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Feeling Judged?

Feeling Judged?

Relationship Advice

Don’t Let Mutual Intolerance Ruin Your Holidays

Feeling judged is difficult at any time, but as we lead up to the holidays, I begin to hear from many therapy and life coaching clients that feeling judged or criticized during family gatherings creates a ton of anxiety. I commonly hear that people feel judged by their in-laws, and also that they feel a great deal of frustration that their own boundaries will be tested. Many of my clients express anxiety and frustration that their in-laws and parents don’t respect their boundaries as parents, disregard their values, and also do intrusive and annoying things during their time together. 

Listen, it’s true: Most of the time we all get to live in our little bubbles. We spend time with our like-minded friends, and we get to control much of what we let into our personal spheres. But during the holidays, we pony up to spend time with people that we may not have much in common with other than the fact of our being related. And it’s stressful.

When we’re in close contact for prolonged periods of time with people who are very different from us, judgment disapproval can easily creep in — often to the point where it disrupts our ability to stay in the present and have a good time. We get upset with them for judging us, and then they get upset because we’re upset (or hold our boundaries and refuse to accommodate their preferences) and before you know it it turns into an ugly conflict instead of the happy holiday gathering you all want. 

So, what to do? How do you spend time with family who may have values at odds with yours, deal with judgment and frustration, and manage to have a good time anyway? 

How to Stop Feeling Judged

On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m diving deeply into this topic, in order to help you find strategies to stop feeling judged (while you’re staying true to yourself and your values). 

To this end, I’m tackling a listener question. Miss S wrote in with this:

“I recently found your podcast and I am enjoying it very much. I do have a request for a topic that may be helpful to others especially as we near the holiday season. I could use help in dealing with family members who are socially awkward and/or difficult to be around.

During the holidays, my mother and mother-in-law give us a run for our money!

We are exposed to guilt trip galore like accusing us of not spending enough time with them (ie unable to accept that we are adults and have our own lives and have set boundaries), the “inconvenience” of “having” to come to our house for the holiday dinner, not having overnight accommodations that are comfortable, not eating the requested desserts that they bring  & etc.

They are also obsessed with the past as in constantly bringing up family members who have passed away in such a way that it is awkward and not relevant to the conversation.

Despite our requests to not do this, my mother-in-law always calls her other son , who lives out of state, and puts him on speaker during the meal. It is really disruptive, awkward and unnecessary as we all speak to him on our own. Also, she doesn’t see us much so it would be nice for her to enjoy her time with us and call him when she goes home.

Also, my mother-in-law doesn’t like me anymore. I think she blames me for her son not spending as much time with her or his other family members. This is not true , of course, but it’s still off-putting when I can feel her disdain even though I know it’s her stuff, not mine.

I know that I will not be able to change their behaviors but perhaps I can learn to be less annoyed and regain enjoying my holidays. This is so much easier said than done so I am hoping that you may be able to illuminate a path for me.

Thank you for sharing you talent and expertise via your podcast. I have found it very helpful and have shared it with friends and family members, too.”

Listen and hear what I share with Miss S including:

  • Why it’s so important to get clear about your values before heading into emotionally fraught situations with family and inlaws
  • How to decide where to be flexible and where to hold firm in your interactions with others
  • How to let go of your need for approval from others
  • What to prioritize in order to help yourself make decisions and be less reactive
  • The secret strategy to help yourself be okay… even when others are not

 

Becoming Self Aware of Our Own Judgments

The flip side of feeling judged is often an opportunity for US to grow and become more self aware and compassionate. For example, I sometimes encounter people who are feeling very frustrated and judgmental for other people for… wait for it… being so judgmental!

Part of the key skill in learning how to manage feeling judged by others is understanding how we respond when our own values and preferences are not being honored. On this episode of the podcast I also discuss some of the ways that we can become more self-aware of our own judgment and use it to:

All this, and more, on this episode of the podcast.

All the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Dealing With Judgment

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

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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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How to Fix a Relationship After a Fight

How to Fix a Relationship After a Fight

Relationship Advice

Don’t Break Up. Break Through.

 

How to fix your relationship after a bad fight. All couples fight, sometimes. This is not a bad thing: Conflict can lead to constructive conversations and deeper connection. And… some fights are just toxic and unproductive.

Here at Growing Self we offer a lot of relationship geared towards helping you proactively solve problems, avoid conflict, turn conflict into connection, and use communication skills to have productive conflict… but that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, couples just have a terrible fight where they both say mean things to each other and feel like they damaged their relationship in the process.

Has this just happened in your relationship? Have you just had a nasty fight, and now you’re looking for help to get your relationship back on track? 

You’re in the right place: Real help for your relationship is here. Read on for actionable tips, PLUS a video, a quiz, and even a podcast — all here to help you mend your relationship. 

Fix Your Relationship After a Fight

First of all, if you’re actively looking for help to fix your relationship after a fight, that in itself is a great sign. It means that you care enough about your relationship to work on it, and to put your time, energy and effort into healing after a fight.

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I work with couples all the time who are concerned about the level of fighting in their relationship and want to heal their bond. Here are some of my top tips for how to not just fix your relationship after a fight — as in a “Let’s slap a band-aid on this and forget it ever happened” — but really and truly, use the experience you both had to move forward and develop the amazing relationship you both want and deserve.

5 Tips To Repair Your Bond After a Fight

Here’s some from the heart advice from a professional marriage counselor to help you fix your relationship after a fight, and use this as an opportunity to start a new chapter of growth and closeness in your relationship.

  1. Do not catastrophize. If you’ve just had a bad fight, you might be feeling worried about your relationship, wondering if you’re compatible, or even if this is the beginning of the end. Let’s stop: All couples fight. If you get too worried about the fight itself, it might lead you to withdraw emotionally and that’s never helpful. Here’s a reframe: : Fighting is actually a good sign — it means that you both still care enough to tangle with each other, try to be understood, and attempt to create change in your relationship. When couples are really in trouble, like on the brink of divorce, fighting often stops. People have given up. (More on this: “How to Stop a Divorce and Save Your Marriage.” But not you two! You are still fighting for your relationship.
  2. Take a break. Do NOT try to fix your relationship after a fight in the heat of the moment. Really. Neither of you are thinking clearly, and it’s best to let it go until you can both calm down. Leave it until the morning, or go take a walk, and don’t even try to repair your relationship until you’re really and truly feeling calm. How will you know that you’ve calmed down enough to mend things? When you can shift gears from your perspective to theirs. (Listen to the podcast below for a much more detailed explanation of this!)
  3. Remember: fighting happens because people are trying to be heard and understood… but feeling invalidated by their partner. The quickest and most effective way to repair your relationship after a fight is to — deep breath here — let go of your agenda for a little while, and put your energy into understanding your partners feelings, hopes, desires and perspective. Hard? Yes. Effective? Double-yes. This doesn’t mean that you need to agree with or acquiesce to their feelings (at the expense of yours), but when you listen with the intention of understanding it immediately calms conflict and starts rebuilding trust, empathy and compassion.
  4. Don’t be afraid to apologize. It’s not unusual at all for people to say or do really regrettable things in the heat of the moment. Yelling, stomping, slamming doors, even name calling. When you get flooded with emotion it really does turn off the part of your brain that is thoughtful, articulate and can anticipate cause-and-effect. Basically, when you get angry it unleashes your inner toddler who does a smash-and-grab job on the emotional safety of your relationship. (Or one who “punishes” by silence, rejection or weird passive-aggressive things which is not cool either). We all have the potential to do this. It can be tempting to reach for blame in these moments (i.e., “Well I only burned the toast to teach him how it feels to be uncared for,” etc) but that just perpetuates disconnection. Instead, try saying, “I didn’t behave well during our fight and I’m sorry for that. You deserve to be treated with respect no matter how upset I get and I’ll try better next time.”
  5. Use this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Fighting in a relationship can actually be extremely productive and helpful when it results in couples talking about important things they don’t usually talk about, learning new things about each other, and finding new solutions to old problems. Relationships stagnate when people walk around holding in their feelings, not wanting to rock the boat, or doing anything that will upset the other. While this sounds virtuous and noble, it’s actually a recipe for resentment and growing disconnection. Healthy, strong couples talk about things that bother them and work together to find solutions that feel better for both of them. Is having a drag-out fight the very best way to do this? Well, no, BUT even the worst fight can be the doorway to creating new understanding and solutions in your relationship IF you’re willing to listen to each other, acknowledge the validity of each other’s perspective, and agree that you both deserve to feel loved and respected in this relationship. You do!

Relationship Resources To Help You Heal and Grow, Together

I hope that those tips help you fix your relationship after a fight. Ideally, if you take this relationship advice to heart you’ll not just repair your relationship after this one fight, but you’ll head off the next fight before it starts! Now, that said: Sometimes, couples can fall into negative cycles of interaction where fighting, negativity, resentment and bad feelings have been growing for a while. If that is the case, you might find that it’s a lot harder to bounce back after an EPIC fight because of all the water under the bridge previously.

There is still hope, and there is still help. Consider enlisting the support of an expert marriage counselor or couples therapist to help you set aside your differences so that you can address the deeper issues in your relationship and reconnect with your compassion and love for each other. Having a great couples therapist or relationship coach can help you have constructive conflict that grows your relationship (rather than negative, unproductive conflict that destroys it).

If you’d like to get started with positive, effective, and evidence based couples therapy, marriage counseling or relationship coaching we invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of the amazing therapists and coaches on the team here at Growing Self.

Wishing all the best for you both,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: Because SO many couples start looking for resources, relationship advice,  and start looking for ways to fix their relationship after a big fight, I have even MORE resources for you. Please check out the podcast  (and video) that I recorded on this topic, just to help you in this moment. (Both are available below). I know it feels like a crisis right now, but trust me — this can be the start of an amazing new chapter in your relationship. Your partner in growth, LMB

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How to Fix Your Relationship After a Fight

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

Music Credit: Derek Clegg, “Hanging By a String

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How to Fix Your Relationship After A Fight

Prefer video? Watch the podcast!

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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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Emotional Affair Recovery

Emotional Affair Recovery

Relationship Advice

Heal Your Bond

EMOTIONAL AFFAIR RECOVERY | So often when the word “affair” is used, we assume a sexual affair. However, an emotional affair can be just as (if not more) detrimental to the relationship. 

Why is this? Well, first of all, when your partner is having an emotional affair, it can be highly traumatic. We are created to make decisions that help us survive, so we gravitate towards people who we believe will provide us with not only physical safety, but emotional safety as well.

 When we discover that our emotional connection with our partner is compromised and therefore our emotional safety is compromised, it can be a devastating and highly distressing experience. [How to tell? Read: The Warning Signs of An Emotional Affair]

As a Bentonville, Arkansas marriage counselor who specializes in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT) I know that healing your emotional bond after an emotional affair is challenging, and also possible.

Stages of Emotional Affairs

Emotional affairs typically begin with one partner getting too close with someone outside of the relationship. And not just any someone: Someone they’re attracted to.

The first stages of an emotional affair generally involve feelings of attraction, and increasing feelings of closeness with the emotional affair partner. People in emotional affairs may be flirting and sharing personal details about one’s life and his/her relationship, but it can also look more innocent like confiding in the outside person during times of distress. Emotional affairs can start on social media, or at work — anywhere someone has the privacy to share.

While this may seem relatively harmless, the risk of an emotional affair is that the emotional closeness is being taken away from the primary relationship and given to someone else. Over time, people begin feeling increasingly connected to their emotional affair partner, and less connected to their spouse. From an EFCT marriage counseling perspective, this damage to your feelings of safety, security and attachment is not just jarring, but difficult to get over.

Furthermore, as emotional affairs go on, it’s not uncommon for them to turn into sexual affairs. But even if they don’t go that far, when spouses discover emotional affairs it often leads to feelings of betrayal and damage to their sense of trust and emotional safety. Again, from an EFCT attachment perspective, this “attachment trauma” can lead to many other problems in your relationship. In order to heal your bond, you need to restore your sense of trust and safety.

Ending an emotional affair can be difficult for the person who has come to depend on an outside person to meet their emotional needs. And for people who’s spouses were engaging in an emotional affair, trust can be very hard to rebuild.

After an emotional affair, my clients come to me feeling hopeless, alone, and unsure of how to move forward. The truth is, recovering from an emotional affair is hard work, and almost always requires the help of a trained professional. However, the good news is that many couples who are committed to rebuilding their relationship can… and even go on to establish a stronger, more satisfying relationship than ever before.

As a therapist who works with couples recoving from infidelity, as well as emotional affairs — all from an emotionally focused couples therapy lens — here are some steps that I recommend.

Emotional Affair Recovery: The Path of Healing

Step 1: Recognize The Emotional Affair For What It Is: An Affair

Since we often consider an affair to be sexual, it can be challenging to accept that an emotional affair is as equally valid and detrimental as a sexual affair. Until you are able to do this, it will be very difficult to recover. 

For those of you who have committed the affair, your partner (and your relationship) cannot truly heal until you are able to see how your actions affect him/her. For those of you who are victims of the affair, admitting that you are emotionally betrayed can be the beginning of a truly healing experience. 

Step 2: Commit To Moving Forward After The Affair

Because affairs are so emotionally devastating, it is easy to throw in the towel and assume there is no hope for recovery, however couples who are committed to recovering can actually make it through! 

The key to recovering from an affair is to decide to move forward, and renew your commitment to the relationship. For emotional affair recovery to work, both partners need to be committed to the process of recovery, no matter how hard it may be. 

It is also important to note, however, that if you have experienced emotional or physical abuse, or if the affair is still on-going, there are much bigger barriers to emotional safety and it may not be safe or healthy to pursue affair recovery. 

Step 3: Set Boundaries

Since the hurt partner is feeling betrayed, in the early stages of recovery it is vital that the unfaithful partner shows him/her that they are committed to moving forward. The most helpful way to demonstrate commitment is by setting clear boundaries with the outside partner.

 This means cutting ALL ties with him/her. Doing this will provide the hurt partner with a sense of safety that the affair is less likely to occur again AND it shows him/her that the unfaithful partner is truly wanting to move forward in their partnership.  

Step 4: Work On Reviving Your Relationship

I mean really work on it.

Recovering from an affair is hard work and requires a commitment not only to each other, but to the very process of recovery. Possibly the best thing you can do at this point is to reach out to a trained professional that can help.  

As a couple’s therapist, I try to help couples through this difficult process by providing a space to atone for the affair, attune to each other’s emotional needs, and eventually attach to each other in a deeper more meaningful way than before. 

In addition to participating in couples therapy, you can also do things outside of therapy to help revive your relationship! 

First, nurture your friendship. The very foundation of a healthy relationship is a good friendship, so do things that help build fondness. Go do something you’ll both enjoy together! 

Another thing you can do is find small ways to tune into each other’s emotional needs. Try using an “I feel, I need” statement in order to create an opportunity for connection. 

The Good News

There is hope! Many couples recover from emotional infidelity. It is possible. The process of recovery takes time, so be patient with the process, with your partner, and with yourself. 

Ultimately, you can rebuild a relationship even better than it was before!

NURTURING HEALTHY FAMILIES & HAPPY RELATIONSHIPS | Georgi Chizk, M.S., MFT-C is a warm, compassionate EFCT marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.

 

If you’d like Georgi’s help in healing your strong bond, schedule a free consultation to meet with her online or at our Bentonville, Arkansas office location.

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Relationship Advice

Building Awareness and Setting Boundaries

Do you have someone in your life who consistently makes you feel like they don’t care about you, or whatever you’re feeling is not *quite* as important as whatever is happening for them?

If so, you may be in a relationship with a selfish person. This can be emotionally draining, not to mention frustrating — particularly if they’re your husband, wife, or partner. (Though selfish bosses, friends, and coworkers are challenging too).

If you’re trying to figure out how to get your needs met in a relationship with a selfish person, here are some strategies to make it work. (Or, give you the clarity and confidence to let them go).

The first step? Understanding the psychology of selfish people can help you get insight and compassion into the way they think, and why they do the infuriating things they do…

Why Are Some People So Selfish?

Emotional intelligence exists on a spectrum. Some individuals are higher in emotional intelligence than others. One symptom of low emotional intelligence is the tendency to be self-absorbed: Exclusively concerned about what you’re thinking, feeling, needing and wanting, rather than attuned to the thoughts, feelings, needs and desires of others.

One thing that I have found to be helpful is to conceptualize the way that people are functioning in the context of their life experiences. People who are “selfish” (have little awareness of the thoughts, feelings, or needs of others) tend to have been raised in environments in which their feelings, thoughts and needs were not recognized or valued. In contrast, highly empathetic people had — from earliest childhood — their feelings and thoughts reflected back to them, and at least respected.

In this way, thoughtful and compassionate people are not born: they’re made. Likewise, people who have arrived in adulthood without the easy ability to understand or value the emotions of others are products of their environment. The good news is that everyone can learn how to become more other-focused. However, this work is long and slow.

Can Selfish People Become Less Selfish, Over Time?

While emotional intelligence is different than cognitive abilities in that it can be strengthened and increased through deliberate learning and practice, it requires the person who is lower in emotional intelligence to 1) recognize that there is an issue, 2) have an interest or desire in improving the situation 3) learn specific skills and strategies to increase emotional intelligence and then 4) commit to practicing these skills regularly.

Unfortunately, in this situation the question “can we ‘train’ self-absorbed people to take more of an interest and listen?” is describing the central problem which is also creating barriers for the solution. People with low emotional intelligence generally have zero awareness that their relational focus is creating distress or annoyance for others…. Because they often fail to pick up or consider how others are feeling. “Being trained” would require them to pick up on cues given by others and then respond by doing things they struggle to do: containing their inner experience to the point that they’re able to focus on the other person, listening, etc.

All of these activities, though they seem simple, actually require a complex emotional intelligence / emotional regulation / communication skill-set that is developed over time. Expecting that someone who doesn’t do these things should be able to if they only cared enough is a recipe for disappointment and resentment.

Should You Call Someone Out on Selfish Behavior?

You certainly can point out when someone is being self absorbed or inconsiderate. But, consider this: 

When you (naturally) react negatively to someone with low emotional intelligence (again, someone who may have little to no self-awareness around how they may be impacting others) they will often feel genuinely surprised, offended, and even attacked and victimized. For this reason, enerally speaking, more often than not, attempts to directly confront self-centered behavior and ask for improvement results in defensiveness, minimization and often an unproductive conflict.

It is therefore extremely difficult for others to create change in a self-focused person.

The person doing the calling out is usually just going to get dismissed by a self-centered person as being hostile, difficult, “selfish” (ironically), or a variety of other things. It usually takes a self-centered person to experience consequences in multiple relationships as well as in the occupational domain in order for them to entertain the possibility that they themselves are the common denominator.

Now, what CAN work is to “assist” the other person in experiencing natural consequences for their relational patterns. For example, it’s normal and natural to not want to spend as much time with someone who is self-centered and a poor listener. Over time, they may notice that they don’t have that many friends, or have short-lived relationships, aren’t advancing in their careers, or often feel lonely and disconnected. They may start to feel badly about that and wonder why. 

This type of self-reflection can lead them to enter into a personal growth process, ideally with the assistance of a therapist or coach who can help shine a light on the relational blind-spots that have been causing others — and ultimately themselves — so much pain. This can lead to a transformational new level of self-awareness and personal responsibility, particularly when it’s coupled with effective direction around how to learn emotional intelligence skills.

How To Become Less Selfish

People committed to the process of increasing their emotional intelligence can then begin learning how to understand their own feelings, and use that as a starting point to develop empathy for others. Often, learning how to name and manage their own feelings feels like new territory for them. 

They can shift away from the “mind-blindness” that may have characterized their relationships in the past, and begin deliberately focusing on what others are thinking, feeling, or wanting. Often, learning how to actively and empathetically listen, ask open-ended questions, and slow their process down to incorporate the perspectives of others are central to developing stronger relationships going forward.

However — and this is key — no one can do this work for them. The selfish person has to be motivated to do this work for themselves. If you try to “help” a person grow in this area by confronting them, nagging them, or pushing them towards personal growth work it’s just going to make YOU angry, and THEM defensive. (And less likely to do the work).

Should You Stay In a Relationship With a Selfish Person?

The  answer to this question depends on what type of relationship you’re hoping to have with a self-focused person, and how committed you are to supporting them through their growth process.

Dating Someone Who is Selfish

If you’re dating, it may be wise to let this person go sooner rather than later so that they have time and space to continue to develop themselves personally. You’ll be saved the frustration, hurt and resentment that you’re certain to experience if you continue attempting to get your needs met by them before they are able to do so.

Being Friends With a Selfish Person

Likewise, casual friendships with people who relate to others this way are rarely satisfying. You’d do better to invest your time and energy into friendships with people who you can have a more balanced and mutually generous relationship.

Married to a Selfish Person

Now, if you’re neck-deep in a marriage / kids / mortgage situation with someone who you’ve come to realize is a self-centered and lacking in emotional intelligence skills, it may be worth working on things with them. In these situations “working on things” tends to look like one person getting really angry with the other person for doing what they usually do — being thoughtless and self-absorbed — which leads to defensiveness and withdrawal.

A better solution is to bring this party to a good marriage counselor who can help you both understand what is happening in the relationship in a neutral and productive way that’s more likely to generate real and lasting change. The person who struggles with emotional intelligence skills needs guidance around how to be a more emotionally present partner. However, the person on the other side of the dynamic may also need to work on having acceptance, compassion and appreciation for their partner as well.

A particularly difficult relationship to manage is when you have a parent or a close family member who is very self-centered. The best strategy here may be to 1) lower your expectations dramatically 2) limit your time together and 3) look to other people to meet your emotional and relational needs, because you’re not going to get them met here. 

Early Warning Signs That Someone is Selfish

You can save yourself a lot of frustration and heartache by avoiding getting entangled in relationships with selfish, self-absorbed people from the get-go. When you’re getting to know someone new, observe how they relate to you, and other people too.

When you’re dating, take self-centered behavior extremely seriously, and do not make the mistake that too many people do (especially women) which is to “date optimistically.” Optimistic dating is thinking that behavior / personality / values / life goals will change in response to how much someone cares about you or how committed they are to the relationship. 

A lot of women take selfish behavior on their new boyfriend’s part to indicate that they should work harder to be more loveable because then their boyfriend would treat them better. This is not true: The guy is being self-centered because that’s actually who he is. If you want better, cut them loose. 

Furthermore, remember that the way people do small things is generally a microcosm of the way they do big things. Not taking five seconds to text you back all day “because they were busy” implies that your needs are actually secondary to theirs, in their mind. Pay attention to that, especially early on.

A great way to test someone’s generosity vs. tendency towards selfishness is to say no to them when they ask you for something. A generous person who is capable of having empathy for your feelings will understand and respect your boundaries. A selfish person who struggles to understand and prioritize the feelings of others sometimes will likely get upset, “hurt” or even angry with you. 

A fantastic and very reliable way to prune self-centered people from your life is to get good at saying no. Expect that they’ll get mad at you, and stay the course. If you set a new expectation for the relationship — that this is a two-way street — they’ll either have to do some important growth work, or the relationship will self-destruct. Win – win, either way.

How can someone break a cycle in which the selfish person in their life frequently asks them for favors or time, without reciprocation?

Having Compassion For Selfish People

If you’re navigating a challenging relationship with a self-centered person, it can help you to hold on to empathy and compassion for them. Keep in mind that the self-centered person really has no idea how off-putting their way of relating is, and that the origins of their selfish behavior are in their own unmet needs for emotional support. These ideas can help you stay in a compassionate place when dealing with these types of people. 

Remember that they just want to be loved too, and they are also doing the best they can with what they have. They got dealt a crappy hand in the supportive family department (OR they are on the autism spectrum, which we have not touched upon, but which is also very real).

All of the above can help you be patient, but also manage your expectations so that you don’t find yourself getting hurt, disappointed, or resentful when they don’t behave differently. 

Until they discover that the way they’re relating to other people is pushing them away, and decide to get help for this, they’re unlikely to change. That’s not your fault, but it’s also not your problem. You can be kind to self-centered people, but knowing who and what they are will also help you set healthy boundaries for yourself and invest your energy and attention in people who can love you back.

Wishing you all the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Have you had to develop boundaries with similar relationships in the past? Share with us your suggestions in the comments section!

 

 

 

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

Let’s  Talk

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Constructive Conflict: Arguments That Help Your Relationship Grow

Constructive Conflict: Arguments That Help Your Relationship Grow

Relationship Advice

Why Constructive Conflict is Vital to Every Relationship

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

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

The Difference Between Constructive Conflict and DEstructive Conflict

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

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

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

Learning How to Talk Through Differences Constructively and Compassionately

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

  1. Conflict is NORMAL: Two people will of course have differences of opinion, different needs, different expectations or different wants. All “conflict” is, is discussing those things openly for the purpose of finding compromise and solutions. That’s all!

     

  2. Constructive Conflict is GOOD: Talking through differences constructively will not just resolve the issues, these conversations are the vehicle for partners to understand each other more deeply, strengthen their bond, and develop a more satisfying and functional relationship for both people. In this way, “conflict” (at least, constructive conflict) leads to deeper connection.

  3. Not Addressing Conflict is BAD: In contrast, couples who don’t talk through problems openly and honestly will instead often begin to ruminate about unresolved issues, feel increasingly resentful, and feel more hopeless about the relationship itself. Particularly when people have negative beliefs about “conflict,” they may find it difficult to explicitly express moments when they feel hurt, disappointed, or frustrated. Instead, they stuff their feelings, don’t talk about it… and then it festers like an infected wound.

  4. Avoiding Conflict Damages Your Relationship: When “festering” happens, people become reactive. They are walking around feeling low-grade annoyed and resentful much of the time, and when they have a new (even fairly neutral) interaction with their partner, the anger and hurt feelings they’ve been holding on to often come out sideways. People will be snappy, critical, snarky, or cold.

  5. Avoiding Conflict Creates a Toxic Dynamic: Often the reactions seem out of proportion to the current situation because they are the buildup of unresolved feelings that are (ironically) created by attempting to avoid conflict in the first place. But — here’s the hard part — because in their partner’s eyes they’re behaving jerkily, without obvious cause, their partner will react negatively to them. That’s when an actual fight starts.

Avoiding Conflict Perpetuates Problems

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

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

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

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

Talking About Expectations in a Relationship

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

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

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

Talking About The Way You Talk

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

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

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

Talking About Teamwork

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

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

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

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

Leaning Into The Three “Touchy” Topics of All Relationships

How to Talk About MONEY

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

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

How to Talk About SEX 

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

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

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

How to Talk About PARENTING

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

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

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

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

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

All the best to you both,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

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

Let’s  Talk

Dating Advice, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, Love, Relationship Advice, lisabobby

Constructive Conflict: Arguments That Help Your Relationship Grow

Conflict in an evolving relationship is normal (and often healthy!). However, there is a real difference between healthy, constructive conflict and unhealthy, destructive conflict. Marriage Therapist and Dating Coach, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, expounds on this critical relationship topic today on the Love, Happiness and Success blog. Read More
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12 Effective Ways to Destroy Your Relationship

12 Effective Ways to Destroy Your Relationship

Relationship Advice

What Will Ruin Your Relationship, and Fast

Are you unknowingly making the biggest relationship mistakes? I often speak, write and podcast about all the positive, effective ways that you can improve your relationship. I talk about communication skills, developing empathy, how to work together as a team, ways to get on the same page with regards to parenting, and all the things that couples can do to create a strong, satisfying relationship and a lifetime of love.

Avoid The Biggest Relationship Mistakes!

So, today… I’m mixing it up. I decided to put together a very straightforward list of what NOT to do if you want to have a great relationship. In fact I decided to discuss the twelve biggest relationship mistakes you can make in hopes of helping you avoid the biggest relationship pitfalls.

While this is a tongue-in-cheek bit of satire (mostly) I’m also shining a light on the relationship-ruining behaviors that we can all engage in. (We all do them sometimes, myself included). However, self-awareness and personal responsibility are some of the most important relationship skills that any of us have at our disposal, and I do hope that this exploration helps you (and possibly your partner) gain understanding about the things you might be doing to inadvertently damage your relationship.

Positive, Direct Relationship Coaching

While I did outline some of the biggest relationship mistakes you can make…. my natural inclination to positivity prevailed. I went back through the list of relationship-damaging behaviors and discussed their positive relationship corollaries. 

I hope that this very honest discussion helps you create the strong, happy relationship you want and deserve.

All the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: Have you taken my “How Healthy is Your Relationship” Quiz yet? I mentioned it on the podcast as a resource to help you take a snapshot of how your relationship is currently doing in all the areas I described. Take the relationship quiz here.

 

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12 Effective Ways to Destroy a Relationship

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

Let’s  Talk

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