Power Struggle In Relationships

Power Struggle In Relationships

Power Struggle In Relationships

Power Struggle In Relationships: How to Break Through Gridlock

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Power Struggle In Relationships

Marriage Power Struggle… Solutions

What is a power struggle in relationships? Relationship power struggles grind into being when two people have very strong, opposing opinions, or conflicting desires about a particular outcome and cannot find a compromise. Both partners hold on tightly to their position, becoming more polarized and un-budging. Compromise feels impossible, empathy plummets, and frustration spikes. Not fun!

Also, what I know from years of experience as a Denver marriage counselor, and online relationship coach is that power struggle in marriage are so, so common. Problems — even perpetual problems — and arguments in a romantic relationship are inevitable. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, many times productive conflict can be really healthy.  But power struggles that become gridlock issues that feel unsolvable need to be managed with care, before they erode the emotional safety of your relationship.

That’s why I’m putting on my “relationship coach” hat today, and why we’re devoting an entire episode of the podcast to marriage power struggle solutions, as well as how to avoid power struggles in the first place.

If you’re finding yourself stuck in a battle of the wills and unable to move past a relationship hurdle, this relationship podcast episode is packed full of tips, advice, and help. You can work together to resolve your differences — even ones that feel big. I’m going to walk you through some steps that can help resolve gridlocked conflicts and power struggles in romantic relationships.

I discuss what they are, why they exist, and an example illustrating gridlocked conflicts. Additionally, I touch on personality differences between couples and why they can affect relationship dynamics and ultimately lead to power struggles.

If you and your partner often have unproductive conflicts that feel like they turn into a fight to the death about who’s way is “right” … this episode is for you.

Grow, Together.

Before we sought help from you, I was at a point in my relationship that I had really given up on hope... you have changed our lives.

— Couples Counseling Client

Understanding Power Struggles

First, we’ll start by digging in to what power struggles are, why power struggles happen, and what types of things you can do to start breaking down the walls.

  1. Discover the factors that may lead to gridlocked conflicts in a relationship.
  2. Learn how you and your partner can brainstorm productively to reach a solution.
  3. Know about personality differences that may cause power struggles in a relationship.

Episode Highlights

Gridlocked Conflicts in Romantic Relationships

  • Gridlocked issues happen when a couple argues and is unable to compromise.
  • These issues are common in romantic relationships.
  • It is vital to address these issues so that they don’t create too much negativity and resentment between the partners.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to get out of a gridlocked conflict that has turned into a power struggle.
  • Knowing what gridlock and power struggles are and how to walk them back and avoid them are essential relationship skills.

When Conflicts Start to Polarize, and Power Struggles Start

  • When you are not in agreement with your partner, you tend to dig more deeply.
  • Couples are pushed further apart when conflicts intensify.
  • It’s like struggling to untie a knot but you end up tightening it unintentionally.
  • One example of conflict is when parents have to make the decision to send their child to school despite the ongoing health crisis.
  • When couples campaign more actively for the other person to understand their side, they are unintentionally creating a dynamic where they will less likely resolve the conflict.

Overcoming Gridlocked Conflicts & Power Struggle in Relationships

While understanding why power struggles in relationships can happen in the first place (and how to, hopefully, avoid them) is an incredibly important relationship skill, it’s also necessary to understand how to resolve power struggles once they begin. This is because sooner or later, all couples encounter this. Knowing how to successfully work through a gridlock conflict without damaging the trust and goodwill in your relationship is vital.

Listen to this episode to learn more about how. Specifically: 

  • Communication strategies that allow you to find a path forward together and stay connected as a couple, even when you see things differently.
  • Why stepping away can paradoxically help you move forward.
  • How resolving power struggles can actually help you deepen the love, understanding, trust and compassion in your relationship.
  • Ways to utilize power struggles and gridlock conflict to increase the creativity and possibilities in your shared life together.

Real Help For Your Relationship

I share SO many new ideas, strategies and relationship advice in this episode, but the key to making it all work is by having productive, emotionally safe conversations with your partner that connect you rather than pushing you further apart.

If this is feeling hard right now, a structured activity like my free, online  “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz can be a starting place to have a productive conversation about how you’re both feeling, and what you’re each needing to improve your communication, feel more loved and respected, and get on the same page so you can work together as a team.

Enjoy this Relationship Podcast?

We discussed so many things in todays episode related to power struggles in relationships, how to avoid power struggles, and solutions for power struggles. I hope they help you. You can listen to the full episode using the player below.

If you enjoyed today’s episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, then hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

Thanks for listening! 

Wishing you both all the best on your journey of growth, together.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Power Struggles In Relationships

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

Music Credits: The Coathangers, “Down Down”

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

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Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

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Power Struggle in Relationships

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

 

New topic, today we’re talking about power struggles and gridlock conflict. That was The Coathangers with the song Down Down, setting the mood for us today because downward spiral is basically what happens, in summary, when couples get stuck in these power struggles, gridlock issues. They’re butting heads, no one is compromising. No one is budging. And it’s a stalemate. Not a fun place to be in, but a very common situation in relationships. And believe it or not, a solvable problem. 

 

And one that I’ve been hearing a lot of you are struggling with lately. I’ve been hearing from your comments on the blog at growingself.com on Instagram at @drlisamariebobby that this is turning into a pretty major pain point in your relationship. So we are talking about this today on the show. And I hope by the end of our time together, you have some clarity, and some direction and maybe even some new ideas for things to try to break through the impasse and cultivate compromise and agreement with the one you love most. 

 

If this is your first time listening today, hello, I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. And this is the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. Every week we tackle topics that are important to you and that are helpful in your quest for love and exciting, happy, fulfilling relationshipsboth romantic and platonic. Happiness, meaning that you are feeling good about yourself and your life, and also success that you are being who you were put here to be and creating success according to your own definition. So, every week we are talking about something related to that often based on your questions. So if you have a question for me, leave it on the blog at growingself.com, or get in touch on Instagram at @drlisamariebobby or on Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby

 

And I really wanted to tackle this subject of gridlock issues today because, oh, you guys, it’s been coming up so much. And let me tell you where this has been coming up in particular, lately it is related to couples who are not on the same page about how to handle issues related to Coronavirus. Now, certainly gridlock issues are nothing new. I have been a marriage counselor, a relationship coach and a psychologist for a long time and frequently work with couples or individuals in relationships where there is just, both people have dug in around their individual positions. And it is often around a black and white issue. That’s kind of the definition of a gridlock conflict. One person wants to have a baby, the other does not. One person needs to live by the ocean, the other one needs to live in the mountains. Or they really want to live with their family of origin, back in the small town in Mississippi, and the other person must live in New York or they’re going to die. I mean, it’s like things that are difficult to compromise around. Yes or no. Black or white. This or that. 

 

And I wanted to address it because gridlock conflict is one of these things that almost all couples face at some point or anothervery commonagain. But it’s also one of those things that if you don’t have a plan to get through it, it will create so much negativity and hostility and conflict and resentment. And the relationship over time it can really, again, begin to eat away at the fabric of your positive partnership. And it’s very easy to get into a good gridlock conflict, we’ll certainly talk about why it is hard to get out of a gridlock conflict that has turned into a power struggle. But there is a path forward. 

 

So first of all, let’s talk about what happens to every couple when they get into a power struggle around a gridlock conflict where it feels like one person is going to win, and one person is going to lose. And each person starts fighting to the death to have their way of seeing things prevail and be accepted by their partner. And so, if you will, just enter into this mindset with me, right? Because we’ve all been there. I have done this, you have done this,  we’ve all done this. It feels like when things like this come up that are very important to you, it feels like you’re right. And you know, you’re right. You have 197 reasons why you are right, and why your partner is wrong. And if they could just see things from your perspective, and hear what you’re saying and like let it in, then they too would be able to understand the truth. And they would change their mind, their opinions would be swayed. And not only would they agree with you, they would get into alignment with what you want this to look like going forward. And not only that, but when they did, they would be so happy they did. Because as soon as they did, they would really understand even more deeply that your perspective was the right one all along. They will have great sorrow and remorse for fighting you tooth and nail. They’ll say, “You know what? You were right. It really is better this way. We did the right thing.” And you will smooch, and the credits will come on at the end of the sitcom and you will live happily ever after. If only they would listen, right? 

 

Okay, maybe not the credits part but that’s kind of how it feels when you are in this situation with your partner. I mean, they’re just being unreasonable, right? They are not taking in the facts, the truth. They just need to listen. And so we put all of our energy into explaining to them why we’re right and they are wrong. It may involve charts, graphs, pictures, outside sources, scientific journal articles. Exhibit A. They need to talk to your Uncle Joe, who is going to tell you the same thing that you’re telling them. It turns into a campaign, right? 

 

And as you are probably experiencing in your own life, what happens is that they seem to dig in even more deeply. And the more you try to explain to them why they’re wrong and why you’re right, they argue with you. They don’t listen. They even start avoiding and it just turns into this whole thing. Or they try to tell you why you’re wrong, and then you have to argue with them why they’re telling you that you’re wrong is actually wrong. And, right? It is a spiral down and it tends to intensify. And it tends to polarize, meaning that it pushes couples further apart. And both people dig in deeper, and over time, it starts to feel increasingly hopeless. Not fun, not fun for anyone. 

 

And I’ll tell you what, I actually, a lot of this is coming up as I mentioned around coronavirus. I met with a journalist for an interview recently as I sometimes do, and her question was, “Dr. Lisa, what do you do with a couple who, for example, Parent A really wants their kids to go to school this fall, doesn’t feel that the risk is that big, we can manage it, it’s going to be okay. And the benefits to the child of being in school, or the benefits to our family of the child being in school outweighs the risks of them getting sick or anybody else getting sick. So they should go to school. And Parent B is like, no, the risk is too high. The consequences are too severe. I am not willing to risk the health and safety of our child, of ourselves, of our community. And even if it’s gonna be hard on us, we will figure it out.”

 

That is real quickly turning into a big gridlock battle for a lot of couples in, you know, school is one thing but it can also be like, “Should we or shouldn’t we go into the grocery store versus online delivery? Is it okay to go over to our friends’ houses? Is it alright for our child to have playdates?” And sort of this like, “How are we as a couple managing the risk of coronavirus?” And oftentimes when a person perceives the threat as being more serious and real than the other, it can turn into big gridlock issues. But again, gridlock can happen around many, many different kinds of thingsfrom parenting to finances, to how we spend our time together, to major life decisions about what we are doing with our family, having more children. 

 

And so knowing what gridlock is, and what power struggles are, and how to not just walk them back but ideally avoid them is a very necessary and important relationship skill. So we might be talking about coronavirus stuff today, but please know that these are all very generalizable skills. 

 

And so one thing to know about gridlock conflict, it’s like, I think maybe a good metaphor here, it’s like struggling to untie a knot and you indirectly and unintentionally tighten the knot. The more that you like to try to untie it, something gets increasingly snarled. And this is a really good way of understanding what happens in power struggles and what to not do. 

 

When couples begin to fight with each other more vigorously and more actively campaign for the other person to listen and understand and respect their side, they are unintentionally creating a dynamic where it is less likely that the conflict will be satisfactorily resolved. And instead, it intensifies the power struggle underlying the conflict. And this is a hard one because it feels natural to fight. It feels natural to advocate for your position. And in this situation, it is the least helpful approach. 

 

Again, going back to the words of Dr. John Gottman, who is a researcher in the field of marriage and family therapy. He’s probably the most famous and well-founded researcher in the field of marriage and family therapy. His words of wisdom, which are hard to take in. Because I don’t want to get into a power struggle with you, my friend, but so I’m just gonna say this out loud and let you marinate on this for a second is thatsome problems are actually unsolvable in the sense that there will always be major differences between you, in the way that you see some things, in the way that you prefer things to be done in your values, in the way that you, I don’t know, the hierarchy of information and the way that you process things. There will always be these differences in a relationship. And again, this is hard to let in if you feel like, especially if you feel like a decision must be made, that the path through it is an indirect one. It is, let’s see, what is Dr. Gottman’s quote. He says, “Your purpose is not to solve the conflict completely. It will never go away completely. The goal is to ‘declaw’ the issue and try to remove the hurt so that the problem stops being a source of great pain.”

 

I know that is probably not what you wanted me to say right now. You wanted me to tell you, “Okay, here’s a communication technique that you can use to get your partner to actually hear you this time so that they can let in what you’re saying. And then finally agree with you so that you can both move on.” That is actually, again, not the goal. The goal is to take away the pain, to accept unsolvable problems, and find a path together that allows you to stay connected as a couple. And let’s talk a little bit more deeply about what achieving that looks like in practice. Because if you’re thinking, “I can’t do that, that’s hard.” It is hard, it is hard. And it’s unnecessary. 

 

So the first thing to do, instead of fighting, if you find yourself getting into a power struggle with your partner, is to very intentionally and deliberately step away from trying to find resolution. Stop trying to solve the unsolvable problem. And instead put all of your energy and attention into seeking to understand where your partner is coming from. Your only job in the first stages of this is towith your full attention and insincerity, no ulterior motives hereis to put yourself in their shoes. Seek to understand how they’re thinking, and how they’re feeling in a very respectful and authentic way. 

 

And I do mean this. It has to be sincere, it cannot be, “Well, if I understand them and I make them understand that I get it, then they will be able to understand where I’m coming from. And will finally see my point of view, and we can just do it my way and move on.” That can’t be the intention, it really has to be, “No. My job right now is to understand the person that I love and their point of view.” So what that looks like is saying, “We’re going around and around in circles about this, we are not coming to an agreement. And you know what? I think we’ve been going about this the wrong way. Let’s instead really put our full attention and just understand each other instead of fighting with each other. I’m going to go first, tell me more about how you’re feeling and how you see this.” And really, I mean over a series of conversations, ask your partner, “Tell me more.” 

 

When you think about the costs outweigh the benefits of our child going to school, what comes up in your mind? What do you imagine could happen if we do it the way that I’m advocating? And really make it an emotionally safe place for your partner to talk about their fears, their values, their concerns, their feelings, what it’s attached to in terms of their orientation to the world. And really help them know that you understand. 

 

And so you might hear someone saying things like, “Well, we don’t know anyone that’s gotten sick from coronavirus. And, when I think about how hard it’s been for our family this past summer, and kids are watching way too much TV. And I really feel very afraid of them falling behind academically. I worry that they’re missing big foundational things academically that will be very difficult for them to make up, and that they might struggle later in life as a result of this. I worry that our 12-year-old is at a crucial moment in terms of their social development. And if they don’t have kind of normal experiences with other kids, it’s really going to change the way they show up in relationships well into adulthood. Those things make me feel afraid. And so when I am digging my heels in about, ‘No, I think that kids should go to school,’ it’s really because I’m worried about what will happen to them if we don’t. And I also think, we’re strong, we’re healthy, we don’t have underlying health conditions.” I mean, it could be all kinds of things. 

 

And for someone who feels differently about this, this can be a very triggering conversation. As you sit with your partner and really, they’re talking about things that you don’t agree with, your job in these moments is to calm down. If your heart rate starts to go up, and you feel like you’re going into fight-or-flight trigger mode, you will not be able to hear anything they’re saying. And your job is to calm yourself back down, take a break if you have to. And really just remember that your only job right now is to listen to them and understand them, and in a respectful and sincere way. 

 

And it takes time to do that, particularly if you’re feeling triggered and flooded. And the things that they’re saying are scaring you to death, frankly. And, of course, then, once your partner’s feelings are really heard and respected and understood, the other step is to then give you the opportunity to have the same experience with themwhere they settle into understanding you. And you get to talk about your perspective around, “People are dying and even people who don’t die sometimes have severe and persistent health consequences. And yeah, maybe kids don’t get as sick as adults but they do get sick. And here’s what can happen if they do. And think about what might happen to us in our family if you and I get this. And what would happen to our children if you and I are incapacitated or hospitalized or not able to work or function as a result of being sick. And what could this mean.” And it could be anything from your point of view, and I’m again talking about coronavirus. 

 

It could be like, “This is what having another child means to me and this is what I hope about the experience. And what I’m afraid of is if we don’t…” I mean, like really unpack it. It doesn’t certainly have to be specific to this but really go deeply, deeply into it. And again, simply with a goal of understanding, we are not here to solve problems. We are just here to understand each other’s hopes and dreams, and fears, and values, and perspectives. And help each other feel heard and respected and understood.

 

And couples can absolutely do this on their own, particularly if they’re good at staying calm and shifting away from their own perspective to the degree that they can allow in their partners. If you find that it feels impossible to do this, that you can’t actually just let their partner talk about the way they feel without wanting to interrupt them or tell them why they’re wrong, or if they’re not able to do that for you and it just is turning into a conflict, and listening and understanding isn’t possible to happen—that is a great sign that you actually do need the support of a marriage counselor or relationship coach. Somebody who can keep you from getting into a fight and instead simply hold the door open to allow both of you to understand each other on a very, very deep level. 

 

And what you will often find when you do is that when you’re able to dig deeply down into core values, core feelings, and away from “what are we going to do to solve this problem” part, you’ll find that at the core, there are many more similarities and commonalities than there are differences. You both love your children. You both want to have a happy, satisfying life together. You both want meaning and purpose and joy and freedom and security, and all of these things. Like, there’s a lot of alignment at the foundational level. And coming into that place and reconnecting with all of the commonalities that you guys do have, in the context of feeling secure with each other—respected by each other, understood, really gotten on a deep level—then allows you to have the opportunity to begin crafting a middle path that is very deliberately taking into consideration, and prioritizing both of your hopes, both of your fears, and it turns into an entirely different conversation. 

 

And the other thing that’s really neat is that when people get into power struggles and gridlock conflicts, it really does feel like a fight. And all of your energy is going into why you’re right and why they’re wrong, and, you know, if only they were just XYZ, which makes each of you really entrenched in one particular worldview. Like the more you kind of tell yourself why you’re right and why they’re wrong, and the more often you try to explain to them what your perspective makes the most sense, you’re selling yourself on your view of the world. And also, unintentionally, limiting your ability to expand your thinking into creative problem solving. It’s impossible to be really creative and come up with novel ideas and solutions, and the playfulness that’s required to get really creative feels absolutely inaccessible when you’re stuck in a conflict. 

 

But when you can come back to a place of emotional safety and listening and understanding and respecting, you can generate novel ideas, be creative. You can play with each other. You can say, “Let’s play a game. If we were going to do this, and it was absolutely without any of the risks that we’ve identified as being a concern here, well, what could it look like?” And along those lines, being able to shift away from your fear, your concern, your hopes into “our fear,” “our hopes,” that you both take ownership for the perspective that each of you hold. And that it doesn’t become your partner’s fear, it becomes “our concern.” Because your partner’s feelings and perspectives in the stage of healing do actually need to be just as important as yours are. And when you use language like “our concerns,” “our hopes,” it communicates on many levels that whatever we ultimately decided to do about this is going to honor and prioritize your feelings as part of the solution, or we’re not going to do it. And that needs to happen both ways. 

 

But if that becomes the truth, that both of your feelings are actually equally as valid as important, and you’re tasked with finding a solution that respects both of those priorities, what could that look like? And the answer is often a final “solution” that may be very different than the one that either of you were campaigning for in the very beginning. It could look like all kinds of different things. I mean, there are 100 different ways that schooling and socializing a child can actually look like in the time of a pandemic, that may or may not involve them setting a foot in a school building, and may or may not involve them sitting in front of a computer all day. I mean, I won’t go into the dozens and dozens of plausible ways to educate and socialize children that are actually at all of our disposal because that’s for you to figure out, and be creative around, and dream, and brainstorm. 

 

And also, let me just—a little tip here. When you are brainstorming, it is very important to throw out any and all ideas specifically and especially the ones that seem absolutely ridiculous and not like anything anyone would ever do. Because when you allow yourself that kind of disinhibition and just creative kind of spelunking and splashing around, you’ll be amazed at what can come out of each of your head. And yes, 90% of it is going to be total rubbish and nothing that anybody would ever do, but there can be little diamonds and gems hidden away in all the mud and rubble. And your job is to create an environment of emotional safety and collaborative problem solving that is respectful, and that’s prioritizing each other’s feelings, and see what happens. Is this a fast process? No. It is usually going to take many days of intentional conversation and sincere efforts to understand each other first before we can change the emotional tone of a relationship enough to get into this nice place of collaborative understanding. And that can create anxiety for people, particularly if they feel that a deadline is looming. 

 

I will also say that—I think we’ve talked about this on other shows—there is a personality feature that’s pretty common, but that can be very different between people in a couple. So without going into way too much information, there are different facets of personality, and sort of the way that you measure in different domains essentially creates your personality as a whole. One way of getting into it is through a personality assessment called the “Big Five of Personality.” I think that Myers-Briggs has some utility, which looks at personality along four different basic dimensions. But one of the most prominent ones that can come to play when it comes to gridlock issues and power struggles is a personality difference, where some individuals really like to be thinking ahead, and planning, and problem-solving, and anticipating problems, and proactively solving problems that may happen in the future and like trying to figure out what is going to happen, and they have a very future orientation. These are the people who have all of the weekends of their summer vacations scheduled by mid-May. They know they are going camping on the weekend of August the 27th with John and Carla. They like to have stuff figured out mentally and kind of put into place. And there can be other personality characteristics that kind of cluster with this basic orientation. But you know, they’re planners, right? 

 

And at the other end of the spectrum is a personality type that is much more comfortable with leaving things open, with things being ambiguous. The personality tends to be confident that we’ll be able to solve whatever problems come up in the moment, and we don’t actually have to think about too far ahead because we’ll deal with it when it gets there. And they tend to be slower to arrive at solutions, and they also just have a much lower need to know what is going to happen. And they also can feel stressed when they’re kind of forced to be making decisions about things that maybe they don’t have all the information they feel like they need. That, in itself, can create anxiety, and it can also create resistance. And what it can look like in a relationship is somebody saying, “I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about this right now. It’s all gonna work out.” You know, which can be, as you can imagine, extremely frustrating to somebody who has more planning orientation who’s like, “No, we need to figure this out today. I need to know what we are doing when school starts three weeks from now because I can’t stop thinking about it.” And the other side of this, people with a planning orientation tend to feel a lot of anxiety when it feels like there are loose ends, when they don’t know what is going to happen. 

 

So this is a common dynamic that can also be at the core level of a lot of power struggles in relationships is people with differences in their decision-making style and their planning style. And so, also being able to have conversations about the way you make decisions and your anxiety level about leaving things open versus anxiety around making specific plans that may or may not be based in reality because it feels better just to have a plan. A plan—doesn’t matter. For a couple to be talking about those differences can also go a long way and just decreasing the overall level of annoyance because you’re understanding why your partner is the way that they are. And it can add a kind of context for the conversations and help you both be respectful of what each other is needing. And also, potentially, both of you, maybe as individuals, taking efforts inside of yourself to come a little bit more to the center. So maybe if you have a strong planning orientation, getting more comfortable with the idea that, “I don’t actually know what this is gonna look like a couple months from now. And so maybe we do need to take this a little bit more day by day, week by week.” And for somebody who has a more open-ended orientation to be able to come back to the middle and say, “We do actually need to figure out, generally speaking, what we would like this to look like. Let’s find out the best situation. You know, it may change in the future, but we do need to have some conversations around what we’re going to do.” Because the default in any power struggle is that the person who is digging their heels in and not doing anything often wins by default because it blocks action from taking place.

 

So anyway, I’m probably getting way more into the weeds about some of the psychological dynamics at the root of our conflicts than any of you care to listen to. But these can be some of the obstacles in the path of couples seeking to create alignment and just things for you to be keeping in the back of your mind. And again, I am talking about this like it’s easy—it is not. As a marriage counselor, as a relationship coach, I often have to spend a long time with couples over many conversations as we unwind all of this stuff. You know, talking about different ways of thinking, different values, different messages from one’s family of origin, about the way things should be, and goes into, “Why am I the way I am? Why are you the way you are.” And again, this is necessary pre-work and really is the work in many ways of successfully unwinding a power struggle, and eventually creating alignment and collaborative problem-solving. But it feels very, very indirect while you’re doing it because the goal is not to solve the problem, it’s to understand. Again, hard to do. 

 

For many couples, it requires support to be able to hold this space with each other, especially when it feels like you do need to make a decision, and you know, we also need to be respectful of external pressures. If you are a 38, 39-year-old woman who is married to someone who still isn’t totally sure if they want to have a baby, you guys actually do need to figure that out pretty quick because, you know, that clock runs out. And if you’re figuring out what are we going to do with the kids in two weeks when school is open, or we need to make a decision, and what’s that going to look like, that is a thing that does need to be figured out. 

 

And so, it is also okay to do an intensive when it comes to how we need to understand each other. And also, brainstorming and finding solutions that prioritize each other’s feelings, and being open to the possibility that the final outcome may actually look very different than what both of you had imagined it would look like going into it because the ultimate goal really is not to have this be exactly your way. The ultimate goal is to have a strong, healthy, happy relationship with someone who loves you and understands you, and respects you, and feels that your needs and rights and feelings are just as important to them as they are to you, and vice versa. 

 

And when you’re able to create that emotional space with your partner and have a relationship that is infused with respect and gratitude, and not just tolerance for your differences, but an actual like appreciation for your differences, all of a sudden, the big looming problems don’t seem like problems anymore. And it can be surprisingly effortless to work together, to create a new reality for each other, for yourselves that feels good for both of you. 

 

I know that it sounds a little crazy if you’re stuck in a power struggle. I know it’s so hard to think about letting go of your side and embracing the other. But what are your choices? I mean really, like, because this, continuing to fight, and campaign, and harass your partner into changing clearly doesn’t work. And if you wind up taking a unilateral decision that is made for both of you over their wishes, it can create massive damage and betrayal and can be a big emotional trauma that can be difficult to repair. 

 

So you might want to be arguing with me right now, but try it. Let me know what happens. If you have follow-up questions or comments, leave them for me on the blog at growingself.com, Instagram at @drlisamariebobby, Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby

 

And also, again, just with all of this with the understanding—that if it feels unnecessarily hard, if it is disintegrating into unproductive conflict, or if you need to arrive at a workable decision quickly, those are all signs that you may really benefit from enlisting the support of mediator who can help you create understanding and respect and collaborative solutions much more quickly. So just keep that in the back of your mind as a possibility and good luck with things. I know these are harrowing times, and there’s a lot of stuff to hash out together, but I do hope that these strategies help you create alignment and agreement in your relationship. That’s all for today. 

 

I’ll be back in touch next week with another episode of the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. And in the meantime, let’s listen to some more Coathangers.

 

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

[social_warfare]

Letting Go Of Resentment

Letting Go Of Resentment

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

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

How to Let Go of Anger and Resentment

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

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

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

“Letting Go of Resentment” Episode Highlights

Listen and learn about:

Two Types of Resentment in Relationships

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

The Experience of Feeling Resentful

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

When Is It Time For Couples Therapy?

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

Why Online Marriage Counseling Helps

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

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

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

5 Powerful Takeaways From This Episode

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the Podcast?

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

Thanks for listening! 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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

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Letting Go Of Resentment

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

Music Credits: Duchess Says, “Negative Thoughts”

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

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Letting Go Of Resentment

Access Episode Transcript

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

[Negative Thoughts by Duchess Says]

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

Letting Go of Resentment

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

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

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

How to Deal With Resentment

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

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

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

Overcoming Resentment

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

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

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

The Impact of Unresolved Bitterness and Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Love Without Borders: Cross Cultural Relationships

Love Without Borders: Cross Cultural Relationships

Love Without Borders: Cross Cultural Relationships

Is There a Culture-Clash in Your Relationship?

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How to Deal With Cultural Differences in a Relationship

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist l know that all relationships bring a variety of challenges and opportunities for growth. At the same time, some couples  — particularly those in cross-cultural relationships — feel that they have further to go in bridging the gap. Cross-cultural couples can have vastly different relationship expectations regarding gender roles in the home, the role of extended family, how to communicate, and so much more. While, ultimately, the diversity of their union can lead to an enormously strong and healthy relationship, couples from very different cultural or racial backgrounds sometimes need to work harder to create understanding and compromise.

Cross-Cultural Relationships

For the record, it is important to note that everyone comes into a relationship from a different family of origin that had its own values, belief system, internal culture and way of doing things. Even individuals who may, on a surface level, appear to be of similar backgrounds may have had entirely different “family cultures” that are influencing their expectations in their relationship with their partner. (This is the underlying reason why financial therapy for couples is so necessary!)

One big strength for interracial couples and international couples is an overt awareness that they need to openly discuss and respect these differences in order to achieve congruence. In contrast, couples who make the mistake of assuming that their partner’s life experiences were similar to their own run the risk of having unspoken assumptions and expectations lead to conflict and hurt feelings. Knowing from the outset that you both have perspectives, values and expectations that are simultaneously both different and equally valuable is a huge asset.

Navigating Cultural Differences in a Relationship

It’s very easy for couples to get entrenched in conflict rooted in a core belief of “right and wrong” when it comes to how to approach various aspects of their shared life. This can be especially true around hot-button issues such as:

These are points of conflict for many couples. However, if a couple in a bicultural marriage or with a multicultural family background has very different life experiences that they each wish to replicate in their marriage with each other… the battles can get fierce and even nasty. In contrast, cross-cultural couples who approach each other from a place of sensitivity and openness to understanding have the opportunity to learn and grow, celebrate their differences, and take the highest and best from both of their backgrounds in order to create a unique, beautiful blended culture in their new family, together.

Relationship Advice From Cross Cultural Marriage Counselors

To tackle these questions, and provide some direction for how to begin bridging the gap and building bridges to the center, I’ve asked some multicultural relationship experts to join me for this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Relationship coach Dr. Georgiana Spradling, MFT, Tania Chikhani, M.A, and Teresa Thomas, M.A., are marriage counselors who often work with cross-cultural couples and interracial couples, and have great relationship advice for how to create peace and harmony in your gloriously diverse family.

Specifically, we’ll discuss:

  • Why cross-cultural couples often get into power struggles about various aspects of their shared life.
  • The shift in perspective that can help you restore the empathy in your relationship and understand each other more deeply.
  • How to find ways of creating agreement, while simultaneously honoring and appreciating your differences.
  • How couples with different expectations of extended family roles can find balance between boundaries and togetherness.
  • How interracial couples can become a united front in understanding and confronting racial injustice, together.

Whether you’re in an interracial relationship, blending a multicultural family, or simply coming to terms that you and your seemingly-similar partner are actually coming into your relationship with very different perspectives, the perspective of marriage counseling experts Dr. Georgiana, Teresa and Tania can help. I hope you join us — click the player below to listen to the conversation!

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Love Without Borders: Cross-Cultural Relationships

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

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Tania Chikhani is a Relationship and Career Specialist with an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, and an MBA in Global Business and Marketing. She has specific training in marriage and family therapy and relationship coaching, as well as mindfulness coaching, career coaching, executive coaching, and life coaching.

Her specialty is helping you create happiness and success in all areas of your life. Her work is focused on enabling you to create and maintain passionate and fulfilling relationships while continuing to thrive in your career. She is known for seeing the love and joy that’s possible for you, and for your relationships, even through your darkest days. Read Tania’s full bio…

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Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

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

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Men, Women and Housework: How to Create a More Egalitarian Relationship

Men, Women and Housework: How to Create a More Egalitarian Relationship

Men, Women and Housework: How to Create a More Egalitarian Relationship

Sharing The Load…

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According to research, women are still bearing the majority of the burden when it comes to household chores like cooking, cleaning, getting kids ready for school, etc.. Despite the fact that, in many cases, they work as much outside of the home as their partners do. This dynamic is bringing many couples into online marriage counseling or online couples therapy because it creates relationship problems.

Even now with more couples staying at home together and others just beginning to enter back into the workplace slowly, questions and expectations around sharing the load continue to leave partnerships entangled in unequal expectations and confusion around “who does what.”

This imbalance understandably leads to many women feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, not to mention frustrated. When couples aren’t working together as a team, it creates conflict and resentment. Many couples struggle with figuring out how to create a more balanced, egalitarian relationship.

But why? In our modern era shouldn’t we be past this? The roots of gender inequality in family roles go deeper than having good intentions. Creating a more balanced partnership requires self-awareness, mindfulness, and open communication.

By understanding the subconscious belief systems that both men and women still hold, you can begin to break old patterns and start creating a more egalitarian relationship.

Why Gender Division of Labor Problems Still Occur

The reason that traditional gender roles still play out in many modern families (families who intellectually know that a more egalitarian relationship and family structure is healthier for all) has to do with two psychological principles:

1) Without a high degree of self-awareness and intentional living, we humans tend to subconsciously create dynamics that mirror what was happening in our families of origin.

Whether we like it or not, old, deep, subconscious expectations about who does what is baked into us by the time we hit junior high. It is easy to forget that many of the woman’s rights issues we take for granted today have only come to pass in recent decades. (Side-note: I once met a highly successful female entrepreneur who was not able to get a bank loan without her husband’s consent in 1985.)

While male and female feminists successfully work to change the roles of women both in the home and in the workforce, the emotional and psychological expectations of gender roles we all carry are much harder to change than public policy.

Today’s parents were parented by men and women (who themselves were raised by men and women) who were the products of a socio-political zeitgeist that emphasized home-making and childbearing for women, and breadwinning for men.

As such, today’s adult parents as children absorbed powerful meta-messages about gender roles from observing their own moms cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, scheduling the social activities, and dad going to work and mowing the lawn. Both men and women often feel (not think, but feel) that the tasks they observed their same-sex parent doing are theirs, and that their partner should do what their opposite-sex parent did.

This is often played out even when people believe that each gender is both competent to do more, and bears a responsibility to do more. Women often feel vaguely guilty when “their” job needs to be done, and many men (bless their hearts) simply do not see “women’s work” as something that needs doing at all.

Though no fault of their own, many men were raised in homes where magic elves (aka, mom) simply took care of things. These well-meaning women inadvertently created adult men who put a carton of milk with half-an-inch left in the bottom back in the refrigerator and do not think to make a mental note to pick more up at the store.

In order to create an egalitarian relationship, men must address their subconscious expectations plus get deeply acquainted with the reality of all the small, daily tasks involved in maintaining a functional home.

2) Families are systems, and systems are powerful.

Whenever even one partner in a relationship has an expectation about the way roles should be carried out, they do their half of the “dance” they expect their partner to engage with them in. It’s like leaving space for the other person to do their thing. This creates pressure in the system that pulls the partner into the role that their partner expects them to fulfill.

For example, my husband will run the laundry through the washer and dryer but he expects me to do the folding and putting away. His half of the “dance” accumulates in a laundry basket of clean clothes left on the bed. Then I dance in and (with great satisfaction, actually) fold things into obsessive little squares the way Mari-Kondo taught me and squirrel them away into drawers. Our “dance” in this area feels balanced and it works for us.

What does not work is when one person’s “dance” ends substantially further away from the middle point, leaving the other person having to come all the way over and do everything. This is what happens in out-of-balance partnerships.

In families where partners are not living with a high degree of self-awareness and intention, even if one person (usually the female partner) would like a more balanced, egalitarian relationship in terms of housework, childcare, or home management, the system may create pressure on her to do more than she wants to, or should. I have certainly experienced this in the past, in my own marriage.

For example, in the past (before we worked on this as a couple) if my husband did not recognize the tasks that need doing (or did not perceive them as needing to be done by him, or did them but not the way that I thought they should be done, or didn’t do them quickly enough) I would often feel pressure to step in and do them because I felt they are important and they were not happening.

However, when I “just did it” I was inadvertently contributing to a dynamic where my husband was lulled into a familiar dynamic (as a son raised by another woman who handled things for the family) where there was an unspoken rule in the home that I would do things. So he never thought of them as his responsibility.

In short: The harder and faster and more I “danced”  the less he had to. I was overwhelmed, and he was confused about why I was low-grade angry all the time and always tired.

Sound familiar?

How to Create a More Egalitarian Relationship

Changing both ingrained expectations and family systems require a high degree of self-awareness, communication, and intentional living. However, it can be done and it should be done. (Trust me, it feels SO much better).

Egalitarian families are generally happier, less stressed, have lower conflict, and are fairer to working women. Furthermore, modern parents who work together to model a more egalitarian relationship and family system for their children break the cycle of rigid gender roles of previous generations.

Here’s an example of how couples create more balanced gender roles:

Jane and John are a millennial couple with two kids, and they both work. Both Jane and John grew up in homes where mom (who worked too!) did all the inside housework except watering the flowers and dad did all the outside home-tending except taking out the trash.

Now, in their own family, Jane is struggling with resentment as she feels overly burdened with working, childcare, doing the lions share of meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, bill paying, organizing activities, and the general mental energy that many women exert on behalf of their families that men often do not feel.

The couple is fighting. Jane is feeling resentful and exhausted. John tries to help out around the house, but she seems annoyed with him when he does because he’s making the bed wrong, or bringing home the wrong brand of mayonnaise, or not doing things fast enough to please her. So he stops trying.

He does what he thinks he should: Going to work every day, bringing home a paycheck, shoveling the snow, and getting the oil changed at regular intervals. John is frustrated because he experiences Jane as not affectionate or fun, nor interested in sex, and kind of naggy, and he doesn’t know what else to do.

Through couples counseling, the couple learns how to work as a team. First, they start by talking about how each of their early experiences in their own family of origin shaped their expectations for themselves and each other in their own family. Then, they negotiate a plan where each of them agrees to take on specific responsibilities around the house in a distribution that feels equitable to both of them.

In implementing that plan, Jane needs to restrain herself from stepping in to do things that are John’s job (or to correct John, or nag John). In doing so, she is creating pressure in the system for John to not just step up, but to develop new homemaking skills.

For his part, John needs to learn a very different way of thinking that women are often groomed for (and most men are not) which is considering both what currently needs doing, and what will need to be done, and taking the initiative to do those things. No magic elves to the rescue.

Changing both subconscious expectations and family systems are challenging, however, the rewards are immense and meaningful. Trust me: As a woman who is married to a man who now — without being asked! — does the dishes when he sees they are dirty, sweeps the floor when it needs to be swept, and goes to the grocery store to buy food of his own volition… it feels so much better.

Similarly, I see the same shifts occur in the couples we work with for marriage counseling and couples therapy: They reorganize their responsibilities in a way that feels fair and balanced to both. Squabbling stops, things get done, and most importantly — they start enjoying each other again. 

You deserve the same, and I hope this relationship advice helps you create it!

xo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

P.S. Want to know more about online couples therapy? Have questions about teletherapy in general? Here’s an article to answer all your questions: Online Therapy: What You Should Know About Teletherapy

 

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

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

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

Empowerment In The Workplace

Empowerment In The Workplace

Has it felt challenging for you to get the respect you deserve on the job? Today’s episode is all about helping you gain influence and power in your professional role. Listen, for insights for how to cultivate empowerment in the workplace — both as a striver on your way up, and as an empowering leader dedicated to cultivating talent.

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Walking on Eggshells

Have you ever felt like you were walking on eggshells around your partner? Like no matter what you say, it is taken as a criticism and erupts in defensiveness or walking away? Stephanie Oliver, M.A., UKCP Family and Systemic Therapist, shares why this feeling is so common in relationships and what you and your partner can do to heal your relationship.

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If you’ve been feeling trapped lately, and like you don’t know which way to turn — this episode of the podcast is for you. We’re doing a deep dive into how to get mentally and emotionally unstuck with life and career coach Elise Ross. Listen for actionable advice and new ideas that will help you get unstuck and start moving forward again.

Letting Go Of Resentment

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Are you holding on to resentment about hurtful things that have happened in the past? Is your partner? In today’s relationship podcast, we’re talking about letting go of resentment in your relationship so that you can both move forward, put the past behind you, and start enjoying each other again.

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC is a kind, compassionate marriage counselor, therapist and coach here to help you create your very best life. Ana specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts so they can create fulfillment and joy in their lives.

What Are Your Expectations In a Relationship?

Avoid The Three Relationship Expectations That Will Always Mess Things Up

Even before I became a Denver marriage counselor and online couples therapist, I would have described myself as being a “hopeless romantic” and had grand expectations in a relationship. Growing up, I loved the idea of love. To me, the movies I watched made relationships seem easy. You know, the ones where both partners overcome some kind of obstacle to finally realize their need for the other, they confess their undying love then live happily ever after.

I loved this idea growing up, because it just seemed so natural. It seemed like such a stark difference from the real-world relationships that were falling apart all around me. I realized that my idolization of relationships in the movies led me to develop some unrealistic expectations about relationships in my own definition of what a healthy relationship looks like.

Here are some of the biggest expectations in a relationship that may prevent you from experiencing fulfillment with your partner:

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #1: “I have to be perfect.”  

Have you ever felt that you can’t let your partner see your faults or weaknesses?

As a couples therapist, I work with many couples who feel this pressure to be perfect for their partner, oftentimes stating their fear that sharing their weaknesses will somehow diminish the quality of their relationship.

These feelings of insecurity often leads to one or both partners tip-toeing around each other, neglecting to share their needs or fears, forfeiting the opportunity to experience a true, genuine connection with each other.

The myth of perfection is detrimental because it assumes that humans are faultless beings. Which we are not. Furthermore, perfectionism results in unsatisfactory relationships because there is a lack of depth and meaning when you are only sharing what you believe to be the best parts of you. In fact, vulnerability connects. 

A partnership is about giving each other the benefit of the doubt, it’s about sharing life together.  To share life with another person is to offer them your whole heart with the hope that you are both able and willing to accept and love each other fully — accepting the good with the bad.

When this kind of intimacy happens, it creates a true partnership, a bond full of depth and meaning with a person who you feel safe to rely on, through both the difficulties of life and the joys.

Tip: Try making a list of your top three insecurities and sharing them with your partner, while allowing space to validate each other’s vulnerabilities.

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #2: “This relationship is about meeting MY needs.”

Living in an individualistic society, we can often place more emphasis on what I can get out of a relationship, or where our partner is failing to meet my needs.  

What I so often see as a marriage counselor and couples therapist is that both partners have needs. It is important for partners to understand how to meet each other’s needs in a way that provides safety and security in the relationship. I also believe that we can be so focused on what OUR needs are, that we fail to see what our partners are needing from us and wind up neglecting them.

Partnership requires togetherness. Togetherness requires the courage to see beyond yourself into another person’s world. Consider your partner’s perspective, what they need, and how you can fulfill them. Doing this can create a community dynamic in your relationship, where you know that you and your partner are looking out for one another, that you’re not in this alone.

Tip: Try spending a day focusing on filling your partner’s “love tank” by doing what makes them feel most loved without expecting anything in return. 

Unrealistic Expectation #3: “You should be my everything.”

In my role as a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I’ve noticed this narrative increasing in the couples I’ve seen: a relationship expectation that their partner needs to be their everything.

This unrealistic expectation often leads to someone feeling lonely and hurt when their partner is unable to meet their every need. This mindset also puts an intense pressure on both partners to become something that is often unattainable.

I believe that, much like the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to keep a strong partnership. Having more people in your life besides just your partner, and a shared community where both partners’ feel safe and supported by a number of people, helps to lessen the pressure that you both have to be everything.  Having a community creates an environment for your partnership to flourish as you realize that it does not have to be just the two of you against the world.

Tip: Try spending time with friends both as a couple and individually to build up your community. When you’re unable to meet with your community in-person, here are some tips for social distancing relationships: Building CommUNITY During Social Distancing and Self Quarantine.

Have you had some expectations in a relationship, like the ones I talk about here, that have gotten in your way of having the kind of happy relationship you want? I hope that this article helped shed some light on them, and offered you some tips for how to break free of some unrealistic relationship expectations.

If I can do anything else to support you in creating a great relationship, you know where to find me!

Warmly,

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

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

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

Let Yourself Feel Loved

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

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

Root Causes of Insecurity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Insecurities

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

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

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

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

How Insecurity Can Ruin a Relationship

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

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

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

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

How to Help Someone Feel More Secure

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

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

Tips to help your spouse feel more secure: 

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

How to Stop Being Insecure

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

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

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

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

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

With love and respect, 

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

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How to Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

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

Music Credits: Juniore, “Panique”

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

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

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

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