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How to Solve Relationship Problems Without Breaking Up

How to Solve Relationship Problems Without Breaking Up

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Every Couple Goes Through Hard Times.

 

 

Has your relationship been feeling hard lately? Arguing, bickering, sullen silences, critical comments, and rampant invalidation? If so, you’re not alone. Virtually every couple has gone through rough patches like these where things feel challenging: Frustrating, hurtful, angering, and stressful.

 

When your relationship is in a fragile place, even the most innocent comments or situations can trigger a conflict and it feels like a new fight is always simmering just under the surface. Even when you try to have fun together, it quickly goes off the rails. You might even start avoiding each other in order to prevent a new disagreement.

 

Relationship problems like these are exhausting, but mentally and emotionally draining too. Your relationship should be a source of comfort and support, not one of stress and anxiety. If you’re normal, at a certain point, it starts to feel unsustainable to keep going as you have been, and start searching for solutions. You may even start entertaining the “final solution” of breaking up or getting divorced.

 

Can This Relationship Be Saved?

 

If your relationship has been having problems for a while, you may be feeling helpless about how to save your relationship, and worried that things might not work out between the two of you. It is normal to wonder if this relationship can be saved. Of course, this is a scary place to be in, particularly if you really want a relationship to work. But it’s true: When you’ve been trying over and over again to communicate and solve the problems in your relationship and it’s not working… everyone starts to wonder if this is the end of the road for their relationship.

 

When relationship problems persist and nothing seems to help, it’s normal to start to doubt your compatibility, or think that you and your partner are just too different in your values or personalities. You may be wondering if your partner CAN learn how to communicate, or whether they are even willing to work with you to make the marriage or relationship better. You might think about trying marriage counseling or couples therapy, but then think, “How would a marriage counselor saying what I’ve been saying have any impact at all? What’s the point of marriage counseling when they refuse to change?”

 

While this mindset is absolutely normal and natural, if it’s indulged for too long it’s likely to end in divorce or a break up. Why? Because you’re convincing yourself that nothing can be done, and in doing so, may be closing yourself off to solutions. I’m here to tell you that you may have more options than you currently realize.

 

Thinking About Leaving Your Relationship? Not So Fast…

 

If you’ve been feeling badly in your relationship for a while, you might even be harboring escape fantasies: Browsing online for apartments, thinking about what you’d say to the kids, and what your life might look like if you’re finally free of the relationship that’s been feeling so frustrating and hurtful. It can start to seem like divorce or leaving is the only option.

But that is rarely the case. Just because what you have been doing hasn’t worked, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a path forward that will work. (It just might look different than you were anticipating).

 

As a marriage counselor, I know first hand that some relationships cannot be saved. However, many more can. And, sadly, most of the time people get divorced because they don’t know how to resolve the problems in their relationship, and lose hope that things can ever get better. However, it is very rare that evidence-based couples counseling doesn’t work when two people care enough about their relationship to try (and are given the right tools and supports to be successful).

 

Consider this: Even if you do divorce, and form a new relationship with a new person, chances are that sooner or later you’ll arrive in a similar place — feeling frustrated by your relationship, and at a cross roads where you either grow together or grow apart. (Read: Why Your Relationship is Worth Saving)

 

It’s easy to start creating a narrative about how “things shouldn’t be this hard” or “this is not normal.” The truth is that unless this is a genuinely toxic or abusive relationship, all normal couples go through times just like this. You’re normal. I dare you to find one person who’s been married or partnered for more than about 4 years who has not, at some point, felt exactly the way you do.

 

There is hope for your relationship: Couples, with the right support, can grow together and not just resolve their problems but come out the other side being stronger, happier and genuinely more satisfied with their relationships — not in spite of going through the hard times, but because of them.

 

Learning How to Grow, Together

 

When couples inevitably get to the point where communication has broken down, and resentments build up… they have the opportunity to do some serious growth work together. Through this process, you have the chance to be understood, cared for, heard, and respected by each other. You also get the chance to solve problems together as a couple, and work together to build the type of life and relationship that you want.

Without going through the hard times, you wouldn’t have the opportunity or motivation to get really real and embrace the challenge of growth that your marriage requires.

 

How to Save Your Relationship, When It Feels Like It’s On The Brink

 

There is a path forward, that can bring you two back together again. It’s actually fairly simple (but not easy).

Listen to this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast for advice from a marriage counselor for how you can get your relationship back on track.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

xo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

 

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How to Save Your Relationship Without Breaking Up

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

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Dating After Divorce

Dating After Divorce

Markie Keelan, M.A., LPC is a therapist, life coach and dating coach whose mission is to help you create authentic happiness and satisfaction in your life especially when it comes to dating after divorce. She supports you to create a deeper connection with others, as well as actualize your life’s purpose.

 

Ready to find love again?

I often hear the question, “When is someone ready to start dating after divorce?” That’s a hard question to answer, but those who are newly divorced give dating a lot more consideration than the majority of single folks out there.

Their hesitation to jump back into the dating pool makes sense; the reason being is that divorce shakes our confidence in our ability to connect. When you’ve gone through a traumatic relationship loss or breakup it can make you question your ability to trust others but also your ability to trust your decisions on choosing a partner. Dating after a divorce feels much riskier.

So, if you are lost with no idea where to even start with dating after divorce, don’t worry, you are not alone and there are ways in which you can help yourself. Here are some guidelines to help you recover and get back out there.

Tips For Dating After Divorce

  • Revise your self-talk to support your success

Confidence plays a major role in the healing process of divorce. Some relationships can be similar to an addiction to another person. Addicts don’t believe that they’ll ever be able to survive without their drug. Divorcees can sometimes feel like they’ll never be able to find love again.

This is a negative thinking pattern that can lead to more than just lack of confidence but isolation, anxiety, and depression. So be in-tune with what you are telling yourself, and try to create a more empowering narrative. Chances are a good dose of loving self-talk could help your situation. For more on how to do this, check out our Happiness Class.

  • Assess whether you are you really ready

You may not be ready to date if you’re still, in your heart of hearts, privately carrying a torch for your Ex. Like an addiction, when a relationship ends we can be ambivalent and question whether or not we’ll go back into that relationship again. Many people spend months after a breakup or divorce half hoping your partner may change their mind and realize they made a huge mistake. If that’s the case, you then are putting your healing process in their hands. Furthermore, any new relationship you attempt is likely to spin its wheels.

Take back control by committing to moving yourself forward. It may be helpful to get clarity and closure about why your breakup or divorce was a good thing. For example, recognizing that your past relationship wasn’t meeting all of your needs and working on clarity and closure for yourself. This may mean you keep distance from this person and take every precaution not to slip back into the purgatory of waiting and hoping. For many people, getting the support of a great breakup recovery coach or participating in a breakup recovery group can help them heal and grow, as opposed to wallpaper over the pain by dating prematurely.

Only then will you be genuinely emotionally available to begin a healthy new relationship with someone else.

  • Make a needs list

Many times in failed relationships we were not getting our needs met before they ended. Maybe you don’t even know what your needs are in a relationship because they have been on the back burner for so long. Take your time to write out a list of what you NEED in a relationship. This list could include, honesty, trust, quality time, etc. This list will help guide you in the dating process to be honest with you and your future partner of whether or not this relationship will work for you.

I also encourage my dating coaching clients to ask themselves, ‘What do I need to be able to come to a new relationship the way I want to?’ This way you are also looking at what you need to be able to provide in order to connect back to others in a way that isn’t compromised by manipulation or feelings of inadequacy.

  • Let go of the pressure to heal  

Depending on what the reasons were for the divorce, it could take days, or it could take years to grieve this relationship trauma. Don’t let a time frame determine your journey towards love. Feeling pressured by time or other people doesn’t help us grow into the person we want to be. I encourage divorcees who are not ready to enter back into the dating world to engage your support network and surround yourself with people you can rely on.

  • Focus on self-care

Lastly, I’d suggest making time for self-care. Surround yourself with people who support you, do things that are fun, and make sure you invest in rest, nutrition, exercise, and your healing process. When you put energy into your self and your own wellness, you’ll exude the confidence and self respect that’s so attractive to potential new partners.

Dating after divorce can feel challenging, but you have a lot of power. Remind yourself that although your mind may be trying to trick you that the rest of your life is going to be an uphill battle, it doesn’t have to be. Using some of these different approaches I’ve described, like revising your self talk, working through the past before moving forward, prioritizing your needs, honoring your own timeline, and practicing good self care can arm you with a set of tools to help you feel genuinely able to move forward, and challenge yourself to be open to finding love again.

All the best to you,

Markie Keelan, M.A., LPC

Ps: If you’re ready to jump back in the pool, here are more ideas to support you in this podcast: The New Rules of Modern Dating — check it out!

Ways Your Relationship Changes After You Get Engaged

Ways Your Relationship Changes After You Get Engaged

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Deepening and Growing, Together.

 

Although many people say, “marriage is just a piece of paper that doesn’t really change a relationship,” as a premarital counselor (and long married person) I often smile to myself when I hear this. What I’ve found to be true is that becoming engaged to marry most definitely does change a relationship, often in positive ways. Engagement also affords thoughtful couples opportunities to build their relationship’s strengths, as well as take proactive action to prevent possible relationship problems in the future.

How Do Relationships Change After You’re Engaged?

  • A Deeper Sense of Security: When couples become engaged, they often shift psychologically into a cognitive and emotional state that can be summed up by the phrases, “I choose you,” and “You choose me.” This security allows people to feel emotionally safer with each other, leading to greater authenticity, vulnerability and mutual understanding.

 

 

  • A Stronger Sense of “We”: As couples commit to marriage, they are committing to each other. They are creating a new family together, an “us” that is greater than the sum of its parts. This can shift the emotional dynamics of a relationship from those of two competing individuals to a shared mindset of being in the same boat. People can become more generous with each other as their sense of being together through thick and thin grows.

 

  • Shared Hopes and Dreams: As couples move from dating to marriage, they enter a new phase of the relationship where they are considering each other as life partners as opposed to simply enjoyable companions. This provides opportunities to talk about their life goals, the things that are most important to them, and what they’d like their shared life to be about. Cultivating a shared sense of mission together can deepen connection and foster increased emotional understanding, as well as support.

 

The positive relationship changes that happen once you become engaged can surprise even couples who have been dating for a long time. Even couples who have been cohabitating without a formal commitment can experience a dramatic shift in the emotional climate of their relationship once they become engaged. Particularly in the midst of a cultural zeitgeist where young people are as likely to move in together due to convenience or financial reasons, casual cohabitation can breed anxiety or insecurity about the true state of the relationship. Crossing from cohabitation to engagement can ease anxieties about where each person stands with the other emotionally.

Becoming Engaged = New Opportunities For Growth

While many couples experience a positive lift in their relationship due to a strengthened sense of security with each other, a sense of increased closeness, and a commitment to each other, becoming engaged can also usher in a new period of growth for a couple. Why? Because moving to the next level in a relationship can throw areas where there are differences or irritations into stark relief when the timeline of a relationship shifts from “now” to “the rest of my life.”

As couples start thinking more seriously about their relationship, their marriage, and their shared future together, wise couples realize that there are things to sort out. This is always true. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. No couple is ever in alignment about everything, and that’s why getting engaged so often ushers in an exciting time of growth and change for couples in advance of their wedding as couples work together to figure out how to be even better partners for each other.

Even planning a wedding together can become a vehicle for growth. Consider that  planning a wedding becomes the canvas on which each partner’s personality and values are displayed for better or for worse. Power struggles, clashes around what’s important and what’s not, or similarities and areas of mutual cooperation can (and do) come into clearer focus. This gives couples the chance to map out their strengths as well as their growth opportunities. As they communicate and compromise about aspects of their wedding, they are laying the groundwork for a mutually respectful marriage (or, giving them both helpful information about aspects of their relationship they need to work on).

In addition to the opportunities afforded to people by planning a wedding, becoming engaged often compels couples to evaluate each other more thoroughly as conversations about values, dreams and “what I want my / our life together to be about” naturally happen. This, combined with more authenticity, more communication, and more real-life issues to address gives people a deeper understanding about who each other really is, and what is most important. They now, as a couple, have opportunities to improve their relationship on many levels, including the way they communicate, how they work as a team, how they support each other despite having differences, how they practice unconditional love and acceptance, and more. Smart couples do this work in premarital counseling in advance of their marriage in order to resolve potential problems before they start.  This helps set a couple up for a long, happy marriage (instead of a short and frustrating one).

Advice From a Premarital Counselor

Here at Growing Self, we’re big believers that high quality premarital counseling makes a huge difference in the trajectory of a marriage. [Read: Why Premarital Counseling Can Make or Break a Marriage]. Premarital counseling gives couples an opportunity to consider things that were not relevant in their dating relationship, but will be very significant once they are married, including finances, how they discuss emotionally charged topics, family relationships, shared goals and dreams, how they solve practical problems together, negotiating roles and expectations, and more.

On this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m speaking with expert premarital counselor Rachel Harder about the changes that happen in a relationship once couples get engaged, plus the skills and strategies that she teaches her premarital couples to help set them up for success. If you’re recently engaged listen to our interview to hear about the most important domains of your relationship to focus on in order to build the foundation for a happy, successful and satisfying marriage.

And, CONGRATULATIONS!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LMFT and Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C

PS: Here’s the link to the premarital counseling class Rachel and I were discussing : Lifetime of Love Premarital and Relationship Class

 

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Ways Your Relationship Changes After You Get Engaged

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

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Building Better Relationships

Building Better Relationships

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Communication & Relationship Skills To Make Your Good Relationships Great

 
Building Better Relationships: Have you ever left relationship books laying around, or put a relationship podcast on hoping that a certain someone may reflect on their own behavior and be a better partner or friend for you? Have you ever dropped a hint (or SEVEN) to a coworker, boss, or friend about how you feel in your relationship with them, and how you hope they might change?
 
So often, we feel helpless around how to improve our relationships, because we feel like the quality of our relationships depends on what OTHER people are doing or not doing. Relationships are frustrating when it feels like people aren’t communicating well with you, or aren’t meeting your needs, or respecting your boundaries, or are just being plain annoying.
 
It is totally natural and normal to think that our relationships would be better if only the other person got it together. (And hey, that would be much easier! I hear you!) However, needing the other person to be the change you wish to see in your relationships is not just frustrating, it’s disempowering. If you believe that having better relationships are all about how to get someone else to change it deprives you of the ability to actively build better relationships, and leads to a cycle of hurt and resentment.
 
Not knowing how to improve our relationships can lead to feelings of disappointment, resentment, and frustration. When relationship problems go on for too long, these feelings can begin to erode the fabric of our relationships. Hurt and resentment can lead to conflict in our relationships, or even worse, lead us to withdraw.
 
You don’t have to struggle with frustrating or disappointing relationships. There is an empowering path forward, and a way to build better relationships. A way YOU control.
 

Improve Your Relationships, Improve Your Life

 
You deserve to have fantastic relationships. You deserve to feel loved and cared for. You deserve to have your friends, family and partner show up for you. Our relationships — particularly the quality of our relationships — can be the single greatest source of happiness… or pain, anxiety and frustration. Building better relationships with your family, your friends, your coworkers, and your partner can be one of the most powerful strategies to improve your mood, self esteem, and overall happiness and life satisfaction.
 
Research shows that happiness is strongly correlated with the quality of your relationships. (As does health, and longevity for that matter.) The key to building better relationships with everyone starts with you: YOUR ability to communicate, to listen, to be assertive, to handle conflict, to manage your emotions, and to understand others. In short, your soft skills.
 

What Are Soft Skills and Why Are They So Important?

 
This may sound counter-intuitive, but by focusing on your own “soft skills” you can transform your relationships single-handedly. What are soft skills, and why are they so important? Soft skills are communication and relationship skills that contribute to high-quality, harmonious relationships.
 
Soft skills are vital to success in the workplace, happy, healthy marriages, and fulfilling, supportive relationships with friends and family. As a matter of fact “soft skills” are tied for first place with creativity, for the most important qualities that employers are looking for. But aside from your ability to get ahead in your career, investing in improving soft skills can lead to immense rewards in every area of your life. Why? Because although you cannot change others, you can change the way that people respond to you through developing excellent communication and relationship skills.
 

Building Better Relationships: It’s All About Empowering YOU

 
So today, on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m taking to my colleague (and relationship expert) Kathleen Carroll-Stutts. Kathleen is a life coach, individual therapist and couples counselor here on the team at Growing Self. She is the facilitator of our Online Relationship Skills Group, and is here today to share her system for how to develop yourself so that you can build better relationships with the most important people in your life.
 
Whether you’re hoping to have better relationships with your coworkers, wanting to heal rifts with your family, develop more close friendships, if you want to get better results in dating, or have a better relationship with your partner, you get some ideas about the communication skills and relationship skills that will empower you to get better results with other people.
 

How To Improve Your Communication Skills

 
Listen to our interview to learn how to develop the communication skills and relationship skills that can help you build better relationships. Specifically:
 

Foundational Relationship Skills

  • Self awareness – How understanding yourself, your needs, your feelings and your personal values can help you build better relationships with others.
  • Emotional regulation – How being able to manage your feelings can help you communicate more effectively in relationships.
  • Self respect – How having healthy self-esteem and self-love helps you have stronger and more authentic relationships.
  • Assertiveness – How to develop your voice and your truth in order to communicate your needs, rights and feelings to others.

Intermediate Relationship Skills

  • How to improve your communication skills by cultivating both self-expression skills as well as listening skills.
  • Setting boundaries – How to set appropriate and healthy limits with others.
  • How to manage conflict.

Advanced Communication Skills and Relationship Skills

  • Identifying our triggers – How to use our self-awareness, self-respect, and communication skills to avoid situations that would be bad for us and bad for our relationships.
  • Empathy – Learning how to understand the needs, rights, feelings and perspectives of others, and how to use that awareness to improve communication and build better relationships.
  • How to cope with relationship challenges including dealing with toxic people, how to deal with criticism, and what to do with bullies.

 

We sincerely hope that this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast helps to give you some direction for building better relationships in your life!

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

 

Resources:
 
Personality Test: Enneagrams
 
 

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Building Better Relationships

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

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How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Letting Go Of a Toxic Relationship

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

Toxic Relationship Warning Signs

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

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

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

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

Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship

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

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

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

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

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

Can a Toxic Relationship Be Healed?

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

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

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

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

Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship

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

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

 

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

This podcast is for YOU.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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

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How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

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

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Financial Therapy For Couples

Financial Therapy For Couples

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

How to Stop Fighting About Money

For many couples entering couples therapy or marriage counseling, differences around money are a significant source of conflict in their relationship. And of course, money fights are common, because money is one of those things that means different things to different people.

For some, money a stand-in for love and connection, and for others money means security. Some people view spending money on things they enjoy as what gives life meaning, and others view accumulating money to pass on to the next generation as the purpose of life itself

Other people view money as freedom, and still others see it as a tool. People can also have negative associations around money, including guilt or fear. Other people can even tie their sense of self-worth to the money they have in the bank, or to outward displays of wealth.

Money is, in short, a loaded topic.

So it’s only natural that all couples usually have at least some differences around money, because they’re different people. Even if a couple is in basic agreement about their values around money, there will still be differences. In general, financial values exist on a spectrum between “spending” and “saving.”

Why Couples Fight About Money: Savers vs Spenders

In every relationship, there is a person who has a “saver” orientation and a person who has a “spender” orientation. This is even true between two people who are freer with their money than other couples, or within a couple who generally saves more than other couples. They, as a unit, may appear aligned around what they’re doing with money, and yet still find things to squabble about between themselves.

Saver fights: “I thought we agreed to put $1500 into the retirement account and bump the mortgage payment by $500 from now on. We can totally live on a $300 a month grocery budget — you eat too much anyway. Don’t you want to have the house paid off in three years???”

Spender fights: “No, I’m excited about Rekyvic and Dublin and Amsterdam, but I really had my heart set on Prague too. I mean, if we’re going anyway shouldn’t we embrace it? We’ll pay it off! We can use the line of credit from the condo in Vail, it’s appreciating like crazy. Why are you such a kill-joy?”

Of course, in couples who are even further apart on the spender / saver continuum than these examples, you can only imagine how intense fights about money in a marriage can get. This is never more true than around the holiday season, when budgets get blown faster than you can say “Fa-la-la.”

As we speed toward the holidays, life can become a twinkly blur of get-togethers and activities. The internal, sometimes even sub-conscious drive to have a “nice holiday” can drive us to spend way more money than we intended. In some couples, holiday spending can even be hidden between partners, creating a rupture of trust when it’s disclosed in the sober grey light of January.

Yes, “financial infidelity” is a real thing, and it causes real trauma to relationships. When couples are frequently fighting about money to the point where it feels like it’s impossible to communicate about finances, people will begin to hide spending, hide debt, or get overly controlling or even aggressive about money. This can lead to splitting up finances, which is often a symptom of avoidance in a relationship.

When it feels impossible to come to agreements about money, when communication about money always turns into a fight, where there is a lack of financial trust, or vastly different values around money, couples move towards separate bank accounts… and sometimes, sadly, eventually separate lives.

Financial Therapy For Couple

By the time couples arrive in marriage counseling to discuss the ongoing conflict about money, it has often evolved into a bigger deal than can be solved by simply making a budget together, or getting scolded by a financial planner. Feelings have been hurt. Trust may have been broken. Even worse, couples can start to fear that they are too far apart in their basic values around life and money to even be compatible.

This can be a scary time for couples. I remember how it was in my own marriage when money was the number one thing my husband and I were fighting about.

I felt like we barely had enough money to get by, and was frantic in my efforts to conserve our resources — even if it meant wearing second-hand clothes from thrift stores and packing PB&J for lunch every day.

My husband, on the other hand, felt stifled, unhappy, and constrained when I attempted to squash the flow of money through our life. He felt that without having anything to enjoy or look forward to, life felt empty and burdensome.

At the time, of course, neither of us realized that we were both right, and so we fought endlessly over who’s perspective was more true and noble. I’d give him hell for spending $4 on a latte at a bookstore (or god-forbid, buying one of his fancy art-magazines), and he’d make crappy comments about how gross it was to buy used shoes.

We finally got into marriage counseling, and only then, learned how to listen and understand. We no longer have conflict around money. We have conversations about money. It’s good. You can do this too.

Marriage Counseling Around Finances

It can be hard for a couple, particularly a couple in distress, to see through their own anger, fear, and moral judgment to see the other person’s perspective about money for what it usually is: A deeply held personal value, often related to core emotional and psychological needs.

However, without a high level of understanding and empathy, it’s very hard for couples to get on the same page about money. That’s where great marriage counseling, financial therapy, and relationship coaching come in: They can all help you stay calm enough to talk through your thoughts and feelings in a way that fosters understanding and empathy about money, and what it means to each of you.

For example, when I put down my shining sword of virtue and justice long enough to hear what my husband was actually trying to communicate, I learned that his less-privileged background led him to view money as something to be pounced upon and enjoyed while it was there (before it evaporated again), as opposed to accumulating it and cultivating it. I understood him more deeply, and had empathy for what money represented to him: Pleasure and meaning in the moment, and not anything that could be counted upon.

Over time, I also came to understand that being open to his perspective was good for me, too: Because of him, I’ve had more fun, more  interesting adventures, and, frankly, better furniture and clothing than I ever would when left to my own devices.

And as the conflict between us diffused into curiosity and openness, he learned that I inherited a deep anxiety around money from my immigrant family, who fled Europe after the second world war when Stalin appeared to be the next maniac drumming on the horizon. As a first-generation-American who grew up watching her Belgian father save scraps of wire, unbend pulled nails for a second use (stored in glass baby jars he’d saved from my earliest months), and literally cut off the moldy parts of the cheese before proclaiming it perfectly fine, I had a deeply ingrained survival instinct to conserve money.

I’m pleased to report that my perspective influenced my husband too. He now tolerates my budgets and squirreling, and seems to like the fact that we have a financial buffer between us and disaster, as well as a plan for the future.

We no longer fight about money. However — and this is the important part — our alignment about finances is NOT because either of us have changed who we are. He is not exactly like me, and he never will be. He still thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to spend $900 on a BMX bike, and on the rare occasions I shop for clothes, it’s usually at consignment stores.

But he understands me, and accepts that saving money and avoiding debt as much as possible is a wise way to live. And I understand him, and have accepted the fact that it’s important to be generous, and that nice things and meaningful life experiences are worth paying for.

That level of acceptance and understanding is always my hope for the couples who come to us for help in getting on the same page around money. If fighting about money feels like it’s destroying your relationship, please know that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Particularly during this time of year — the holidays, and their aftermath — you have lots of opportunities to talk about finances. This year, I hope you consider giving each other the gift of listening with the intention to understand. Ask your partner what money means to them, and try to get on their side of the table. Don’t have a conflict. Have a conversation.

If you want to solve your financial disagreements for once and for all, the answer is not controlling or changing each other. It lies in developing empathy, understanding, and a sense of common purpose that unites you as a couple and as a family. Hard to do, but so, so worth it.

With love and respect to you both,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
Growing Self
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