this happens all the time. I think we can agree that we all have ways of feeling loved that are meaningful to us, specifically. 

For example, some people experience love and connection the most when they’re engaged in activities with their partner. Even more interestingly, some kinds of activities elicit more feelings of love and connection because of the activity itself. For other people, that doesn’t mean a thing. Others may feel really loved and appreciated when their partners are telling them that they are loved and appreciated: saying complimentary things or letting them know that they are attractive to them, which is very different. Then, other people, they don’t feel loved unless it is a thoughtful gift that someone has shown them, that they were thinking about them very thoughtfully, turning their understanding of the most important things into a gift or an experience that was designed and curated just for them. That is how they feel loved. Many different ways of doing this. 

Who is right? What’s the right way to give and receive love? The fact is that they’re all the right way. But couples can get into very vicious and painful fights about whose way is the right way when they are different within a relationship. That just boils down to the fact that we’re all individuals. We all have a set of life experiences, family of origin cultures that shaped us, and particularly, how we relate to others. Depending on the way you learned what “being loved” means in action, you won’t feel deeply loved and cared for unless love is being spoken to you and shown to you in your language. Hence, the term love language. 

This phrase was coined by a guy named Gary Chapman in the ’90s. He wrote a book, The Five Love Languages. He proposed in his original work that there were primarily five love languages. There was quality time, which is doing things together; physical touch, which can range from hand holding to hugs to sexual intimacy; gift-giving; acts of service, meaning doing things that need to be done without being asked; also, words of affirmation, so praise, affectionate statements, compliments. He found five. 

Actually, in my experience, I think that there are two others. I think that there’s this planning and building component that’s important in many relationships. There is also emotional intimacy, which is incredibly important for many people. I’m kind of surprised that it wasn’t in Gary Chapman’s book. Maybe emotional intimacy was so far away from his own personal love languages that it wasn’t even on his radar, perhaps. But it’s very true for many people. We’re going to be talking about it on today’s show, just in case it’s yours. 

The first thing to know about love languages, this is going to change everything, is this central idea that all humans are vulnerable to believing that other people are pretty much the same as we are. We have things going on in our own minds, in our own emotions that make sense to us; and therefore, we project onto others that the same things are true for them. This causes all kinds of problems in many different aspects of human relationships. 

Certainly, with couples is when people assume that love means the same thing to both of you, that if you love having sex with your partner, and you feel so connected, and close to them, and they don’t always want to do that with you, if you don’t understand that they have different ways of experiencing sexuality or feeling loved, it’s like, “Why? Why don’t they want to do that? Do they not love me anymore? They’re not attracted to me anymore? Why don’t they want to be emotionally close to me?” It’s because it doesn’t mean the same thing to them as it does to you. But the risk here is that there’s a lot of personalization that goes into that assumption and a lot of hurt feelings. 

In contrast, if one person feels that sexuality and romantic evenings are the pinnacle of connection, and they are partnered with someone whose number one love language is acts of service and is really wanting material help in getting things done around home improvement projects, or child care, or just taking care of business, that you’re both going to feel really annoyed and disappointed with each other because you’re wanting things from each other that almost don’t compute. 

Yes, you might understand that your partner would really like to be intimate with you, but you don’t understand why and vice versa that your partner really wants to clean the garage all day on Saturday, and they want you to be excited, and show up, and proactive. They may not understand that that act of service is the third ring of hell for you. It is not something that you enjoy. And it’s certainly not something that you associate with love, and respect, and the fabric of your relationship. 

When there’s conflict around that or push-back or like, “Do we have to?”, you or your partner might feel like, “What do you mean ‘do we have to’? Am I alone in this life? Where are you? What are we doing together?” It turns into this big existential relationship threat that you will have no idea about. There’s this ferocious anger coming at you all of a sudden. They’re like, “Well, why are we even doing this together?” That can be really surprising unless you understand how deeply these roots go into attachment, and love, and what love means. 

In contrast, if couples don’t understand what’s going on, they will be blindsided all the time by these weird reactions and people getting extremely upset about things that seem mysterious. Like, “What? I just said I didn’t feel like going on a hike today. Why are you crying all of a sudden?” They don’t really know. But if you understand that your partner’s love language is something and they were just reaching out to you in a very vulnerable way like it felt to them, this moment of connection, if you understand that that’s what’s going on, you will know how to handle these things completely differently. And you will begin knowing how to really give your partner that love and affection in the way that is most meaningful to them, not only will you stop having these surprising fights that seem to come out of nowhere, your relationship will feel so much stronger and better for both of you. Because let’s face it, we’re all really craving love. We all just want to feel cared for, and understood, and loved, and respected. Knowing what that means to your partner is the path to create the kind of relationship that you want

First of all, my first tip is don’t assume that you know what your partner’s love language is or that it is, or that it should be similar to yours. Just if you take one thing away from this podcast, let it be this idea that what is important and meaningful to you does not have to be important or meaningful to someone else. But in a loving committed relationship, even if your partner doesn’t experience things in exactly the same way that you do, if it’s important to you, they need to at least respect that it is important to you and be willing to go along with it because it is important to you. It does not have to be as personally important to them. It’s absolutely okay for you guys to be different individuals with complementary strengths in a vibrant relationship. The key to compatibility is not twinship. It is not being the same. It is respecting and appreciating each other for your differences, right? 

The Different Love Languages

Let’s do a quick run-through of the main types of love languages, just to give you an overview.

Words of Affirmation

First of all, there are words of affirmation. This means that people really feel loved when there is verbal acknowledgment of feelings. They feel loved when you say “I love you,” literally. Or “Hey, you look great today.” Compliments, appreciative statements. “Oh, my gosh. This was the most amazing dinner I’ve ever had. Thank you so much for making this. I really appreciate this.” For your partner to feel loved by you, they need to be hearing this. If it is hard for you to say these kinds of things out loud, you might consider a little card, or a letter, or a text message even counts. But it’s like, “How do I make my feelings for them, my appreciation for them overt in language, verbal language?”If it doesn’t happen in verbal language, it doesn’t mean the same thing because it’s their love language. 

If over the course of this podcast you learn that this is your partner’s main love language, you can’t also just do it one time and then think “Oh, yeah, I told them that I loved them in 2017, so they know.” It has to be frequent. Daily. Multiple times a day. They need to be hearing from you how great you think they are. Let that idea sink in, especially if you’re not naturally a verbally expressive person. That one can be a little challenging. But again, lots of things can change if you learn how to do that well. 

Gift-Giving

Another love language is gift-giving. If your partner’s love orientation is built around gifts, you will probably have experienced from them what it feels like to be presented with something from them. Because the other thing about love languages is that people, your partner, is probably showing you what their love language is by the way they treat you. Going back to the first one, if your partner is following you around all the time, telling you how great you are and how much they love you, there’s a good chance that their love language are words of affirmation. 

If your partner gives you presents or is doing amazing things, jumping out of a cake on your birthday, their primary love orientation is probably gift-giving. Think about if your partner is doing this, what it feels like to get a present for them? It’s probably very nicely wrapped. It is probably thoughtful. They have probably spent a lot of time thinking about what you might like that would signify something special between the two of you—framing the concert tickets from your first date, and wrapping it up, and giving it to you on your anniversary. That is the kind of thing that a gift-giving person would do. It is going to be important for you to do some of that for them. 

I also just want to say out loud right here, don’t confuse gift with expense. There does not need to necessarily be a monetary component to gift-giving. Although, for some people that come from some families of origin, the expense of the gift actually does matter. I’ll leave it to you to think through whether or not that might be true for your partner. But generally speaking, the gifts that are most meaningful and valued are the ones that come through your thought and from your effort, not from your wallet. 

This one can be a tough one because if your partner has a strong gift-giving orientation, and you don’t, this can be a big step. For example, thankfully, neither my husband and I are hugely gift-giving people. I am anti-gift-giving. I do not like it when people give me presents. I don’t know what it is. I always just feel uncomfortable and like, “Okay, thank you.” But I don’t love it. If I were partnered with somebody who really needed gifts and thoughtful curated things for me, I would have to spend a lot of time and energy on that and be very intentional with how I do that. I just say that out loud to highlight the fact that sometimes, it’s a stretch if your partner has a way of feeling loved that’s very, very different from yours. 

Acts of Service

Another important and, I think, under-noticed love language for many people are acts of service. I think what that stems from is this feeling that you’re together on the same team. You’re working together on this shared life and there are a set of responsibilities that have to be managed for that. When they feel helped by you in material ways, it is very loving for them. I think that this is an interesting one because it can evolve over time. 

For example, and this is super stereotypical, but for a couple to meet and connect in their early 20s, and they’re off going and doing fun things together, and concerts, and motorcycle rides, and having a good time, that feels like what the fabric of a relationship is built on—having a good time together, having experiences because that’s really what fits for that phase of life. As relationships evolve over time, and mature, and the circumstances of life become different, particularly, as people get older and maybe their relationship expands to include a family, and a house to maintain, and jobs to juggle, to pay for the family in the house, just mountains of stuff and a social life, now, the kid is in T-ball, there’s just so much stuff that feels legitimately overwhelming for many people. 

In this new context, acts of service can become the most significant way that people feel loved, and respected, and appreciated by each other. It’s almost being seen like, “Oh, my God. I’m drowning.” For a partner to take the initiative to notice that the windshield wiper blades need to be replaced, and without asking anybody, just go ahead and do that. Order them on Amazon. They come to the house. They’re now on the car without somebody having to say, “Oh, my God, the windshield wiper blades.” It’s amazing. That is very, very meaningful for a lot of people. 

But this is also a very humble love language. It is easily missed because it might not seem directly related to your partner’s heart. But for an overwhelmed eight-armed dervish overworking parent, to have somebody else just notice like, “Oh, you know what? That laundry needs to be folded and put away. I’m just going to go ahead and do it,” they could fall into your arms weeping with gratitude. I will also just say that research backs this one up. There is now research that shows. This is, again, my apologies for any of my same-sex couple friends, but in heterosexual relationships, there is a direct correlation between the level of egalitarianism in a relationship, meaning that men and women share the burden of childcare, housework, stuff together, direct correlation between that and sexual intimacy and relationship satisfaction. 

What that means in layperson’s terms is that when men vacuum, there is more sex. I want to just remove this idea that there’s sort of a reward-punishment thing going on. Like, “Oh, you’re a good boy. I’m going to have sex with you now. That is not it, and I don’t want you to think it is. What is true is that when men are more deeply involved and equivalent partners when it comes to running a life, there is this natural feeling of love, and feeling respected and appreciated. Also, in practical terms, more energy to be intimate, compared to, say, a stereotypical again, my apologies, working mom who comes home, and does a second shift, and now has to vacuum, and fold the laundry, and is falling into bed at 11 o’clock at night, just exhausted. There isn’t any margin left for sexual intimacy compared to a relationship with a partner who did all the stuff and now, they can both go to bed together at night. There’s very real aspects of this that can strengthen a relationship enormously for both people. I just want you to think about that. 

Quality Time

Another important love language is that of quality time. Quality time people feel loved by you when you are together out in the world and doing fun things. Also, fun things that are fun for them, many times. They are probably craving magical moments with you where you’re doing something, and there’s shared enjoyment. For some couples, and this is going to be a little bit different depending on the personality and the culture of your relationship, but for some, and particularly if you have a partner who likes adventure and travel, doing something interesting or fun or new, it will be very, very meaningful for them when you’re their adventure buddy. 

I think it’s partly a shared experience that feels like a bonding moment, but also opportunities to have conversations or learn about something new together. Or make a memory, a memorable memory together. It feels connecting to them. I think it touches this kind of deep level. This sense that you’re partners in crime, and that you get them, and that there are things that they like to do that are important to them. To be able to share them with you, their number one person, is very, very meaningful. 

If your partner is one of those active people who really likes doing special things, it’s important for you to take the initiative and make some plans that are in alignment with their interests. While it’s always helpful to make it fun, I think that there’s also opportunity to have those points of connection in more of the null day-to-day activities. Some people go to the grocery store together or watching a show together. That’s a very small subtle thing, but you’re still sharing the experience, and having the opportunity to talk about things, and ride in the car on the way there and back. 

For some very efficient families, that turns into this divide and conquer. Like, “Okay, I’ll watch the kids. You go to Target. We’re going to do this.” But it creates a lot of separation. While it can be efficient and get things done, it misses these natural opportunities for time together on just a day-to-day basis. Eating meals together might actually be really important to your partner who is oriented in this way. Then, of course, sprinkling in magical moments and genuinely fun and interesting exciting things are really fun, too. So, yay. 

Physical Touch

We have to mention that physical touch is an extremely important love language for many people. For some people, it’s really one of the only ways that they really, really feel loved and cared for. By literally feeling you, having you hold their hand or give them a big hug, or kiss, or spend an intimate evening with them, that’s when they feel that you are connected, that you’re a couple, that you’re in this together, and that there’s this bond. For some people, you can tell them that you love them a thousand times, and buy them presents, and go on trips, but they just don’t feel special unless you are hugging them, holding their hand, and giving them a squeeze. It’s really important to them, and it must be acknowledged. It must be honored, too, I think, because it’s really important. 

I will say sexual intimacy can be very, very important to physically-oriented types, but it’s also important to not always make sex the goal or outcome or physicality. Because when that happens, it can actually limit day-to-day natural affectionate physical touching. Because if every little interaction needs to turn into sexual intercourse, then people will begin avoiding that, so you’ll have less hugs and less kisses, more physical distance because cuddling on the couch will always turn into having sex. I think we need to have flexibility around that for both partners because that can unintentionally damage sexual intimacy when there’s this pressure-y feeling but to even acknowledge that and practice having a lot of nonsexual touching and physical intimacy built into your relationship. 

Another little fun fact is that if your partner is very physically oriented, in addition to physical affection and intimacy, it may show up in other ways. They may be very environmentally sensitive, want to be in beautiful spaces. They may be foodies, really into tastes, and textures, and smells, and clothing. There’s this whole physicality around people like this. Just to take that in mind as well. To think about how you can show them love that is physical in nature without necessarily being physical affection like a nice dinner or a special treat, design types of experiences. Music even can actually be important. Just to think about how the spectrum of physicality and how you can show your partner love in that way. 

Emotional Intimacy

We just kind of had a quick overview of Chapman’s love languages. Let me talk about two others that I’ve seen over the years. One of them is emotional intimacy. What emotional intimacy refers to is the experience of feeling deeply understood, emotionally safe, like your partner truly gets you, as a friend too, in addition to as a romantic partner. 

Running through all of the love languages I’ve described, there’s this kind of thread, which is all of the love languages require a deep understanding of your partner. That gift-giving, when it is meaningful, really comes from this deep understanding, and recognition, and appreciation of your partner. But I think emotional intimacy is a more direct experience of all of those. They can be confused with quality time, going and running around doing things and having conversations. But consider that a couple could spend a weekend camping, and making the fires, and going on the hikes, and talking about things that are maybe not necessarily deeply meaningful conversations. They aren’t sort of tinged with this not necessarily vulnerability, but just this experience of, “I only tell these things to you. You are special. I am sharing with you my very important secret feelings. I’m not even sure how I feel about this yet, but I wanted to share it with you because it’s coming up for me.” 

It’s having meaningful conversations and experiences that are emotionally safe. It’s this experience of, “I can tell you anything, and it would be okay. I feel unconditionally loved and accepted by you for exactly who and what I am. It’s okay for me to not be okay. It’s okay for me to be in the messy middle of something and not actually know how I’m going to get to the other side and just share that with you without you telling me what I should do or how to fix it.” Right? It’s just like this shared space, this emotional space. 

Emotional intimacy people, they don’t care as much about what they do, or the stuff is getting done, or even physical affection. Really, they feel loved when you ask them how they’re doing and then listen to the answer with empathy. When they feel that you care about how they’re feeling, and want to know, and are inviting them to tell you, that is really what makes them feel loved, and connected, and validated, and appreciated. They need that, so just know that.

I will also add that for some people that is a skill that needs to be developed. That’s in alignment with some of the emotional intelligence conversations that you and I have had in the past. We can create another topic on that, specifically. I just wanted to say out loud, if you don’t know how to do that, that’s okay. You can learn how to do that, and it is very important that you learn how to do that, to communicate with your partner in a way that really fosters genuine emotional intimacy. Because without it, a relationship will wither, and you won’t know why. Not to be scary, but grizzled Gen X here has seen a lot. You don’t know what I’ve seen.

Building Together

Another and the last love language that we’ll be talking about today that is not in the Chapman book is also this idea of building together. Building-together people can sometimes be confused with acts-of-service people because building often requires many things to be done in order to achieve the big hairy goals. But acts of service are more about feeling understood and respected because your partner is seeing the things that have to be done. There’s a shared responsibility, and they can step in to take something off your plate is what feels often most meaningful about that. Building together is a little different because people who have a strong building orientation, they actually care less about the tasks and more about what it means and where you are going as a couple. Building equals shared commitment. This can be actualized in tasks. 

Say your partner really wants you to do a budget with them, okay? It’s not about doing the budget and like, “Okay, how much money are we going to spend in July?” It’s really around, “We have shared hopes and goals for our financial future as a couple, and we are working towards something. Ten years from now, this is what our life will be like because we are doing these things today.” It’s very future-oriented. It’s making plans, and then, doing things in the present moment that actualize those plans. 

An acts-of-service person would be very happy if you painted the bedroom because it needs to be done. A building-together person would be very happy to paint the bedroom because it will increase the resale value of this house, so when you sell it, you’ll be better able to buy your actual dream home, which is this. Already, there’s a magazine picture of it cut out on a little bulletin board. That’s the dream board. That’s the building-together person. Some of the activities can be the same, but the intentions and the meaning behind it is pretty different. 

If you don’t understand that about your partner, that these future plans and being in alignment about future plans are really how they feel loved and secure, that your partnership is forward-moving, there’s commitment, that’s how they feel loved—big, heavy ideas. I thank you, though, for talking through these with me. Because, again, if you don’t understand this and what’s really happening underneath some of these little moments, like when your partner comes in for a hug or when your partner says, “I think we should paint the bedroom on Saturday,” you can miss so much. I hope that this overview helps you understand more deeply what’s at the core. 

What’s Your Love Language?

Now, I also promised you a love language quiz, and I’m going to give you this quiz. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll have a pretty clear sense, as if you didn’t already, but you’ll have more clarity around your love language and that of your partner too. It might actually be a fun thing, particularly, if you’re listening to this on your own right now. Send this to your partner, get them to listen through it, and get them to listen to the love language quiz so that they have more insight around their own love language and yours so that they can show you love in the ways we’re talking about, too. 

Okay, let’s do a love language quiz together now so that you can get clarity about your love language and that of your partner’s. 

Here is question one: You wake up on a beautiful Saturday morning, and the first thing you want to do is…? What just popped into your head? Was it… 

A: Have sex with your partner.

B: Get in the car and go do something fun for the rest of the day.

C: Have a leisurely brunch with your partner and just talk about everything that’s been happening lately, work, stuff, life, friends.

D: Would you love to have your partner take care of the kids for a little while or handle another task, so you can just go back to sleep for a few more minutes? 

E: Are you waking up thinking about what wonderful things your partner might have in store for you today? Are you hoping that they might have made you breakfast? 

Is your hope that you might get a kiss and an “I love you so much” from your partner, who’s just laying there in bed beside you, just staring at you with love in their eyes, and say, “Oh, my God. You’re so beautiful,” even when you just wake up? 

Or when you wake up on a Saturday morning, is the first thought in your head that’s about: “What are we going to do today? We need to get started on this big home-improvement project, need to go to the hardware store and get some stuff, planning for the next big thing.” 

Is that what your ideal Saturday would look like? Think about that. In those responses, you are going to have some ideas about what your love language is. 

Okay, here’s another one: Think about your upcoming birthday, your next birthday, and what you would like most your partner to do for you. Is it, first of all… 

A: plan a romantic sensual evening? 

B: Take you out to do something that you love, like going on a fun weekend, seeing a show, getting together with friends? 

C: Nothing fancy, just clear the calendar, so they can spend the whole day connecting with you. Going on walks, talking about what the last year has been like, what you’d like the next year to be like.

D: Would you love for them to handle all the to-do’s so that you can take the day off and just have some guilt-free self-care time? Go to the spa, get a pedicure, go ride your motorcycle. 

Are you wishing that they would surprise you with a thoughtful, meaningful gift? Bonus points if it’s extra special and nicely wrapped. Are you wishing that they would give you a card or a letter that is just them pouring out all their heartfelt feelings for you? 

Or would you like your birthday to be all about their connecting it with a milestone for your shared life together? That they would propose that they would say, “This time next year, you’re going to be pregnant.” Or “This time next year we’re going to be living in Los Angeles, and you’re going to have your dream job, and here’s how we’re going to do it.” Is it celebrating the milestones and talking about what’s next? 

Okay, next question: After a really rough day at work, just imagine you are drained, you’re fried, you’re frazzled, you’re all the things like, “Ahh.” What do you really, really need from your partner? Is it…

A: A big, long hug? 

B: Getting their help in shifting gears. Like going for a walk together, watching a fun show, talking about vacation plans, and like, “Hey, let’s get out of here. Let’s go for a ride. Whatever.”

C: Is it that you really, really want their full attention while you just talk about everything that happened? What’s going on for me, how you feel about it, and feel they really understand you, just why this day was so hard and what it feels like to be you. 

D: After a long day, you would really like for them to figure out what the heck we’re going to have for dinner, and make it, and then do the dishes, so I don’t have to deal with it. I’m just going to lay here on the couch and stare at a wall and back. Somebody else is making my dinner. I don’t care what it is. 

E: You would love them to get you a little care package or special treat or nice thing that reminds you, like when you wake up tomorrow morning, there’s a bouquet of flowers that can stay at your work desk all day so that you feel loved and cared for and they know that you’re going through a hard time because you’re looking at the flowers. 

If you just had a hard day, do you love being reminded that you are strong, smart, and competent, and you’re doing a really great job under difficult circumstances? “All those people you work with are jerks, and they don’t appreciate you enough. You are amazing. You’re going to get to the next level and just never have to talk to any of the people again. I am on your side no matter what happens.” Is that what you want? 

Or lastly, do you want from them a reminder that, “We’re doing this for a reason and our future holds something so much better. You’re going to be in this place for six more months, and then here’s what we’re going to do, and here’s what’s going to happen after that. This is just one step on the large and winding staircase towards our ideal life that we are building together. I’m here with you in that.” What do you want? 

Now, you might also be thinking that, “I want all of those. Yes, please. I would like every single one of those things.” Valid. That is absolutely valid. But what means the most to you? As you think through these, if you could only have one, what would it be? Then, what would be the second most important thing for you? Because if everything is important, nothing is important. This exercise is about how to get clarity around your love languages. These are all nice, but think about which ones would be most meaningful for you. 

Okay, now, next question: What is your most favorite thing about your partner? 

Is it that they are a great kisser, and hugger, and they smell good, and it feels wonderful to be with them, and you love your sex life with them, that they make you feel really good? 

Or is your favorite thing about your partner that you guys are adventure partners? You have so much fun together even if you’re just out doing random things. They can make you laugh while you’re in line at the grocery store. That kind of thing.

Is your favorite thing about your partner that you feel understood by them? That they really care about your feelings, and they’re your best friend, and they know you inside and out. You can share anything, and it is emotionally safe. 

Is your favorite thing about your partner the fact that they proactively take care of practical things and your shared life together just to make your life easier? 

Or is it that they are incredible about treating you with special things or experiences that make life worth living? Are they thoughtful and just, “Bing, here’s the cherry on top” that you weren’t even expecting but somehow, they just magically know exactly what to do. 

Or is it that you feel like your partner is your number one fan. They are always reminding you of how much they love you, and appreciate you, and they’re attracted to you, and they think you’re smart. They just fill up your cup with words of admiration, praise, and affection. 

Or lastly, is it that your partner is really deeply committed to the vision of your shared life together? That you know your values are in alignment, you are going in the same direction, and you’re actively creating the life that you both want? 

Okay, two more questions. The next question I have for you: What is one thing that you wish you had more of in your relationship with your partner? 

Is it wishing that you had more physical intimacy? Like, “Yes, hugs, kisses, but also, I would like to have more sex. I would like to have more sex with my partner. When I feel connected physically, that is when I feel closest to them.” 

B: Is it that you wish you had more fun together? Do you feel like your life has kind of got a little bit boring, and you just wish that you had more opportunities to go out and do fun things and things that you both have a good time with? 

C: Is it that you wish you had more emotional intimacy in your relationship? Deep, honest conversations that make you feel connected, more emotionally validated, less maybe criticism and more just unconditionally positive emotional support?

Or is it that you wish your partner was more proactive about day-to-day things that you don’t feel like everything was on you? Everything from childcare to cleaning to just stuff that needs to get done. Do you feel like you’re always having to bug them to do stuff instead of them just noticing things that need to be done? 

Or is it that you wish your partner would put more thought and energy into thinking about what would be nice for you? If it was planning gifts or trips or even meals or evenings. Just feeling considered and that they were trying to make things special for you and nice for you, the way that you would make it special and nice for them. 

Or is it that you wish your partner was more positive about you or more demonstrative, more complimentary, more expressive of their feelings of love and respect for you? Or do you feel you have to ask them to say something nice to you? Is that what you would like to be different? 

Or lastly, do you wish that you and your partner had more shared hopes and dreams for the long haul and that your partner was more actively involved in building things with you? Is it hard for you to get them to talk about the future and what they’d like just so that you can feel you’re moving forward together? 

Just as an aside here in the quiz, and not to be certainly negative at all, but I think that considering our points of dissatisfaction with our relationships can also be very illuminating when it comes to understanding our love language and also that of our partner. Because if you have a love language that your partner either is not aware of or is indifferent around, one of those things that I just said is probably going to be a little like, “Ooh” for you. That’s completely okay, does not mean a bad thing about your relationship. It’s just a growth opportunity, right? That’s why we’re doing this, as always. 

Okay, very last question, and this is my IKEA relationship question. If you don’t know what an IKEA is, it is a Swedish retailer. They sell furniture and home goods. They’re these giant furniture stores, basically. They are all over North America, Europe, Asia. If you live within 300 miles of IKEA, you will be able to relate to this. But in the event that you haven’t, as you listen to the questions, just think about another trip to a furniture or home-goods store that you may have taken with your partner in the last year or two. All right. Here’s the IKEA question. Virtually, every couple has had a fight related to an IKEA excursion. It’s impossible to not to. I have had one. Everybody I know has had one. 

Now, the question is what is the most likely thing to trigger your IKEA fight? Is it…

One: That you start feeling stressed out, frazzled, exhausted, overwhelmed, and/or hungry? Like you just have got to get out of that IKEA ASAP into the light of day, but your partner wasn’t done yet, and you’re freaking out?

Or is it B: When you start venting about how much you have hated wasting a day of your life trapped in an IKEA? You would so much rather be doing something else. “This was a wasted day. We could have gone on a bike ride, we could have done anything, and I’m stuck here.” Is that why you would have gotten in a fight? 

C: You get into fights about IKEA because you’re not on the same page about what we thought we should get. Now, we are in a fight about different perspectives. “Who was right? This is wrong. You are being ridiculous, and we were not in alignment. I thought we were here to get a new kitchen, you thought we were here just looking around. You think it’s a bad idea to get a new kitchen.” Miscommunication. 

D: Your fights in IKEA are usually related to when you feel resentful that you are the one thinking about what we need. You are planning the decor. You’re picking everything out. You are thinking about what would be a good thing to have in the kid’s room. Your partner is present, but they are completely checked out and passive. They are not participating in decision-making. They’re just standing there. They’ll do something if you tell them to but not until you told them to, and it is just bugging the heck out of you. 

E: You will get in a fight in or about an IKEA because one of you thinks their stuff is cheap and that we should aim higher, but the other one of you thinks it’s a good bargain. It’s fine. It’s just as good as anything else, really, and it doesn’t cost that much. What are you trying to do to our finances anyway? There’s big vicious arguments about the quality of the stuff that you should have in your life. 

Or another IKEA fight reason is that you start to bicker when your partner is stressed out, and getting really grumpy, and impatient, and irritable just being negative, and cranky, and saying negative things and, “Why are we here?”, feeling like they’re mad at you for being there at that IKEA. This isn’t fun anymore and they should be nicer to you. 

Lastly, do you get in fights related to IKEA because you would love to go to an IKEA or anywhere for that matter and buy furniture together but your partner doesn’t want to because maybe they’re not that committed? “What does it mean that you don’t want to buy furniture with me?” Okay, let all those sink in. 

You may have gotten into an IKEA fight for a different reason than the one that I’ve described, but those are the big ones. They are also the ones that are primarily related to love languages. 

Those questions, like everything else on this love language quiz, are in order. There is, first of all, questions about physical affection. Then, questions, number two answers are about quality time. The third question in line is about emotional intimacy, or the third answer I should say. The fourth answer is about acts of service. The fifth answer is about gift-giving.  The sixth answer is about words of affirmation. And the seventh answer is about building together. 

As you write down all your questions, you may start to notice patterns in your answers. Was it primarily the second question? Was it primarily the seventh question? Again, this is not a scientific score-based kind of thing. But primarily, if there are patterns around your answers, if you mostly resonated with number one and maybe secondarily number six, you know that your love language is primarily physical affection and then also positive affirmations. That’s just something to know. But it’s also really important to think about, “How would my partner have answered these questions to the love language quiz?” 

Better yet, instead of making assumptions, you could send this podcast and quiz to them. Get them to listen and actually tell you, “You know what? These are my love languages. These are the times that I feel truly loved by you, and this is what I wish I had more of for you in our relationship.” Those can sometimes feel challenging conversations, especially if there’s defensiveness or like, “That’s not true.” Let’s try to avoid that, as always. 

Just having open conversations about this can really open the door to understanding each other more deeply, and being able to show each other the love and respect that you each deserve, and learn how to do so in a way that is genuinely meaningful to your partner. Because if you keep trying to show your partner love and respect in the way that’s important to you and not in the way that’s important to them, your efforts will fall flat. They will not feel loved and respected by you. It will be to the detriment of your relationship. 

It’s a pretty easy fix to turn it around, to know your partner better, and to show them love in a way that’s meaningful to them. I sincerely hope that this podcast episode has given you some actionable guidance on how to achieve that in your relationship. Thank you for spending this time with me today. As always, so much more for you at growingself.com. Come on over. We have all sorts of articles on the blog. We have relationship quizzes. We have other podcast episodes on things like communication, getting on the same page, healthy relationship skills and so much more. I hope you check them all out because they are all here for you at growingself.com

Alright. Thanks, everyone, and I’ll be back in touch next week with another episode.

[Outro Song: You Bring Me Home by The Sudden Leaves]


How Premarital Counseling Works

How Premarital Counseling Works

Use Premarital Counseling Strategies to Strengthen Your Relationship

Premarital counseling is so important for couples getting married. It’s a positive, empowering experience that helps you get clarity about the strengths of your relationship and work through potential problems before they become serious relationship issues. Most importantly, going through meaningful, high-quality premarital counseling with a marriage and family therapist teaches you how to keep your relationship strong through thick and thin. While intentionally and proactively cultivating positive aspects of your partnership, instead of trying to fix relationship problems once things are feeling hard. 

But did you know that — no matter how long you’ve been with your partner, or whether you’re even getting married — you can still use the principles of great premarital counseling to strengthen your relationship? Couples married for decades can still use empowering, proactive, and productive strategies to make healthy, positive changes to their partnership… and you can too.

On today’s episode of the podcast, I’m speaking with my dear colleague Brenda Fahn. Brenda is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and she teaches our Lifetime of Love Premarital Program. She has provided private premarital counseling services to countless couples over the years, and today she’s here to share some premarital counseling strategies that you can start using in your relationship right now.

If you want to jump right in, tap here to listen to:

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast while you’re there! 

You can also follow me (@drlisamariebobby) and Growing Self (@growing_self) on Instagram too, if you’d like to stay on top of all the latest pro-relationship info we have planned for you over the next few months. 

Lastly, you can listen to this episode on the player at the bottom of this page, or if you prefer a transcript of the episode we have that for you too (all the way at the bottom). 

I had a blast talking to Brenda (she’s as fun as she is smart) and I think you’ll get so much out of this interview. If you have additional premarital counseling questions you are welcome to leave them here for me/us in the comments section and I’ll respond to you ASAP.

Show notes are below — enjoy!

Xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

How Premarital Counseling Works: Podcast Episode Show Notes

Do you want to learn the secret to a long-lasting and happy married life? Then, tune in to this episode to discover some valuable insights into how premarital counseling works, and how you can start using expert premarital counseling strategies in your relationship — no matter how long you’ve been together!

In This Episode with Brenda, You Will…

  • Discover the benefits of premarital counseling.
  • Learn how premarital counseling can prepare you for married life.
  • Identify the common problems in married life and how to face them.
  • Find out why conflicts matter.
  • Know how to become more proactive and authentic in your relationship.
  • Understand the importance of honesty when answering premarital counseling questions.
  • Discover how long-term married couples can strengthen their connection.

Episode Highlights

The Problem With Most Premarital Counseling

Often, couples exploring premarital counseling don't fully understand the value of premarital counseling for the success of their relationship. On top of that, they're not seeking premarital counseling through a professionally trained couples and family therapist (to no fault of their own, they just don't know). Typically, when couples begin seeking out premarital counseling, they're turning to a religious or Christian premarital counseling service that usually consists of a couple of awkward conversations with a priest or pastor. It's not meaningful and doesn't teach them the important healthy relationship skills they get in real-deal premarital counseling.

These couples think they’ve done “premarital counseling” but they haven’t, really. It’s not authentic, or meaningful. They wind up getting superficial guidance, trite advice, and general instructions. Basically, an informational pamphlet on “How to be married” (which is not that helpful, let’s face it). Understanding the difference between religious vs. secular premarital counseling can prevent this problem.

The other problem with most premarital counseling is that many couples really do not understand the importance of good premarital counseling. They think that premarital counseling is simply a checkbox to tick off, like renting the tux, or ordering the cake. And when couples don’t address the questions they need to ask before marriage, they’re ill-prepared to weather the storms that come.

The Importance of Premarital Counseling

Premarital counseling helps couples envision and think about what life will be like when they are married. It also allows them to be more mindful and conscious of how they will make their relationship work. When done right, it’s a great marriage preparation course. Other benefits include:

  • preparing couples for the challenges of married life 
  • helping them differentiate normal experiences from problems to deal with
  • minimizing the risk of disconnection, separation, and divorce
  • normalizing counseling

Moreover, it helps couples catch a problem sooner before it becomes too late to fix. And because it happens when they are in a positive mood, therapy is more successful. As a result, premarital counseling can strengthen the foundations of their marriage. Effective, evidence-based, non-religious counseling can create positive changes in a relationship. 

These ideas can help all couples: As couples evolve throughout major life transitions, there are new and important things to discuss productively. We all grow and change as we move into different stages of life. If you’ve been married for a long time, it’s also worth knowing how to discuss the challenges that you face now — as well as the ones that might be coming down the pipeline. 

How are you staying connected now? How are you solving problems together now? Are the strategies and systems that worked for you at an earlier stage of your relationship still working now? 

These are positive, proactive conversations to have with each other throughout the course of your marriage — not just at the beginning. 

The Myth and Truth About Being in a Relationship

People sometimes believe that getting into a relationship is an endgame. So, they stop working on it. They don’t account for the changes that happen, especially when they get engaged. They fail to realize that they have to expand themselves to adapt to their partners. They also have to work on themselves so that they show up better in the relationship. 

Also, it’s actually at the beginning of the relationship that couples benefit from counseling. This is because they are still happy and positive. Counselors can help them figure out what makes them feel that way. From here, they learn what they can continuously do to keep their relationship working. 

According to Brenda, this helps because “our brains are really good at remembering negative things. They’re not always great at remembering positive things unless you’re conscious about it.”

Premarital counseling helps couples get very clear about their strengths and all the things they love and appreciate about each other. It also helps them create strategies to help each other feel loved, respected, and emotionally connected. 

Focusing on these things can be an incredibly powerful way to strengthen your relationship no matter how long you’ve been together.

6 Common Premarital Counseling Topics 

There are six plus premarital counseling topics that couples work through during premarital counseling. These include things like:

  1. Communication
  2. Conflict resolution
  3. Marriage and money
  4. Sexual intimacy
  5. Creating agreements
  6. Maintaining emotional intimacy, and more

Often, it’s only during premarital counseling that couples have deep, productive conversations about how they’re feeling in these different aspects of their relationship and what they could each do to make their partnership feel even stronger and more satisfying. 

“Communication is the key to life, regardless of what subject that is,” – Brenda 

The key is that, in premarital counseling, couples are talking about these things before they become issues. Although marriage counseling and couples therapy can be extremely effective in helping couples resolve issues…couples are there to talk about the things that aren't working for them, and that are causing pain. 

Premarital counseling is, in contrast, all about discussing important things that we need to be talking about openly but that aren’t necessarily problems or issues. This is a great takeaway for all couples — premarital or not. Figure out a way to talk about important things without it being in the context of a conflict, or argument. 

Why Constructive Conflicts Matter

Sometimes, couples are afraid to speak up when things are not okay because they are avoiding conflict. But Brenda shares that “If you don’t have conflict, I think you might have a bad relationship because you’re not letting yourself be seen.” She also discusses that not only is it okay to have conflict, but it is normal.

The important thing is to learn how to bounce back when these things happen. You have to know how to become happier partners in your relationship despite the conflict. You must also learn how to express that you still love and care for each other.

Remember that conflict is simply an opportunity for couples to have a deeper and more authentic understanding of one another.

Why Are Some People Afraid of Going to Premarital Counseling?

While premarital counseling is good for marriage, not everyone does it happily. Some couples even dutifully attend a couple of premarital counseling sessions to check the box, but avoid talking about meaningful things with their premarital counselor. It is because these people fear that when they discuss these future problems, they are “rocking the boat” and creating problems where none exist.

As Brenda puts it, “Couples who talk about sex have better sex lives. Couples who talk about their finances are more successful. And couples who talk about their conflict learn how to get through it.”

It’s easy for couples to avoid talking about important things proactively. Premarital counseling teaches couples how to be brave and talk about their real feelings from the start. All couples can learn from this wisdom though: What have you been avoiding discussing in your relationship, and how can you be brave and authentic in order to have necessary conversations with your partner in a positive and productive way? 

What Pre-Marriage Counselors Want for Soon-to-be-Married Couples

Pre-marriage counselors help soon-to-wed couples prepare themselves for their future. The counselors want them to learn that conflict is not about playing the blame game. Instead, it is about how you can compromise to stay connected with your partner. This is just one of the many pieces of advice premarital counselors give to soon-to-be-married couples. 

Ultimately, premarital counselors want couples to learn how to enrich themselves. It begins with acknowledging that you and your partner are both growing and evolving humans with feelings and quirks that are unique. How do you love, respect, and appreciate each other for who you truly are? Pre-marriage counseling is also only the beginning of this conversation. Talking about each of your feelings, values, goals, hopes, and dreams should be something happening throughout your relationship — especially as you both continue to grow and evolve. 

Advice for Married Couples

Brenda believes that the concepts learned in premarital counseling still apply to married couples. She also adds that it is crucial to have an openness to learning when it comes to relationships. You also have to constantly be intentional in improving or maintaining your connection.

Long-term married couples can still attend premarital counseling courses. In doing so, they learn how to make their relationships work better. Healthy and happy couples are ones that are proactive. They put the effort into educating themselves and growing together. 

Brenda also adds that most of the time, when people say their relationship is getting boring, that’s not truly the case. What is happening is you are not allowing yourself to grow. And you have to do that and bring it to the relationship to make it better.

Premarital Counseling Resources

The info shared in this podcast is just the beginning. If you’re interested in learning more about premarital counseling here are a few links to learn more about:

Enjoy the Podcast?

Did you enjoy the podcast? Do you think you need to try pre-marriage counseling with your partner? How will neglecting counseling affect married life? Share your insights and questions — we want to hear from you!

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How Premarital Counseling Works

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

Music Credits: “I Do” by Derek Gust

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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.

[Intro Song: I Do by Derek Gust]

Dr. Lisa: That was “I Do” by the artist, Derek Gust, I thought a great introduction to our topic today. Today, we are talking about premarital counseling, pre-marriage counseling. Not just what it is, not just why, but I really want to empower you in understanding the purpose of premarital counseling and how you can use some of the principles of great premarital counseling to strengthen your relationship. No matter if you are about to be married or if you have been in a relationship or even a marriage for many years, you can still use these ideas to strengthen and heal and grow your relationship. That is what we are talking about on today's episode of the podcast. 

The Problem With Most Premarital Counseling 

Just to jump right in, pretty much everybody has gotten the memo, at this point, that premarital counseling is generally a good idea. It's something that people do typically, though, as part of the wedding planning process. Usually, when people do premarital counseling, it is, unfortunately, of the variety where it's two or three very awkward conversations with a priest or pastor who's going to marry you. Then people think, “Great. We have checked that box. We have gotten premarital counseling. We are good to go.” 

They haven't done real, effective, meaningful premarital counseling, to their detriment. That, in itself, is part of the reason why I am making this podcast today, my friends, is to help you understand that this is not a box-checking endeavor. This is actually really important. It would be a mistake to devalue real, authentic, and deep premarital counseling because of the impact it can have not just on your relationship but on the entire trajectory of your marriage and on your future together. 

When you do that superficial type of premarital counseling with a pastor, you get a worksheet. You get some general instructions: say please and thank you, have date nights, prioritize your relationship, all that trade advice. But they don't really get into the nuts and bolts of the actual, not even tools and strategies, but mindsets that you need in order to have a really amazing marriage. They don't go into helping you understand each other or why you do the things that you do. They certainly don't help you anticipate the drift that occurs in every relationship over time so that you can see it coming and make proactive changes to keep it from impacting your marriage negatively. 

Because people don't get that, you then, have these nice young couples or—who are we kidding, marriages these days, it's a couple of 38-year-olds—glide off into marriage, thinking that they've done premarital counseling, they're good to go. Then, life starts to happen. There are the curveballs, and the transitions, and the lost jobs, and moving from one state to another, or welcoming kids, or if you are coming into the marriage with children already, that's a whole other set of challenges. 

Every couple, even the cutest, happiest, healthiest, most in-love ones, over time, will have to figure out how to talk about very challenging things that are emotionally triggering to both people. There is always going to be unavoidable conflict. I say conflict somewhat loosely because I think of conflict as not an argument, necessarily, but people being in different positions, and having to talk through their thoughts and feelings, and get back on the same page, and resolve problems together, and problems that you may have different opinions about in terms of the solutions. 

That is simply the work of being in a relationship. Then, on top of that: how to stay emotionally connected, how to be good partners to each other, how to understand and unconditionally love and respect your partner even when they think, and feel, and behave differently than you would. This is the growth process. This is just normal and expected. When you go into really, truly meaningful and effective evidence-based premarital counseling, you get a lot of that information that you don't get when it's this superficial experience that so many couples get. 

Today, in this episode of the podcast, what we are doing is diving into the kinds of ideas, the kinds of growth moments, the kinds of information that you get in actual premarital counseling. I have invited my colleague Brenda, who teaches our Lifetime of Love premarital counseling class. She does a ton of individual private premarital counseling. She's a Prepare-Enrich-certified Premarital Counselor. Brenda knows what is going on. She's here today to share her wisdom with you. Brenda, thank you so much for joining me today.

Brenda Fahn: Thank you, Lisa. I love talking about premarital counseling. I tell my premarital couples, they're my favorite because they're coming to be proactive, usually. They're coming to learn. They’re coming to make sure that they have better knowledge. It also shows that they really care that they're saying their relationships are important. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I always appreciate my premarital clients.

Dr. Lisa: I know. Me, too. I'm so glad for that. One of the things that always comes into my mind when we talk about premarital counseling, or I feel like, at our practice here at Growing Self, we do a lot to try to educate people around the importance of premarital counseling. I think it's because both of us have had so many years of experience working with couples who've been married, 5 years, or 10 years, or even longer, and who come in when their relationships are absolutely on the brink. 

They have had years and years of not doing the things that we teach in premarital counseling. I don't know if you've had this experience, but I have personally sat with some couples that are pretty far gone and thought, “Oh, my gosh. If you guys had understood some of these things in the beginning and not had all of these damaging experiences with each other over the years, we would not even be sitting here right now.”

The Importance of Premarital Counseling

Brenda: No, exactly. And I think that's one of the most important gifts premarital counseling does is it normalizes and de-stigmatizes going to counseling for a lot, especially for certain couples who might be more hesitant to come and say, “Here's what it was like when we didn't have a lot of problems, but it actually was pretty good. We got a lot out of it. We got some knowledge. We got some understanding of our relationship. We got to know what's more normal, what to expect.” 

When I have couples even come back, some of those premarital couples will come back for one or two sessions just to say, “Hey, we're stuck in this piece.” I think the premarital counseling really helped them be comfortable with that process and to realize it's okay. It's okay to catch it sooner because like you said, sometimes it's just too late. Dr. Gottman will say, “Catch the problem within a year.” But most couples wait up to six years before they address issues. Think of what's happened in those six years of disconnection or conflict that's been unresolved versus if you catch it within six months. There's a much better prognosis, like anything in life, if you catch it sooner.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. You bring up such a great point there. Also, I love what you're saying that in premarital counseling, it's a unique experience where couples will come into sessions with me, or you, or your class when they are in a good place. Because what we also know from research is that it is actually when your relationship is feeling fairly good, you both have positive regard for each other, things are going pretty well, that is actually the time when you can make positive changes in a relationship, where you can grow together or understand each other more deeply in a really powerful and effective way. That is the time to come and work on yourselves together. 

Whereas, in brink-of-divorce type of relationships, it is not emotionally safe. People are so defensive and mad at each other. That is not conducive to growth at all. It's a whole paradigm shift to come in while you still like each other. And Brenda what you’re saying is that you bring up a good point, too, is that when you have done premarital counseling and if it's a positive experience that felt good for both of you, it becomes that much easier to say, “Yeah, let's go see Brenda again for a couple of sessions,” at the first sign of trouble, so it doesn't even become a capital P problem. That is one of the primary benefits.

Brenda: I'm sure you know this, too. The more stress or the less safe a relationship feels, the harder it is to have empathy, the harder it is to hear actually, even physically. For some people, it's just hard to hear when they're really defensive. You're working against so many variables if you're already in a high-stress situation where you're feeling like the other person doesn't really have your back, maybe doesn't care versus premarital couples are coming in saying, “We really care about each other. We want to make sure.” A lot of them have come from divorced families, too, that will say, “We don't want to repeat. We didn't see great relationships. We saw how people did things poorly.” 

They're putting this as a priority because I think that adage gets used a lot of “Relationships are work.” It's the work of consciousness and mindfulness. There's a saying that even if you don't do anything wrong in a relationship if you don't do anything right, it will still die. But you have to be doing a lot of positive actions to keep the feelings going. It doesn't mean that the feelings have to go away. They can wax and wane, obviously, but to say, you don't let your emotions just take over like they did at the beginning of a relationship. You're saying, “What do I need to do? What actions do I need to keep taking to keep these emotions in a positive element in my relationship?”

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Oh, my goodness. You brought up such a great point because that was honestly one of my first questions for you: why is this so important? What do people not understand about premarital counseling? And why do it for real? So far, you've mentioned that just the act of doing, deeper work premarital counseling will make it so much easier to nip potential problems in the bud going down the road. 

Also, when you learn, specifically, what to do to stay in a good place with each other over the years, that is worth so much like exercising, and taking your vitamins, and eating your vegetables. In relationships, it's not waiting until you get sick. It's what you're doing all along. So many couples, when they're getting married, they are just awash in all kinds of love and positive things. They think, “This is just the way it feels because we love each other. It'll always feel this way.” 

They're not doing the relational equivalent of eating their vegetables or getting a good night's sleep. They're just coasting along on good feelings. When those feelings start to change because they will always, they don't have any tools to start to re-inject positive interactions and energy back in. Is that it?

The Myth and Truth About Being in a Relationship

Brenda: Yeah, definitely. I think part of it is to say maybe there's a myth of like, “Once I get into a relationship, I can relax.” So many people are so hard, like, “Let me get into a relationship.” But I tell all my couples, “That's when you get to expand.” This relationship will hopefully expand you, sometimes, in really uncomfortable ways. This is hoping to grow, what it means to learn how to love better, to learn how to be loved, to learn how to be the better version of yourself, and to give that to your partner. 

So if that was easy work, it wouldn’t actually be that rewarding. The thought that “This should be easy,” is actually a paradox of saying, “No,  because it's harder, it actually gives it a lot more value.” This is challenging you to step up in life, not to just relax and say, “I can do whatever I want now.”

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, definitely. In premarital counseling, for you, Brenda, to be delivering that message to people, while they're still really motivated by feelings of love and affection that they want to do everything that they can to have a great relationship between that and some of our couples that feel like they've been through a war, by the time they get into marriage counseling, they don't want to do the things. They don't feel like being generous to their partner, who has been so mean and unkind to them. It's so essential to be learning about this in the beginning.

Brenda: Yeah, no. Exactly. Because we both do emotion-focused therapy to say that people get into these dances like anything, and they become polarized in a dance of negativity. It's hard to start to convince someone to come back. When someone comes in already positive, they're saying, “How do we build this?” You probably have couples come in, sometimes, they go, “We don't have much to talk about this week. It's actually going well.” 

I'll say that's great because I love those weeks where you feel like things are going well because now we can look at what are you doing that's making this feel good. Our brains are really good at remembering negative things. They're not always great at remembering positive things unless you're conscious about it. Even a couple saying, “There's not much to talk about,” there's probably lots to talk about, but it's the good stuff. It's saying, “What are you both doing every day for yourself and for this relationship that's helping to be in this place?”

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, definitely. That, too, they don't know yet what they should be talking about because it doesn't currently feel problematic. That's what I love so much about your approach, both in the Lifetime of Love class and with your individual premarital counseling. I know it's different in the class because you just walk through a number of topics. But with our Private Premarital Counseling, you always do an assessment, either it's our free in-house premarital counseling assessment or I know that since you're preparing for the fight, you do that assessment a lot of the times. Because it's like an X-ray. It can help couples be like, “Oh, yeah. We haven't actually talked about this.” 

And I'm curious. What are some of the things you see come out, either from that assessment or from the information that you present to couples in your premarital class that you find, isn't shocking, necessarily, but it is new information that premarital couples being like, “Oh, yeah. We haven't thought about that, or we haven't talked about this part, and we should.” Have you noticed any patterns around what seems to be most important and under-discussed, unless you create those?

Common Premarital Counseling Topics

Brenda: Yeah. That's a good question. I think that the major theme that comes out of married couples or premarital couples is communication. We feel like we don't communicate great. Communication and conflict resolution, which go hand-in-hand, usually come out the most if we don't know how to do this differently. I think what comes out, it's not like I wouldn't say it's one topic, because there are some couples who need to work on finances. There might be some couples who need to work on their sex life. I don't feel like there's one theme that I'm like, “Oh, we need to talk about this.” 

I think every couple comes in usually knowing that they have one or two things that they've either been avoiding, maybe mind-reading, or making assumptions, and maybe scared to talk about. It's trying to bring those things up in a gentle way that you… Communication is the key to life, regardless of what subject that is. Where do you guys get off track around communication about any topic? 

I think a lot of education goes with that, too. Seventy percent of conflict doesn't go away, according to Dr. Gottman. It's differences of personality, habits, opinions, lifestyle. How do we learn to live with this? How do we get away from trying to change pr control? What do I need to do to adapt, and accept, and understand who you are better and where you're coming from? I think if couples are on finances, we go deeper to say, “Where does this come from? What's the meaning of money? What are your habits you've had? What did you see, as a child around money? What are you still holding on to that, maybe, is giving them a way of you guys having a better communication about this?” That could be finances, sex, habits. 

Sometimes, couples have a really hard time saying, “You know, what? I really don't like that you”—I'm trying to think of a good one—“don't exercise more. I feel like you're not healthy. And that makes you unhappy. I'm worried about you, but I don't know how to say that in a way without making you feel bad.” Almost every topic comes back to how are we communicating with each other. Couples are going to two camps, a lot of times, either we're avoiding it and hoping that's going to go away, or we're saying it in a way that's pretty critical and attacking. We don't know how to come together, and show up, and be vulnerable in these issues, and really hear and see each other.

Dr. Lisa: Oh, my goodness. It’s so important just to develop those skills about how to talk about these issues that feel hard. Because if you have that, you can resolve any issues. I appreciate what you said that a lot of times there isn't a final solution. But resolve it in the sense of understanding each other and developing appreciation for each other, not even just despite the differences, but because of them towards acceptance and growth and unconditional love.

Why Conflicts Matter

Brenda: If we feel like they care, and I think the one thing that I like the most to tell couples is to say, “You may miss each other. You're going to miss each other in relationships. You're going to disappoint each other. You're going to hurt each other. How do you come back? You fall. How do you get back up?” That's a really important concept for what makes happier couples. But it goes away from what some people think. 

I have a lot of couples who will say, “If we have conflict that must mean we have a bad relationship.” That's not the case. Actually, if you don't have conflict, I think you might have a bad relationship because you're not letting yourself be seen. You're not letting yourself show up as much. You're not letting yourself have your partner look into the nooks and crannies of what makes you, you. 

If you're doing that, then you're going to have conflict, but that's okay. It's giving couples a lot of the times permission to have it, tried to have it in a healthy way, and to say, “Even when you miss each other, how are you coming back? How are you making those small movements to say, ‘We're still on the same team? We're still in this together. I still love you and care about you.’”

Dr. Lisa: Brenda, we need to think up a different word for conflict. As you're talking, I always and I try to teach couples this, but we need a new word. Because when I think “conflict,” and you do, too, clearly, you just said it, but here's an opportunity to understand each other more deeply and authentically. Whenever people are being authentic, they're going to find that they're not exactly the same as others. This opportunity for understanding, I'm gonna put that in the hopper, Brenda. We need to get a new word. 

Brenda: We’ll be like Shakespeare, come up with a new language around it. 

Dr. Lisa: That’s right. That is really a key core skill that you're always going to, in premarital work, is how to talk about things, how to be authentic and vulnerable, but also just setting expectations around the goals for communication. Through that, you cover a ton of topics. There's sex, which can be very difficult to talk about. Also, we do a lot of financial therapy for couples here in our practice, in general, but especially for premarital couples at the beginning of their relationship to get finances straightened out. I think that there are different mindsets for people who do reach out to us for premarital counseling. I think that people who come to us for premarital counseling are wanting a deeper experience. 

I speculate sometimes that the reason why people shy away from the type of growth opportunity, that say, working with you would offer, is that they have this even subconscious fear that “if we start talking about some of these things, we're going to realize that our differences are too great, or that we're not compatible somehow, or we're going to discover things about each other. I love this person so much. I would be crushed if our marriage got derailed. I would almost rather leave the lid on it. We'll just deal with that after we are securely married because it's almost like this threatening feeling.” 

Have you heard that expressed at all in couples counseling? Or the people who come to see you they're like, “We want to bring it on.”

Why Are Some People Afraid of Going to Premarital Counseling?

Brenda: There's probably been some of both. I think there's sometimes… I definitely noticed some couples who are really hesitant to admit to any issues going on. Because if Prepare-Enrich testers gauge that, they’ll say if you're trying to make yourself look too good, we're also going to catch that. We can see it's hard for you to admit things like, “I will always be happy with my partner.” If someone says, “Yes, I'm 100% of the time happy,” then we talk about that. What's going on that you think you might not ever doubt this relationship or that you might not ever wonder if you married the wrong person? 

I really want to normalize that those are the moments, usually, that we want to run. You could say there's a different language that we use in psychology around that. But to say when things are tough, sometimes, we want to run, but you would run to another relationship where you’re going to feel the exact same way, most of the time. So, I want to normalize those feelings that it's okay to be afraid. All of us are afraid to look inside, but what's the cost of not looking inside? 

Our brains are not good at avoidance. We think they are, but they're really not. There's a lot of energy and, sometimes, shame and power that goes into trying to avoid these things. That's why research would say couples who talk about sex have better sex lives. Couples who talk about their finances are more successful. Couples who talk about their conflict learn how to get through it. I think it's trying to just give people permission to say, “No. There's light when you bring it out. There's darkness, actually, when you're trying to keep it at bay.”

Dr. Lisa: The way that you framed that, Brenda, was so profound because I think I even understood something differently about premarital couples feeling hesitant to do premarital counseling because of what the possible consequences could be. You're saying that that in itself is an indication of an avoidant tendency when it comes to addressing relational issues. That in itself is a really strong indicator that you should because it's like retraining you to move towards authenticity and manage that anxiety of talking about things openly as opposed to indulging that avoidance reaction that we know will always, ultimately, cause harm in the end, even if in the moment it feels protective.

What Marriage Counselors Want for Soon-to-be-Married Couples

Brenda: I think there are, obviously, we see couples after years where they want to blame the other person to say, “He's the bad guy.” “She's the bad guy.” We want to help couples not get there to say we're not playing a blame game. We want you guys to see that you interact with each other, sometimes, in ways that trigger each other. We should come up with another word besides trigger because I use that word too much. But we want you to both see how you play your own role and that there's no bad guy or good guy. This is both of us struggling. We're all really imperfect people. We're trying to find a way to still stay connected. 

That disconnection equals loneliness for a lot of people. That's the most painful thing in relationships. So, how can we stay connected even in the moments where we see parts of ourselves we don't love, parts of our partner we don't love? How do we get back to our better selves versus trying to pretend they're not there or stay away from them? It really does give them more power if you try to avoid. Using mind-reading and making assumptions is really dangerous for couples. 

That's why I tell couples all the time in the class, “This is just the beginning of your conversation. I want you to continue these conversations. I want to make it less scary so that you guys know you can go here. It doesn't overwhelm anyone. It doesn't scare anybody. You can get through this.”

Dr. Lisa: Oh, my goodness. That in itself, Brenda, you're modeling exactly the type of emotional safety that we hope that couples can create, really. I just love what you said that the goal here isn't some imaginary, perfect ideal that is impossible to attain. The goal here is acceptance of who we each really are and how to stay connected and loving in the midst of that. That's so important.

Brenda: I will say most premarital couples come away feeling grateful that they have the opportunity to talk about things that would have been hard on their own that we did facilitate. Most couples who come in for premarital counseling don't have 10 issues they need to deal with. They have one or two that they're stuck on. They just don't know how to get through those. So they come in with pretty solid relationships, but they have a few issues that they just haven't known how to navigate. Again, I think going to the scary places makes it less scary. That's my hope, is that then when they go there, they can do it again in the future with or without a therapist.

Understanding Premarital Counseling Questions

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, definitely. Then, another question for you on that note, and I know we've talked about this a little bit, but assessments can be a very important part of the premarital counseling process. Again, we have our free 200-question premarital assessment that we can give to clients. I know that people on the team like you who are Prepare-Enrich-certified, there's a whole other assessment process that you do that is also really valuable. 

Why would you say it's so important for couples to be open to doing this assessment, as opposed to just popping in and telling you about the two things that they want to work on? Why would you do that assessment with a premarital couple, anyway? What information do you think it can generate that they may not be consciously aware of?

Brenda: One is it covers topics, sometimes, topics they haven't even thought about. I hear that quite a bit. We're not even sure what we're supposed to be talking about, or maybe what we're missing. The Prepare goes over about 12 different topics. Some of them are just topics that couples haven't thought about in that they haven't framed it in that way—everything from talking about sex to finances, to roles, to responsibilities, to partner’s style and habits, to leisure activities, to how are their family and friends influencing their relationship, the communication, and conflict. It's a structured way to look at their relationship and to also see their strengths. 

I want to go over their strengths to say, “Hey, these are the areas you guys are getting along really well.” Now, there's sometimes still one or two questions where you say, “Hey, let's talk through that and see how you both are feeling about this one piece of communication,” let’s say. But I think it just brings up, in a structured way, topics that they maybe haven't thought about, but they've been issues that maybe have been bothering them, but they might not bring them up organically. This helps give them, one, some template to look at. And two, it helps them, then, identify things that, maybe, were bothering them that they hadn't articulated or put into language yet.

Dr. Lisa: That's such a good point right there because especially with premarital couples, many times, they're getting along well. There's not Problems with a capital P. Even if there are little annoyances, or they haven't quite elevated to the point where there has to be the talk about the problem. And so they’re like, “Ah. It's not that big of a deal.” But you're saying that the assessment will provide a safe, structured way for them to talk about those things that maybe haven't reached that level of importance yet. But it’s still so important to discuss so that they don't turn into a big, hurtful problem. 

Brenda: Some of the questions are even like, “I can see this becoming a problem versus it is a problem.” But anticipating events around the preparative parenting expectations and marriage expectations. So it's saying, “I think this might happen. I’m afraid this might happen.” 

We're also talking about future fortune-telling of where they see the future going that it's not there yet, but there is some fear or hesitation. It is a feeling of like, “Well, should I bring it up now? Or do I bring it up after it's happened?” “Your mom said something that was so offensive. I couldn't handle it.” Or instead, we’re saying, “Hey, what do we do if that situation comes up? How can I support you in those moments?” Again, it's proactive. I can't think of a better word just to try to anticipate or sometimes avoid certain situations.

Second Marriages and Premarital Counseling

Dr. Lisa: Proactive is the perfect word. You're getting out in front of it before… Well, that's super helpful. Then, another question that I had for you. I think that there can also be a thing with premarital couples who are that kind of stereotypical: they're young-ish, or it's their first marriage for both of them. Those are often the couples who are doing all the things. They are the wedding planners, and the color-coordinated flowers and bridesmaid dresses and doing the premarital counseling, and everything. 

Then, there's this other thing that happens, I think of it as your first baby. When you're pregnant, you have the shower, and you have the photo shoot with your belly bump. Then, by the time you have your second or third kid, you might have a friend drop off a trash bag of old clothes on your front porch, that kind of thing. 

Brenda: You’ve done this.

Dr. Lisa: Right? It’s like, why? I think that there can, sometimes, be that difference in energy with somebody who’s getting remarried after having been to that rodeo once before. I'm wondering if you have seen any differences, or differences in importance, even, with couples who may be getting married for the second time and thinking, “Eh. Why should we even do premarital counseling,” or having different needs in a premarital counseling environment? What would you say to them if that were the circumstance?

Brenda: Their case? The couples who end up coming are usually the ones who just say, “We want to do it differently.” Because, one hypothesis, there might be more of why our divorce rate’s higher in second marriages and third marriages. There's one hypothesis that said you didn't learn what to do differently. You just jumped into another relationship without becoming, sometimes, more educated or self-aware. If you want to lower your rate of divorce, I'd say the need to have more self-awareness is really important, especially because it's usually more complicated. You, a lot of times, are dealing with an ex or exes and dealing with children involved. So there's more stress. The honeymoon period doesn't last, always as long or very long at all. 

The couples who come in to me are just saying, “We want to make sure that what we learned from this last relationship, we're going to do it differently, and how to navigate those relationships.” If you think of someone who's coming in and adopting, maybe, really hard ex with their partner, “Okay, how do we deal with this? How do we be on the same team because that can create a lot of conflict and division? How do we parent each other's kids?” 

The Prepare-Enrich test does do step-parenting expectations, what role might the ex play in the relationship that could be an issue. Then, we're, again, talking about that and bringing it to the light to manage thoughts, feelings, hopes, and expectations to hopefully have a better chance of fighting together and being on the same team.

Dr. Lisa: That's so important because that is so hard, just the circumstances and dynamics. We also do a fair amount of blended family therapy here. But again, it's that importance of premarital counseling, to be talking about these things proactively before it becomes a yucky-feeling issue, not just in your relationship, but potentially, having kids who've decided that they hate your new husband or whatever. Let's not do that because that's just so hard to unwind. 

Brenda: Talking through, I think, for a lot of times, that still comes up in certain areas—finances, sex, conflict—to say, “Hey, I'm really scared to trust you with money because my last spouse ran up our credit card bill to $30,000.” You're bringing in, sometimes, some of those fears to talk through it to say, “Okay, what do you need from my support? I know that there are moments you're not reacting to me. You might be reacting to an ex. And how can we not create some disconnection for us?” And to own that and to see that for what it is versus pretending it's not there.

Dr. Lisa: Absolutely. The awareness about your old trauma triggers from past relationships. We’ll encourage my listeners if you haven't already, and if you just had a moment of recognition from what Brenda said, did a podcast not too long ago about trust issues in relationships. You might want to check that one out because I think that what Brenda is saying is that's a really common experience. If you've had a traumatic relationship, there's no other way to say it. How do you go from having those reactions and projecting those things onto your new partner? I'm glad you brought that up. 

I know we don't have a ton of time here, and I'll let you go. But before we do, I wanted to ask you one last question, which is, unfortunately, and I wish it were different, I'm still trying to figure out how to help change this zeitgeist, but in the kinds of conversations and the work that we do and that we're talking about right now, Brenda, is around premarital couples to be proactive, talking about important things before they become a problem. 

Is there any thoughts that you have for somebody listening to this podcast, who's 10 years into a marriage, nobody is doing premarital anything, that boat has sailed, but to still be able to use some of these ideas or concepts in order to be able to strengthen and support their existing marriage? If you were to apply the power of premarital work during the marriage, do you have any thoughts?

Advice for Married Couples

Brenda: I think, to be honest, the application and the understanding of a lot of the concepts that I teach to premarital couples are relevant to any couple, regardless of how long they've been together. I frequently have one couple within a group that has been married for a while. They do want to do a checkup or be more intentional about the relationship. Those people do still come along fairly often.

I would say there's a thought that every long-term relationship is going to have two or three different kinds of relationships. Sometimes, you're at the end of one, and you can start another one. I think that these concepts have been what really makes relationships work with couples who've been together, who are both open to having a new relationship, and getting away from the past to say, “What do we need to do differently?” I think those couples, if they're both open to it, then it can be a great tool for them. I've seen that happen with couples where they've said basically, “Let's start over it. That worked for a while, but it's not working anymore.”

Dr. Lisa: I think this openness to learning “What do we now have to do to have a good relationship?” I can't even tell you how happy I am, right now, to hear that married, long-term couples come to your premarital class. That's the best thing I've ever heard. 

Brenda: Glad I made your day, Lisa. That’s awesome.

Dr. Lisa: Well, good. I left you this message. It's never too late for premarital counseling. Even if you're well into a marriage, that it's not too late to say, “You know, what? What could we be doing better or differently?” Come and even show up for couples counseling and say, “We don’t really want a premarital experience. We don't have many specific things, but we just want somebody to get a sense of what we're currently doing. What are our strengths? What are our growth opportunities?” And help coach them on how to be better partners for each other and just have that be the intention of relational growth work.

Brenda: I think, hopefully, again, it gives couples a lot of education. I do some attachment work in, even, the class to say, “Okay, if someone's anxiously attached and someone's avoidantly attached, what's that look like?” That doesn't matter if they've been together 2 years or 10 years. They still start to see patterns. I think it takes away some of the shame to say, “It wasn't us. This is how this relationship looks like. Now, we know how to do things differently. We don't have to keep doing that.” 

Dr. Lisa: I love it. But that's always the truth. The healthiest, happiest couples are the ones who are proactive and really putting effort into educating themselves about how to grow, how to increase their understanding about the attachment styles just throughout the process, as opposed to the ones who are like, “Nope, we're fine. It's not that bad.” Then, by the time they show up, it's so bad. 

Brenda: When I tell couples if you feel like things get boring, it's probably not the relationship. You're probably holding back parts of yourself that you're not sure if the relationship can handle. We're always changing. We're evolving organisms. As people, we’re always looking to learn ourselves, and create ourselves, and recreate ourselves. Are you bringing that to the relationship? If you're not, if you're trying to keep it really contained, it's going to feel flat. Most people don't want that. 

Esther Perel would say, “People don't want more sex, they want better sex.” People want better relationships, but that means you have to, sometimes, go to scary places within yourself to bring that into the relationship: what you feel, think, and who you are.

Dr. Lisa: I love it. What a wonderful note to end on, Brenda. Then, a takeaway for every couple: no matter what stage of relationship you're in, think about what you aren't currently talking about that maybe you should be. I love that. 

While you’re saying that, Brenda, made me think of a little tool that we have for free on the website of growingself.com is our How Healthy Is Your Relationship? quiz that anybody can just come and take. It's not a ton of questions, probably 20 questions, but a little assessment that can help you be like, “Oh, are we talking about this? Should we be talking about this?” This is a little roadmap but to be thinking about what the growth opportunities are in your relationship and being proactive about it, whether or not you're already married. I love it. 

This has been so good. Thank you so much, Brenda, for spending this time with me today and just for sharing your wisdom with my listeners. So good.

Brenda: Thank you. I do love these couples. I hope it helps marriages be long, and happy, and successful. This would be my hope. 

Dr. Lisa: Me, too. Thank you, again.

[Outro Song]


Reinvent Yourself

Reinvent Yourself

How to Reinvent Yourself

“I want to reinvent myself!” Is this you? Are you wishing you could just cast off the old, tired, annoying or boring parts of your life, drop that old baggage off at the Goodwill and drive away: free, fresh, reborn? Me too. Everyone craves a good fresh start sometimes —  the chance to leave behind the old things that are no longer serving you, and be a better version of yourself. 

You might already have ideas about the aspirational “you” you’d like to become: What you’d look like, or what your life would be like, or even how you’d feel. Energized, excited, happy, productive, interesting (and with nicely manicured nails). But how to get away from the self you are now? The one who feels tired, disengaged, disorganized, and happy to just sit on the couch and watch Netflix rather than reading articles like this one.

Help is here. I’m a psychologist and life coach who has helped countless people reinvent themselves in positive ways, and I have personally been through a number of my own personal “moltings” as well. If you’re ready to reinvent yourself, you’re in the right place. On today's episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m sharing lots of actionable advice that you can use to begin your personal reinvention process today. 

Reinventing You

First of all: I have good news and bad news:

  1. It is absolutely possible to reinvent yourself, but
  2. The process of actually doing so is easier said than done.

Just wanted to manage your expectations about what’s in store for you.

Here’s the problem: You can make big, dramatic changes in your life relatively quickly and easily. You can cut off all your hair, quit your job, sell all your stuff and move into an RV. You’re free! Reinvented! Right?? Not so fast.

This kind of “personal reinvention” through changing of circumstances is relatively simple. It’s just a matter of logistics and chutzpah. The bigger issue is that you are still you, no matter what color your hair is or whether you’re sitting in an RV instead of at a desk. 

Whether your hair is pink, blue, or brown, under the fuzz, you will still have the same core beliefs getting triggered, the same habitual ways of thinking, the same self-concepts, the same personal habits, the same ways of communicating, and the same reactions to the world that you always have. Without a deep dive into rearranging your inner experience on a more substantial level, sooner or later, you’re going to wind up feeling pretty much the same way you usually do, and creating the same set of circumstances that you were trying to escape in the first place. 

“No matter where you go, there you are.” — The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (motion picture) (1984).

Changing your circumstances is easy. Actually, authentically reinventing yourself? More complicated.

Reinventing Your Life

True, authentic reinvention that leads to substantial, permanent change is an internal process: not an event. It can’t be bought, or created in an industrious weekend, like the way you’d “poof” a hall closet into a mini-office with a nifty drop-down desk. It requires deliberation, self-awareness, and intentional effort applied over time. 

But the good news is that once you achieve it, it’s yours to keep. There’s no going back from authentic, inner transformation. You earned it fair and square, and nobody can ever take it away from you. 

But how? How to actually change yourself and reinvent your life on a substantial level? 

If you’re feeling overdue for a personal overhaul and ready to move forward, I’m here to help. On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast I’m doing a deep dive into the psychology of reinvention to give you some actionable strategies for releasing your old stuff and embracing your aspirations.

Episode Highlights: Reinvent Yourself

In this episode, we’ll be discussing:

1. Reset For Reinvention

Did you know that there are certain types of life circumstances that essentially act like glue, holding you in place? (Even if you want to change?) That’s why I’ll be sharing some life-hacks to help you break old patterns so that you can get out of a rut.

2. Catalysts of Self Reinvention

Timing is important when it comes to personal reinvention. Just like the ocean tides get higher at certain times of day, there are times of life (even times of the year) where the forces of reinvention are working with you or against you. I’ll share what those “magical moments” are, so you can be ready to jump on them the next time they come around.

3. Reinvention and Motivation

To reinvent your life you do have to have motivation in order to make it through the twists and turns you’ll encounter along the way. But… what’s motivation? Lots of people think that motivation is a feeling of excited determination that gives us the strength to do hard things. Newp. Motivation is actually much more common than that, and it’s around you all the time. But it’s in disguise. I’ll explain what motivation really is, and how you can get it — and keep it.

4. Self Reinvention vs Homeostasis

Everyone who tries to reinvent themself will, usually fairly quickly, encounter what feels like an energetic elastic band snapping them back into place. Hello, homeostasis! Homeostasis is the fancy word for the fact that the systems we’re in currently are all disinclined to support your personal reinvention activities. Unless you’re actively managing homeostasis, any personal reinvention efforts are going to feel like swimming against the current — I’ll show you what to look for, so you can stop them from sabotaging you. 

5. Reinventing Your Life By Using Your Strengths

Remember at the beginning of this article when I started by speaking out loud about our shared fantasy that we could just rid ourselves of all the parts of us and our lives that we don’t like, and be done with them forever? Sigh. That is not even remotely how this works! The truth is actually much nicer: Genuine reinvention starts with you figuring out all the wonderful things about you and your life that are keepers, and then how to use all that goodness as the raw materials to build up the things you want more of. True, authentic reinvention isn’t about purging. It’s about “empowered embracing” and self-love. I’ll share how.

6. Reinvent a Relationship

If one of the hardest parts of your life is a relationship, good news: you can reinvent a relationship too. If you’ve been feeling super frustrated with your partner lately, I’ll be sharing the tricky paradox for relationship reinvention that can be easy to miss. (But empowering, once you learn it). 

7. Superficial Reinvention vs “Sleeper” Reinvention

Did you know that one of the most powerful and transformative kinds of personal reinvention can actually happen without you even realizing it’s happening? This is called a “sleeper” reinvention, and it is the exact opposite of the superficial reinvention that we try to force to happen (i.e.,  the ones that fizzle fast). When you know how to get in conscious alignment with a “sleeper” nothing can stop you. I’ll share why this is, and how to make it happen for you. 

Reinventing Yourself on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast

Personal reinvention is exciting, complex, and so, so, worth it. I love this topic, and I’m so glad to be discussing this with you on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Tune in to learn all about how to reinvent yourself, and then be sure to leave any follow-up questions for me in the comments. 

Your partner in growth!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Reinvent Yourself

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

Music Credits: Eyelids, “Furthest Blue”

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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. 

[Intro Song: Furthest Blue by Eyelids]

Dr. Lisa: The band is Eyelids with the song Furthest Blue. I liked that song for our show today because it's the idea of creating this idealized future. Somewhere off in the distance but close enough so that we can see, right? I thought that would be a wonderful intro for our time together today because today we are talking about how to reinvent yourself in a very intentional and also meaningful way. That's the important part.

True Reinvention

I think the idea of reinventing oneself, having a fresh start, a new life segment where you get to be different, is so appealing. Because it's this sense that it's possible to step from one plane of existence into another and just a different direction, a different trajectory. It almost has a whiff of magic about it. This idea that you could say legitimately, to yourself and to others, I am different now. That was then, this is now. Things have changed. I think that we all want to have that experience in some ways but it's a lot easier to say that than it is to actually do it. I mean, how does one accomplish a reinvention? 

The accessible parts of reinvention are the ones that we can often buy or do. It's parts of reinvention that are physically obvious or even circumstantial. We can, you can cut off all your hair, you can quit your job, sell your house and move into a van. You can do the act of reinvention and in some ways, achieve it in the sense that you're living in a different reality or maybe looking different. But, you can't quit yourself. You can't cut off a part of your personality. Unless you know how to do a much more meaningful reinvention process, you're still going to be the same you. Thinking the same thoughts, harboring the same core beliefs that then become your filter for the world. You'll have the same reactions to people. You'll say the same things or do the same things in your relationships and basically show up the same way you always have, just with a capsule wardrobe and short hair and from the driver's seat of a van. We have to go deeper. 

Homeostasis

Another aspect of reinventing oneself that I also don't think gets enough air time, frankly, and that can really create a stumbling block for many people is this. This often, I think unspoken fact, that we are all inhabiting systems in the world that create this almost gravitational force on us. The technical term for this is called homeostasis. It's something that we're all susceptible to. It can be really easy to blame yourself for getting into a rut or not being able to change things easily and effortlessly. But the fact is that we're all interconnected. We're living in the context of these systems that tend to hold us in place. 

The people around us are behaving in predictable ways, they're interacting with us in this sort of usual unexpected ways. We then sort of slide into interacting with them in normal and expected ways that they expect from us and that we just do without thinking about it. This is true in our personal relationships. Also even patterns of behaviors with our jobs or our families that we all have these roles and responsibilities. Even routines, like getting out of bed at a certain time. This is what I do in the morning. This is what I have for breakfast. All the systems essentially pull for us to be a certain way which is the way that we have been and then when we try to reinvent ourselves or be different, particularly with people or in the way that we're approaching our roles that involve other people, the system is trying to push us back into place. 

When we attempt to reinvent ourselves in substantial ways, there can often be this pushback, where people don't really want us to be different or they're not ready for us to be different. They're surprised. They're trying to interact with us in the same old way which then leads us to slide back into those old patterns. I know that this is very kind of heady stuff. It often happens outside the realm of consciousness. It's not something that we think about while it's happening, it's just something that happens. I really wanted to talk about this as well because if you're not ready for that and aware of it as a thing, it will in very subtle but yet effective ways to sabotage your reinvention process. I wanted to speak to you about that today as well.

Because this reinvention business is actually much more complicated than it sounds. To create real and lasting change in yourself and in your life. It takes intention, self-awareness, and often quite a bit of applied energy over time. It's so worth it to do. You don't have to accept the hand that you got dealt. You are empowered to create your own way. You absolutely get to decide what parts of your life are working well and what parts no longer serve you so that you can reinvent yourself at will. You can do it. On today's podcast, I'm going to be talking you through a step-by-step process that shows you how to create a personal reinvention plan that is meaningful and authentic, and most important, lasting. That's our goal for today's episode. 

If this is your first time listening to the podcast, and you're wondering what in the heck you have just stumbled into. I am Lisa Marie Bobby. I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. My background, I'm licensed as a marriage and family therapist. I'm a licensed psychologist. I am also a board-certified coach. The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast is all about helping you grow and have better relationships, and achieve your most important personal goals. On every episode, we talk about different aspects of that all for your benefit. 

The Process of Reinvention

On today's episode, I really wanted to talk about reinvention because it felt just so relevant right now. I think this topic is relevant for all of us. As I record this, we’re hopefully, fingers crossed, coming out the other side of this very strange pandemic experience that we've all lived through. Also, I think me personally, I think I'm going through the same thing as many of my clients and probably you too. There's this time and space in life for us to reevaluate, “What have I been doing? Do I want to keep doing that? What do I want to do differently in the future? Who am I?” It's sort of existential questions. 

If you are one of my regular listeners, you may have noticed that for the last, probably a couple of months, I have been serving up some of my best of episodes for your benefit. There are episodes that I enjoy and was thinking might be helpful for you. But also, I think I've been going through my own reinvention podcast process as well as a personal process. One of the things that is so intrinsic to a real reinvention is being able to step out. When you step out, it gives you the opportunity for time and space and clarity, that you can then step back in and do things differently going forward. 

But in the interim, that time that you do step out and give yourself some space, there are things that need to be happening under the surface in order for that to be a meaningful process. That is what we're talking about today on the show. I hope to give you some very actionable ideas and even assignments. As you listen to this episode, you might want to grab a notebook and write some things down because I have some questions for you. Today's podcast is going to be experiential in nature. I'm excited to share some of these things with you.

Let's tackle this. Let's talk about the process of personal reinvention. As mentioned previously, reinvention can be an outward process. Sometimes you changing something about the way that you look or changing something circumstantial. However, I will also tell you that when these things happen in a real and lasting way, they are always connected to an inner process of change and rebirth. Sometimes I think that reinvention can even seem superficial. Somebody gets a dramatic haircut or something can be the manifestation of an actual inner rebirth. The outward sign is just a physical symbol of that but it's still very important. 

While it might seem silly to part your hair on the different side or throw out your skinny jeans, or whatever it is, it can actually be attached to very substantial things. But the substantial things still have to be there. I'll give you an example. My son, he recently turned 13, and he has always been this sweetest, nicest Hufflepuff kid. For years, he had long hair. He had his headband collection. He was rocking this whole Lords of Dogtown thing for years, literally. On the cusp of his 13th birthday, he's like, “Mom, I want to cut off my hair.” Of course, okay. It's your hair, we can do it. But he picked out the photos and we made the appointment and he got all his hair cut off. It’s a very short haircut.

In that moment that he came home and now I'm interacting with this child who looks so different. It was like, “Whoa, who are you?” It was like a stranger in my house. But also noticing how substantially his personality has changed, his ways of being have changed, his communication, his ways of thinking, because he's really has changed from being a child into the stage of early adolescence. His hair, I think for him, was a very meaningful and symbolic representation of his inner change. That was legitimate and important because it was communicating to us in the world, “I'm not who I was last year. I am not a kid. I'm different. I want you to see me as different and treat me as different and interact with me in a different way.” I think none of this was conscious for him but it was also extremely real. This is a different kid and we need to approach him differently. The boundaries are different. Our expectations of him are different. That change in his hairstyle was the manifestation of this inner reality. 

That's what I'm talking about, is this meaningful reinvention because it's the same for you and for me. It requires this inner journey. I'm going to be sharing again, some steps for how to do this for yourself. I also want to warn, not sure what you're expecting here but  I'm going to be coming at this from a coaching perspective, rather than a therapeutic one. I mean, love therapy. I'm a psychologist. I'm a marriage and family therapist. However, for this sort of process, this growth process, I don't think that a therapeutic model is very helpful for people, not nearly as much as other ways. As a therapist, the goal of therapy is healing. Therapy is for the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. A therapeutic approach would say, “All right, let's talk about what the problem is. Let's talk about how you were impacted or perhaps possibly damaged in some way by your life experiences growing up.” Or “What are the hard kind of painful parts that we need to exercise.” 

As a coach, and I think this is why I'm so invested in a coaching model, I think that those ideas are simply not helpful to people who are wanting to do a substantial recreation. I think it holds people in the past. While insight is always helpful, I think that it is negative and self-limiting. I think it can really hold people back. For that reason, I want to walk you through more of a coaching process in order to intentionally cultivate reinvention that I hope feels more positive and more empowering for you

Where we're going to start with this is exactly from this place. I think many times when people think about reinvention, it starts with this long list of all the things that you don't like about yourself and all the things that you want to jettison into the past, “I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to be that way anymore.” It's a moving away of things that you don't like. This idea, that I can be different, I can change these dramatic things about myself that I think are not really honoring to who and what you really are. They're also not empowering. They are also, that approach, can be very disempowering because when we don't honor who and what we really are, we're trying to force change that is not natural to us. It doesn't honor our strengths and because of that, it's often not successful. 

I want to prepare you for that. Reinventing yourself isn't changing everything about you. It is understanding the best parts of you and intentionally growing those. I will also tell you and just to be radically honest with you, as I always am, that reinvention is also circumstantial in the sense that there are certain life segments that meaningful reinvention is simply much easier to do. It's often related to opportunities to step out of your old patterns and ways of being so that you can have time and space to achieve perspective.

There's also this component of pattern disrupt. There's a catalyst for reinvention. The motivation for why, but also the opportunity to, in a very real way, disrupt the old pattern that you have been in. That goes back to this idea that we were talking about in the beginning of homeostasis. When we are in our same routines and around the same people and having the same interactions, we get sucked into this way of being that's very, very, very difficult to get out of. A true reinvention requires at least to some degree, the ability to step out of those old patterns for enough time and space to develop a certain objectivity and really get out of that well-worn path that's very, very easy to fall into.

For example, say that one of the things about your life that you'd like to reinvent is a relationship. If your relationship is feeling difficult and you're working on yourself, maybe you've been working with a coach around like, “Okay, how am I showing up in my relationship? What can I do differently?” And you have decided that you are going to take responsibility for the way that you are communicating with your spouse. They say something snarky to you and instead of doing what you usually do, which is maybe saying something back, you say, in a very gentle and respectful way, “I hear what you're saying. I'd like to hear more about your perspective. I'm not sure that we totally agree but I'm here to listen to you and to understand you because I love you.” That's a totally new thing that you're doing for the first time because of your own personal growth work. Your partner is still thinking about you in the old way. They have had many, many, many, many experiences with you previously, where you have behaved differently. 

Now all of a sudden, you're doing something new and different and it does not compute for them yet. You say something very gracious and gentle and lovely and they say, “Stop screaming at me. You're so controlling. I just can't even take it.” And they storm out of the room. Because they're hearing what you would have said three months ago, in their mind, even though in reality, you just said something very, very different. That you are different but they have not acclimated yet. They're still reacting to you in this very old, well-worn way. That's very normal and that is one of the reasons why people in couples counseling are, “Why this isn't working?!” Is because even though they're trying to be different and showing up and doing things differently, their spouse or partner is reacting to them in the same old way and that feels frustrating and it feels disempowering. 

This is that homeostasis that I'm talking about is that even if you are very deliberately reinventing yourself and intentionally being different, the systems that you inhabit are going to react to you as the way that you were previously, not the way that you are now. Because of that, those systems are going to pull you to slip back into that old role. In the example that you say something very kind and gentle to your spouse and they just react with the same old hostility. It's difficult to not get frustrated and be like, “Darn it! I've been trying so hard! How dare you treat me that way?!” All is lost at that point. You’re off to the races. That’s what I'm talking about. It’s how can you step out of that old system for long enough and dramatic enough way so you get perspective. Also, it kind of resets the system. It’s turning your computer all the way off and back on again, it's like a fresh start. 

Having space can be incredibly important. Not always something that I advise if you're trying to improve your relationship but something that can be a very dramatic system reset for couples that have been struggling for a long time, is a very intentional separation. Not for the purpose of an off-ramp towards a divorce but a separation where each person has time and space to slow down, reevaluate themselves, and reevaluate the other person. Maybe combined with some really intentional marriage counseling, or even mean relationship coaching, where the clock resets and you're like, “Okay, we are really legitimately going to give each other a fresh start and a pass and a new chance. I'm going to learn who you are all over again and I'm going to learn who I am all over again because we're not the same people that we were 10 years ago when we got married. We both changed substantially. Let's find out who that person is.” Sometimes having that that distance can be super helpful. 

Breaking Patterns

There are other life segments where reinvention is much more possible. There are developmental stages or life transitions that really pull for a natural reinvention process. I mentioned one, my son making that transition, from late childhood or early adolescence. That is very real and that's a significant transition. Other transitions are moving in with a partner or getting married. Certainly, parenthood can be a very natural new transition for couples and individuals. A new job, moving to a new city, leaving a job, leaving a relationship. It's like there's this path kind of opens up in front of you and that old pattern has been disrupted, sometimes smashed to smithereens. Can’t do what you have done in the past, right after you bring a new baby home, right? There's this whole opportunity to recreate who you are, who you want to be, how you want to handle these situations differently going forward in this natural reset. 

To a degree, I think that the whole COVID pandemic experience has given some people a natural reset in the sense that it disrupted the systems, disrupted the patterns enough to allow people some time and space for that reflection. But not everyone. I mean, I can't even tell you over the last year, how many more people, I think, who have been busier than they've ever been in their lives. They're overwhelmed and burned out. They haven't had a moment alone with their thoughts. There's this myth that everybody in the world has been sitting around baking things and watching Netflix and that is absolutely not true. For many people, I think that the COVID pandemic experience has actually been the opposite, where people have less time and space to be self-reflective. It's okay. I just I say that out loud because I don't want you to think that you should have had some kind of experience when it wasn't actually your reality. Just to honor that. 

Look for ways to break the patterns. If there is a natural life segment that you're experiencing, a transition into something or out of something, that can be really helpful. I've noticed that sometimes even seasons, particularly a transition from summer into fall, can be a very interesting open door for a reinvention and even a thoughtful vacation. Even a staycation can be the opportunity for a reinvention because it allows you to pause and simply stop doing what you have been doing and then when you come back into the space that you had been inhabiting previously, if you allow yourself, you'll see things a little bit differently. 

How many of you can relate to this very simple example? I remember, once my husband and I, we took a trip with our family that was a pretty substantial trip. When we came home, I walked into my house and I was like, “Man, this place is grubby.” I’ve kind of intellectually known like, “Yeah, we should probably, it’s time to paint.” Before we left but when you're in the space all day, every day, you don't really notice it that much but I came home and was like, “This is bad. The walls.” It was the catalyst for finally taking action and getting the house painted. A very minor example. It's just an illustration of when you re-enter, it's like, “Oh, yeah. I didn't really notice that in the same way before.” That can be really powerful. 

Finding Your Motivation for Change

Then the other piece of reinvention, aside from breaking the pattern, and getting space is also motivation for change. You have to have that. I think that another thing that can mess people up, if they want to recreate themselves, or some aspect of their life is not getting really clear about their why or what's at stake. There's this idea of, “Yeah, kind of nice to do that.” But when it's not really attached to a very core and powerful thing, we don't have the anchor of energy and motivation to sustain a true reinvention. Because it takes a lot of energy and a lot of intention over a sustained period of time. 

If you're thinking about making a change in your life but if you really check in with yourself and like, “How important is this to me?” If the answer is something like, “Yeah. It'd be nice, but only if it was easy.” We can just stop right now because it's not going to work. That's not a bad thing. Timing is very, very important when it comes to personal reinvention and you can't force it. If that is the case for you, you can listen to the rest of this podcast and get the takeaways and tuck it away for later. Just know that in order to really reinvent yourself, you have to feel it or be in the kind of life space where you have to. There's no other choice. If somebody, if a couple or an individual has a baby, for example, there is no other option except to reevaluate the way you've been doing things. Or starting a new job, you're forced into a situation where you're gonna have to do things differently. If it's just a personal preference or something that you want to work on or with yourself, that you have to feel it, you have to connect with a why.

I would like for you to consider, when you think about your reinvention process, “What's it for? What's the purpose? What would change for you? What would be different on the other side of this if you were successful? How much do you care about that outcome? Is it valuable to you?” I would also just like to present this idea that sometimes, many times actually, when it comes to a reinvention process, that is one that we generate and do because we want to not because we have to, it is motivated by dark emotions. I think that's another difference. 

In my perspective, as a coach, I think a just traditionally trained therapist will think of feelings of anxiety or sadness, or resentment or anger, as being negative things that we need to fix and may go away and stop and heal and they're disordered in some way. As a coach, I look at those and I think, “How does that make sense? Tell me why you're feeling angry or frustrated, or nervous. Let's see if we can understand what that is trying to tell you that we should listen to and honor.” There is so much wisdom that comes from our dark and even hard emotions and it's not bad. It's very, very good when you listen to them and allow them to influence you and take positive action. That is your emotional intelligence talking to you. I think that our lives are all better for it when we listen to those feelings instead of push them away and try to embrace them. Because at the end of the day, that's all we have, right? How we feel. That's our understanding of what is important to us and when we can crack into that, that is often the voice of our motivation. If we can do something constructive with it, of course. 

Those are the two core pieces of genuine and authentic reinvention, is taking a step away, making contact with motivation. I will also say just for the purposes of this podcast because as you know, I like to be comprehensive. There is also such a thing as a sleeper reinvention, as I think of it. There is a reinvention process that people can go through that is less intentional in some ways because they're not consciously going in as “I am going to be different when I'm on the other side of this.” It's more of a slow burn that happens through an inner process or by being in a different set of experiences than you have been in the past that changes you in a substantial way that I think of it as molting.

Birds will go through phases where they lose their feathers and they grow in new feathers. It's a mess while it's happening but like old ways of being are sort of sloughing off and new ways of being are emerging from underneath. There is a subtle reinvention happening on the inside of you that you don't even notice until later. For example, say you start a new job that calls for a different skill set or a different way of thinking than you have been in the past. As you get into that, and simply start doing that over six months or nine months, or a year, you will notice that it has changed you by virtue of being in a different system. 

Different relationships can have that impact on us, if we're around people that pull for us to be differently. Sometimes going to school or moving out, you are forced to acquire this different skill set or way of thinking. Certainly too, being in coaching, even sometimes therapy can create that, where you're invited to think and feel differently over and over again to the point where it actually does change the way that you think and you feel and you behave. Ideally, that is an intentional process. That's why I'm making this podcast for you today is how do we make it intentional. But there are also times that we are changed because we go into a different environment over a sustained period of time. Then at some point, we realize that we are different. At that point, sometimes external manifestations of change then occur, where we show the world that we're different because we've already achieved it on the inside.

Again, changing yourself and reinventing yourself is often not just around changing your circumstances, although it can change you over time. Most of the time, when we decide to be different, we do things differently, we try to anyway, or we change our circumstances, and hope that the external systems that we’re attempting will have that impact on us. But the reality is that we take ourselves with us wherever we go. You can sell all of your things and move to India or Tibet and you can go there and you will still be thinking your same thoughts and processing the world through your same inner filter and holding on to your same values. Therefore feeling pretty much the same way as you are right now, even if there's a different setting around you. 

You bring yourself with you. Although you do have a new opportunity to get much more intentional about what you're doing because you are no longer in the old system that you were created in. Our systems forge us to some degree which you can certainly think of if you think about your family of origin experience. The way that your parents communicated the expectations that they had a view of all of us. They shape the way we experience the world, the way we think of other people, the way that we communicate. It isn't until we leave that system that we get to decide who we want to be going forward. 

That's where we are now, at the cusp of this reinvention process where you get to be different. Particularly, if you are in a transitional life space or feeling motivated or having the opportunity to break free. Here is what to do next in order to dig in and make this genuinely transformational. The next thing that you do, that is the activity that makes the change, is to, first of all, get real serious about self-awareness in a different way. I am going to invite you to do something that you might not expect which is to really think about what it is about yourself and your life currently, as you are right this very second and is your life is right now that you really, really love, and appreciate. What is working?

Drawing on Your Strengths

I know that this may be a little bit surprising because I think, again, when we think about reinvention, it's this idea of moving away from something that we don't like. Jettisoning an old identity or way of being that we don't want to be anymore. Thinking about all the things that you don't like about yourself and what you want to be different. When we do that, say, “I don't like all these things about myself. I want to be this aspirational, better version of me, who can do all the things that I'm not currently doing and have this personality that I don't have and think about the world in this way that I don't.” That doesn't work. Humans don't work that way. 

I have tried, personally. I have worked with a lot of people who come in for help in either therapy or coaching with that as the goal. “I don't like all these things about myself and I really want to be different. I would like you to help me be different.” Okay. That’s not how this works. You have to use what you have to build something new. What do you have? That's why authentic self-reinvention starts with taking stock of your strengths, or your strength clusters, I should say because our personality strengths, our traits, show up in clusters. They all go together. 

For example, one of my signature strengths and the things that I like about myself, I am very flexible. Flexibility, I think it goes along with creativity, openness to new ideas. I don't get attached to outcomes. I mean, that's just my way of being. It's easy for me to shift into a different direction. I tend to stay in the present. Those are strengths, all good things. Except, there is also the kernel of recreation within that because there are light and dark aspects to all things. For example, for the flip side of my strengths, I'm flexible, right? I'm like, “Yeah, okay. Let's do that instead.” That means that I can say yes to things and the moment that I can have the intention to work on something on Wednesday afternoon at two and then something else happens, and I don't do what I had originally planned to do, and it gets pushed off and the managing time, staying in alignment with structured plans. That is a dark side of my strengths. 

When I want to be the best version of me, and create the reality that I want, I need to be thinking about what my strengths are. Also, what the growth opportunities are and how to use my signature strengths in order to shift the parts that aren't working for me. I'll tell you that this is a very different way of thinking about reinvention. I know that and I've been there. I mean, I can't tell you how many times, especially when I was younger, I would try to reinvent myself, be like, “Okay. I'm scattered and disorganized. I'm going to be a super-organized person. I'm going to create this beautiful schedule divided into 15-minute increments of time and I'm going to do this and this and this and this.” That never worked. 

Of course, it never worked because that is not who I am. It is so out of alignment with who I am. It would work for somebody else who had a totally different personality and way of operating in the world. But we have to be reality-based when it comes to who and what we are for reinvention to really be meaningful. But also, I think that reality-based, “Who am I? What aspects of myself can I use to build something different and new?” It’s important. Because if we try to be something or someone that we aren't, and will never be, that when we try to be that aspirational thing that's so different, it won't work and it will make you feel really bad. Your big reinvention plan will fall through and you get mad at yourself and you think, “What is wrong with me? Why can't I do that? Other people can do that. I'm following the manual of make a schedule, set a timer, do these things. This works.” It doesn't work for me and that is bad, “Why won't it work for me?” 

What I'm telling you is that there's not a cookie-cutter approach to reinvention because you are not a cookie. Your reinvention process needs to be much more authentic and real for you. It starts by saying, “Who am I? What do I love about myself? What am I good at? What are my strengths? What are the things that I appreciate about me? Even more importantly, what are the things in my life that are really working very well for me right now and that I don't want to change? What do I want to carry forward with me and continue to cultivate and to grow?” 

Because the truth is, there are so many wonderful, legitimate, valid, fantastic ways of being in the world. It's so easy and tempting to fall into this trap of overvaluing one way of being over another. We can get very judgy and discriminatory even with certain ways of being are better than others. It's not true and it's also not helpful. If you want to start with reinvention, let's start with who you are and what about that is fantastic. 

You can even pause this podcast for a couple of minutes. If you want to take out a notebook or open up a blank screen on whatever device you're on, and just spend a few minutes really thinking about and writing down. Not the things that you hate and you want to be different, but what are my best qualities? What do other people like about me? What are my favorite things about myself? What can I do that isn’t as easy for other people to do? What is working? What have I done in the past that worked really well and I'm proud of? What would I like to do more of in the future? Take a minute. Write that down. 

As you do, you'll be uncovering your signature strengths. Once you've given yourself the opportunity to really sit with the parts of yourself that are wonderful and strong and that you want to keep. Now, you can also think legitimately and with compassion about some aspects of your current life experience that maybe you're not in love with. Not in a blistering self-critical, unhelpful way. But if I could have this be different, what would I want it to be instead? It could be a life circumstance, certainly. It could be something about yourself that you are carrying into situations that isn't working as well as you would like it to. Totally valid. 

And what you would like to have be different? What do you desire? What do you imagine would be different for you? If you had that desired outcome in the future? What's your Why? You can say, “Well, I want to be happy.” But what does that mean? What does that mean to you? What is happiness according to your definition? If I want to be in a different place or want to have more money or have different friends. Okay, why? The circumstances are never in and of themselves the outcome. It's what do those circumstances mean. Even, “I want to have a job that pays me more money.” Okay, fine. Why? What does money even mean to you? Is it about security? Is it about having fun? Is it about being able to do more things or being free? Is about showing love to others? I mean what does it mean? You have to find your why. What is your motivation?

Pause me again, and think about that, and write it down. Okay, now we've taken stock of your strengths and the things that are going well. We have also taken a realistic look at the things that you would like to have be different. Here is the hard thing. Stay with me. If you imagine that you are standing right now in a stream, okay? You're in this stream and the stream is flowing in one direction currently. It is flowing in a way that creates the reality that you are currently inhabiting. What you are doing, what you have done, is creating the reality that you're existing in right now and you want this reality to be a little bit different. If you imagine the direction that this stream of time, energy, effort, who and what would you need to be doing to create this different outcome because that is the core of empowerment. 

It is what do I need to do differently in order to feel differently. To have a different result in my life to create a different circumstance. Because the corollary of this, and this is the hard part, is what am I currently doing that is creating the reality? The parts that I don't actually like that much. This is a challenging concept. It is the core question of your reinvention. What are you currently doing that is creating or maintaining the parts of your reality that you are not in love with right now. If you're having a negative reaction to this idea that you have been creating the reality that you're currently existing in, at least in part, I first want to let you know that that is very, very normal to have a negative reaction to that. It is a sign of disempowerment, that if the core narrative is that you haven't created it. You are a victim of circumstance. You have, in no way shape, or form, any impact on the creation of your current life space. That is incredibly disempowering.

That right there is the core idea that will blow open the door to your actual reinvention process. It’s this concept that I co-create. The reality that I inhabit through the way I think, the way I feel, and the way I behave. I'm not talking about the power of manifestation or whatever, I mean, I'm not even gonna go there. It is what are you doing every day that is either creating or maintaining the world around you. How are you participating? The reason why this is so important is because as soon as you say, “I am directing the flow of this energy into the direction that it's currently going.” 

The corollary idea is what is the strength that I can draw upon, that is going to shift what I am doing in the moment, in order to change the direction of this and create this new reality that I would like to have instead. It's hard to do. Genuine reinvention requires that identification. Because it is not about the haircut, it is not about the capsule wardrobe, or quitting the job and jumping into another job. It is what have I been doing over and over and over again, that has created this, and then which of my strengths can I apply? Something that I'm good at. Something that I already know how to do. Something that I can do more of deliberately and grow in order to change my outcome. That is true recreation and reinvention that will work. It’s not jettisoning at all. It is what am I doing well.

We can see this a lot in relationships. I often see people in relationships who are maybe not feeling good about the relationship. This concept is super difficult for them because when they think about reinvention and how they would like things to be different, it primarily centers on what they would like to have be different about their partner. If only they could do something differently or not do that or change the way they're doing it. Be nicer to me, be more like me. Our shared lives together would be so much better. They have not a ton of awareness around how they are co-creating the experience of their relationship with their partner. 

Almost no one ever asks, “What is it like for my partner to live with me? How does it feel to be with me? How is the way I am behaving in the relationship, the way I'm communicating the way, I'm showing love and respect, or lack of, and thinking about how they feel or what they would like to have for me right now.” Those are very difficult to wrap your arms around but that is what we do actually have the power to change and to control. That piece of reinvention. That is what is accessible. When you really turn that energy focus back on yourself around, ”What am I doing that maybe isn't working that well and what are my core strengths? What do I do well? What does work well and how can I do more of that?” You can recreate a relationship or at least you are able to do everything within your power to recreate a relationship or reinvent a relationship. 

The other side will always have free will and systems are powerful but that's accessible to you. It's also important, I think, to get clarity around, “What am I maybe not even conscious of that I have been unconsciously or unintentionally doing that is getting in my way, that is getting in the way of the outcome that I want?” I have seen it so many times, I know it's true for me. It is probably something that is a flip side of one of your core strengths. 

For example, and this is going to be very different for you right, because we all have different strengths, but what I do to get in my own way, is I'm too flexible. I make a list of 500 things and then get distracted by the thing that's most exciting and go into that direction. It takes me five hours to do something that should take one hour. I mean, that’s when things don't work for me that well. I need to take stock, again, of what are my core strengths. My reinvention process has to be around what is accessible to me that I can do that is natural for me that maybe I'm not doing enough of right now but that would change my experience if I did. 

For me, it's creative problem-solving. It's thinking of new ideas. It’s also because I'm a doer. I think my personality is very amenable to taking chances and trying things and being sort of experimental. I can experiment with doing things differently that maybe I haven't done before, to see what happens. Many times I do get better outcomes when I do that. But it's around just reconceptualizing these ideas around. “What do I have to do and all the things that I want to do and maybe I don't have to do all the things” and creative problem-solving around, figuring out what matters the most for me. 

But for you, it's going to be different. If your core strengths are, say that you are very structured and you plan things and you're very organized, you may find that the dark side of that, it’s creating outcomes you don't like. It can be very difficult to change plans or that can be uncomfortable if you don't really know with certainty what the outcomes are going to be. Or you may find yourself trying to control different situations. That is difficult to do. It can create a lot of anxiety or there can be a lot of apprehension of paralysis or not making the right decision. These are the flip sides of the same strength. 

In that kind of case, your path to reinvention is to say, “Okay, how can I be very, very deliberate and use my strengths of being thoughtful and being focused and being organized to deliberately shift the parts of this that are getting in my way?”  It could be for you, creating a new routine that helps you step away from getting locked into a direction that's taking you in the wrong way. It could be planning activities that very deliberately bring a different kind of energy into your life. Because you are structured and organized, you can plan that and stick to it. 

For other people, if your strength is really one of empathy and just having really connected loving relationships, you may find that the dark side and the thing that that does require recreation, is that maybe it's difficult for you to set boundaries with other people. Maybe you do too much for other people that is not just limiting their growth, but making you feel resentful land exhausted and stuck. You have to take care of people, right? 

When you tap into your core strength of empathy and compassion and generosity and turn that towards yourself, as opposed to outwards towards other people, that reinvention process will change everything for you. Because not only is it addressing the core issue that's creating the outcome that you don't like, you are using your strengths to solve that problem. You are intentionally saying, “I want to grow this part of myself that is already working, how can I make it work better? How can I make it work more?” That is the reinvention process that will change all kinds of other things in your life. It's a much deeper, meaningful, more engaged process that starts on the inside. 

Just to recap, it requires being able to disrupt the pattern. Step out so that you get some objectivity and also so that you get a breather. That you get some space from all the systems that want to suck you back into the old way of being. You need to have that motivation, “Why do I want to do this?” Also the recognition that it's going to take some time, applied pressure over time. Then getting really clear about what are your strengths? What are the things that are working? Combined with what is your desired outcome. How is that different than what's currently happening? 

Then once you have those things in place, that really honest reflection around what am I currently doing that is creating the outcome I have and which of my strengths could I intentionally use to shift this current into the direction that I want it to go. Then that is the thing that I'm going to be very, very deliberately, intentionally, and in a focused way, recreating. That is the true seat of my reinvention. If I focus on that, lots of different things will change for me. I will be truly transformed not just on the inside but in the outer expressions of my life, too. 

I know that's a lot of information but as always, I wanted to give you the honest real deal inside scoop. Hopefully, I've presented these ideas in a way that you can make use of. That's my intention. It’s to be helpful to you and to go deeper. I don't just want to give you trite things, I want to give you stuff that will really work and be to your benefit. That is why I'm here every week on The Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. 

Thank you so much for spending this time with me today. If you have follow-up questions, come visit me at growingself.com. You can check out the blog, we have all kinds of other not just podcasts, but articles and advice from all of the many talented therapists and coaches I have the privilege of working with. It's all there for you. Come by any time. Bye. See you next time.

[Outro Song]

Episode Highlights

  • True Reinvention
    • Reinventing yourself goes beyond making physical and circumstantial changes.
    • Unless you undergo a meaningful reinvention process, you're still going to be the same you.
  • Homeostasis
    • We're living in the context of systems that tend to hold us in place. 
    • So, it can be difficult to reinvent yourself inside a system that pulls you back into your old ways.
    • However, you don’t have to accept the hands you were dealt. You can decide to drop the aspects of yourself that no longer serve you. 
  • The Process of Reinvention
    • Meaningful reinvention requires us to go into this inner journey.
    • Many people have the misconception that you must change everything about yourself in order to reinvent yourself.
    • However, it’s more about understanding and developing the best parts of you.
    • Having space and intentional separation can be a dramatic system reset, especially for struggling couples. 
  • Breaking Patterns
    • A pattern disruption may help you in your journey of reinvention, as it forces you to change your ways.
    • You can look for natural resets such as finding a new job or moving somewhere else, to facilitate natural reinvention.
    • Even the changing of seasons or a staycation can be an opportunity for reinvention. 
    • These events allow you to pause and come back and see your situation differently.
  • Finding your Motivation for Change
    • It takes a lot of energy and intention to stage a true reinvention.
    • When your reinvention is not anchored to a very core and powerful thing, you won’t have to energy to sustain it. 
    • Ask why you want to reinvent in the first place and if your reason is not compelling enough, take a step back and do it some other time. 
  • Drawing on Your Strengths
    • Some people think that reinvention is about moving away from something that we don't like.
    • However, it’s more important to lean on our strengths when we’re trying to change our situation. 
    • Figure out what your core strengths are and use them to deliberately shift your circumstances. 
    • Also, recognize that you are an agent in your own life. That way, you will be empowered to act on your reinvention.  

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