How to Avoid Ghosting in a Relationship

How to Avoid Ghosting in a Relationship

Relationship Ghosting

If you’ve dated for an extended period of time, especially online, you’re probably familiar with ghosting. Ghosting is when either you or the person you are talking to discontinues contact without providing explanation. This is usually a confusing experience but for some, this might actually feel relieving! 

Today we are going to dive into ghosting: Why it happens, why you might want to ghost someone, and how to handle both situations. Because the truth is, there is a better way!

As a dating coach, ghosting is the number one topic that comes up. Whether it’s left you wondering “What the heck went wrong?!” or “I just don’t know how to tell them I’m not interested,” this topic gets brought up often in my dating coaching sessions. I want to demystify the act of ghosting for you today, so you know what to do if you think you might be getting ghosted and how to avoid ghosting others.

Why is this Happening to Me??

So, you’ve been chatting with someone for a while, things seem to be going great, maybe you even meet up for a date or two then…nothing. No follow up text, no plans made, no response when you check in to see if everything is okay. Being in this position is hurtful and confusing and it’s hard not to feel like something went wrong. 

If you’ve been ghosted, you may be wondering “Why did this happen to me??” And understandably so! It’s difficult to know what truly went wrong if you’re left with little to no feedback. 

However, instead of allowing yourself to get stuck in the muck of “Is this my fault? What could I have done differently?” I encourage you to take a step back from the situation and find gratitude in knowing that you didn’t continue down a path with someone who wasn’t the right person for you. 

Just because you’ve experienced ghosting first hand, doesn’t mean that you’re unloveable or that something is inevitably wrong with you. It really has more to do with the other person than it has to do with you. 

Being ghosted is confusing so I wanted to outline some tips to utilize if the person you’ve been talking to suddenly becomes MIA:

4 Ways to Move On When You’ve Been Ghosted

#1 Wait to See if They Respond

How long should you wait before calling it? Typically around 5-7 days is a good time frame to see if this person will respond. Unless something emergent arises or they explicitly tell you they aren’t able to respond, if you haven’t heard from them in more than a week, it’s safe to say that they have discontinued contact.

# 2 Try Not to Take it Personally

This is important. When you get ghosted, it’s normal to reflect on your conversations and dates to analyze every little thing trying to figure out what happened. I want you to stop, take a breath, and let yourself be okay with not knowing. Whatever happened, it was on their end. In the end, you’ll be happier dating someone who likes you exactly the way you are and who can effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings!

# 3 Send a Closing Message (optional)

For some people, once they get ghosted, that’s the final straw. If you are feeling like you need that closure, create a message to provide that closure for yourself. You don’t even need to send it, just writing down your feelings can help provide that closure. Being able to state something like “I haven’t heard from you since our last date. It was really nice getting to know you and good luck in the future!” can be relieving and a symbolic way to move forward. Remember to be kind and courteous, we’re all going through our own journey.

#4 Get Back Out There

Don’t let this experience discourage you from moving forward. This might even be a great talking point in future dates because chances are, they’ve been ghosted too!

Why Do People Ghost?

There are many reasons why someone might ghost a new relationship. However, the most frequent reason I see with my dating coaching clients is usually because they don’t know how to communicate their needs or express that they just aren’t interested. 

Instead of having the sometimes tough and honest conversation, they just disappear. *POOF* Ghosters aren’t typically bad people, but they aren’t great communicators. If you’re finding yourself in this position, I know it feels like the easy way out is by ghosting the other person, but I have some tips for you today so that you can provide closure moving forward instead of confusion. 

How to Avoid Ghosting Others

Being on the other end, it’s easier to understand that sometimes, ghosting happens! Some of the more common reasons I hear, as a dating coach, are: I’m not interested, I don’t want to hurt their feelings, I’m too busy, etc. Whatever your reasoning is, more often than not, ghosting feels worse than directness.

# 1 Be Explicit About Your Expectations

Before going on a date, let the other person know and understand what your expectations are. Talking about your expectations of the date and future relationship BEFORE beginning a relationship can help you sort through whether you even want to continue forward with this person. It’s easier to end a dating conversation than it is to end a relationship several months later. 

# 2 If You’re Feeling it On the Date, Address It

If you’re on a date with someone and begin to feel uninterested, bring it up! Being able to be vulnerable and say “I’m not feeling like we are connecting the same way we used to. Do you also feel that?” gives the other person the opportunity to voice their feelings and thoughts. This is a good chance to see if it was situational or if you really aren’t feeling it. If you’re feeling it, chances are the other person is too.

# 3 Communicate

After you’ve done some thinking, perhaps you’re feeling like this isn’t going to work out. Send the other person a text or call them to let them know that you’re not interested in continuing to pursue this relationship at this time. Here are some examples:

  • “Hey! I had a lot of fun last night- thank you for inviting me. I didn’t feel a romantic connection and I am not interested in going on a future date. Good luck!”
  • “After talking to you, I realized we don’t have the same desires for a future relationship. I think it’d be best for us to both continue seeing other people. Thanks again.”
  • “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you recently- thank you for sharing about yourself. Because I respect you and your time, I wanted to let you know that I am not interested in pursuing a relationship.”

# 4 Anticipate a Reaction

Being able to communicate and be vulnerable about how you're feeling, leaves you open for hurt. I believe this is part of the reason so many people ghost because you don’t have to see or hear the reaction that the silence has caused. In most cases, people appreciate the open communication and might be disappointed but understanding. Other people might show their hurt differently. Try to remember during these times that you are making the best decision for you and that you are being respectful of the other person’s feelings.

Dating is a tricky world to navigate and it’s become even more complex with the integration of dating apps and social media. Because there are so many ways to hide and avoid through the use of technology, it’s even more important that we show up fully and sometimes that means recognizing your feelings of discomfort, sadness, or loneliness. I want to encourage you to continue to push through, listen to yourself (not your inner-critic), and not feel discouraged with your dating experiences. 

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Love is Respect

Love is Respect

HOW TO SHOW YOUR PARTNER RESPECT

Love is Respect: The happiest and most stable relationships are those in which respect is present. As a marriage counselor, I have found this to be true time and time again. 

Respect is a word that most of us hear from the time we’re very young. We are taught to respect our elders, to respect people in positions of authority, to respect people that have taught us valuable lessons, to respect our mentors. Why isn’t our partner on this list? When we respect our partner we tell them and show them that they matter to us, that we see them, that we hear them, that we value them not only as our partner but as a human being.

Love is Respect: What Does It Mean to Respect Someone?

The word respect can feel very non-romantic, especially when it’s paired with authoritative relationship dynamics. Not only that, but it can mean something a little different to each person and depending on the situation that it’s present in. 

Respect is built over time; It develops and diminishes based on the interactions or experiences that you have with another person. What makes respect special is that if lost, it can be rebuilt and repaired. It’s ever-changing and growing with the relationship. 

I think if I were to ask you if respect matters in your relationship, most would say that it does. Over my years of working with couples, I have come to notice 2 trends that may arise in regards to respect and love:

  1. Couples will express to me how much they love their partner, but how they lack respect. 
  2. Other couples will talk about the immense respect they feel for their partner, but also share that they have lost the love they once felt. 

There seems to be a disconnect in these relationships between love and respect. If couples are able to bridge the gap between respect and love, respect can be a powerful tool to enhance love within a relationship. So how can we use respect to enhance love? How can we work to increase the respect we show to our partner?

How to Increase Respect in Your Relationship

It is not easy to identify a universal formula for respect that applies to all couples. Sometimes, the longing for respect can feel one-sided, or perhaps each partner may have a different and individualized answer of how respect in the relationship should look. 

While we are all entitled to our definition of respect, there are seven things that every couple can practice to build and encourage respect in their relationship. I’d like to share these seven things we can all do to start increasing the level of respect we show to our partner:

1. Ask for Your Partner’s Opinion

When you ask for your partner’s opinion on any given issue or event that you are dealing with, you are essentially showing your partner that you value their advice. By asking your partner for their opinion and opening up dialogue on something that you’re internally wrestling with, you are actively and intentionally asking for your partner’s help. 

This is not to say that you couldn’t figure it out on your own, but that you truly value what they have to say and what they offer the relationship – especially in times of need. 

2. Accept Your Partner’s Influence in Your Relationship

Accepting influence is about sharing power in the relationship. This can be for decisions and beliefs that impact your relationship as well as individual decisions and beliefs. When we accept influence we take our partner’s opinions and feelings into account. Accepting influence doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything your partner says or feels. By accepting influence we show that we believe our partner adds value to our life.

3. Seek to Understand Your Partner

As a marriage counselor, couples who struggle to show respect will enter our beginning sessions expressing that their partner “doesn’t understand me” or “doesn’t understand why/how this affects me” or even “doesn’t understand what I put up with.” It can be easy, especially in long-term relationships, to think that we know everything that’s going on with our partner but to never actually ASK the other person “how are feeling about this” or “what does this mean to you?” or “can you help me understand?”

As we seek to understand our partner better, there are 2 main things we can do. First, we can ask questions to better understand what it is that our partner is feeling or experiencing. 

Secondly, we can rephrase what we are understanding (“what I hear you saying is…”) rather than using the phrase, “I understand.” 

I often see couples skip the step of understanding their partner and jump to finding a solution or critiquing. I like to encourage my couples clients to take the time to slow a conversation down and work to understand what their partner thinks, feels, believes, values, etc.. In doing this, we show our partner that they’re important to us – We show them that they’re worth our time, and isn’t that the most powerful form of respect and love?

[Here's more on: Communication that Connects]

4. Express Gratitude Towards Your Partner

A powerful tool that is on the tip of your tongue is gratitude. By expressing gratitude you are acknowledging that the efforts your partner puts into the relationship has a positive impact on you and that you notice them. Expressing gratitude shows that you value their efforts. 

Instead of “Happy to see you finally took the trash out” try, “I appreciate you taking the trash out.” It doesn’t have to be a grand expression, it can be as simple as, “I appreciate you…” When your partner feels appreciated, they feel seen. Is gratitude the fix all for marital strife? Absolutely not, but it does make a lasting impression and provides encouragement through the growth process. 

5. Show Your Partner Love that is Meaningful to Them

Be intentional about how you show your partner love. When your efforts match what your partner perceives as love it will be more meaningful to them. This often requires practice because how your partner accepts love may not be what comes most naturally to you. We naturally like to give love the same way that we like to receive love, but we all receive love differently. If you are unsure of how your partner feels most loved, ask them. 

Intentionally loving your partner shows them that they matter to you, that you’re willing to think about and act in ways that are most meaningful to them. It shows that you’re willing to put in extra effort that they find meaningful.

6. Use Care and Consideration When Providing Feedback

Every relationship requires feedback from time to time. A romantic partnership though requires a level of care and consideration when providing feedback. I like to remind couples that this is the most precious relationship that they have, and it should encourage vulnerability and openness. However, when feedback is expressed in a negative, angry, or disrespectful way – that vulnerable and open relationship reacts by throwing up walls and reflecting that negative, angry, and disrespectful behavior back. This cycle can be damaging to the relationship beyond repair if not kept in check.

By expressing feedback in a caring and considerate way you’re showing that you are aware of the impact you have on your partner and your relationship and that this impact matters to you. 

When you are kind and considerate in the way you provide feedback to your partner, you are showing that you believe you are equals. When we don’t use care and consideration we create an unhealthy power dynamic in which we send the message that we believe we’re superior to our partner. Whether or not you actually believe you are, that precedent can then greatly impact your connection down the road. 

7. Tell Your Partner That You Love Them and Why

Not only is it important to tell your partner how you feel about them and your relationship, but also it’s helpful to tell them why. I often hear couples say, “Well, it goes without saying.” More often than not, a partner’s response to that statement is something along the lines of, “I had no idea!” If you ever feel that something positive about your partner goes without saying, say it anyway – they would love to hear it (as I’m sure you would too!). 

As we do these seven things we will begin to not only show more respect but also have the ability to deepen the level of love we actually feel towards our partner. Respect is something we can always work towards deepening to enhance our relationship. As we show more respect we will have happier and more stable relationships.

Warmly, 

Hunter Tolman

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How to Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship

How to Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship

How to Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship

Independent vs. codependent

As a marriage counselor and relationship coach, I have couples seek help around codependency tendencies. Usually, either one or both partners in this situation are experiencing intense feelings of disruption and “loss of control” within the relationship because either one partner (or both) is not meeting the other’s expectations. These expectations aren’t necessarily wrong, but they are approached and managed in an unhealthy way. 

Falling in love, building a bond, and caring for your connection doesn’t mean that you have to give up who you are. Your way of being and relating to the world may shift because now you’re incorporating another person into your life – but it’s essential not to lose yourself in your relationship and allow your partner space to be themself.

What Healthy Independence Looks Like in a Relationship

If you are like many of my couples clients, you love your partner, and the relationship is generally good. The struggle you may be running into is that either you or your partner lean on the “independent side” while the other partner tends to be more “dependent” on the relationship. This dynamic in a relationship (if not appropriately addressed and understood) can cause tension and resentment among one or both partners. 

It’s common to both desire a healthy relationship while being concerned that being in a partnership would negatively affect your ability to live life the way you enjoy. While it may seem that to be in a relationship, you have to sacrifice your independence; it is actually that same independence that will allow the relationship to grow in healthy ways and thrive! What you bring to the table, and likely what your partner will fall in love with, is unique to who you are, and to give that up would be detrimental. 

Healthy independence in a committed relationship looks like individual hobbies, personal growth, and personal goals and dreams that you continue to pursue and support one another in. Healthy independence also looks like keeping a self-care routine focused on your individual health and happiness needs. 

[Here’s more on: How to Develop Your Self-Identity and Experience Personal Growth in a Committed Relationship]

Communicating Your Needs

Relationships may require compromise, and talking through what’s important to both of you is the first step to getting on the same page. This conversation may feel uncomfortable at first, so consider these helpful talking points when addressing the topic of independence in your relationship to get you started:

  • Communicate with your partner about why certain aspects of independence are important to you 
  • Talk to them about the ways you both can still identify as individuals while also creating a relationship together
  • Set healthy boundaries within yourself and between others

Sometimes, what we need to hear is what our partner loves about us specifically. Reminding your partner of the unique characteristics, hobbies, and personality traits you love about them can encourage personal growth and a greater understanding of where you are coming from. 

When you communicate your needs, boundaries, and concerns, you give your partner space to feel comfortable doing the same. Once you’ve communicated your needs, encourage your partner to do the same. This may require time and an on-going conversation, but with practice, you’ll both feel a little more comfortable having this conversation each time. 

Letting Go of Control

Suppose you find yourself struggling with codependent behaviors in your relationship. In that case, it’s important to remember that you are not inherently bad and that you have the power to choose to do things differently moving forward. At the root of codependency, attempts to change or control your partner usually stem from care for both yourself and your relationship. However, in an effort to control the other person, you yourself often wind up feeling let down, exhausted, and desperate for a true connection with your partner. 

If you are struggling with codependency, you’re not alone. It’s actually quite common. The first step in repairing and creating greater trust in your relationship is introspection. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What events or people have caused me to feel out of control in the past? What emotions did this cause me to feel?
  • How am I benefitting from attempting to control my partner?
  • What am I afraid will happen if I give up my control attempts?
  • In what ways does my effort to have control actually end up controlling me (emotionally, mentally, physically)?

You may not be able to control your partner, but what you are always in control of are yourself and your decisions. Exploring these questions’ answers with a mental health professional’s help is an excellent start to getting the relationship you desire. 

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

 

Common Codependent Signs

As you are getting to know someone, it’s important to keep in mind that we are all human. We all have bad days, feel difficult emotions, and handle these emotions in various ways (that we may not be proud of every single time). However, witnessing these isolated events looks very different than viewing repeated patterns of behaviors. 

Everyone is unique; therefore, codependent behaviors show up in many different ways, but here are a few common signs that someone may be struggling with codependency: 

  • Blaming their current circumstances, emotions, or mood entirely on others or completely on themselves
  • Taking on the feelings of others as their own and allowing it to affect them deeply 
  • Spending time searching for unwarranted answers to other people’s problems or having a “fix it” mentality out of fear that others will leave them
  • Attempting to control situations or others through helplessness, guilt, coercion, advice-giving, manipulation, domination, or threats
  • Looking to their relationships to provide all of the “good feelings” they experience

Building Trust in Your Relationship

Just as your partner can’t change you, you can’t change your partner. If your partner exhibits codependent behaviors, it’s crucial that you have a solid concept of your boundaries and what is/isn’t your job. While neither partner is responsible for the other person, BOTH partners are responsible for seeking solutions that make their relationship a healthy and safe one. If you notice within your relationship that your partner exhibits codependent behaviors, here are some tips to help support them on their journey:

  • Model what healthy boundaries with others and yourself look like.
  • Do not attempt to “fix” your partner, but rather focus on how the relationship can be improved with the addition of boundaries. Have conversations about what you each desire out of the relationship-it’s likely that you both want to have a healthy relationship, but you may have differing definitions of how to get there.
  • Encourage your partner to process the previous events and people in their lives who made them feel out of control with a professional.

By starting the conversation and keeping it open, your relationship can grow through this challenge and come out stronger on the other side. Many relationships that struggle with codependency and work through the challenge, developing healthier communication, boundaries, and understanding, actually experience happier, healthier relationships (professional, friendships, family) and are more likely to feel satisfied and successful in life. 

[Want more on “How to Have Difficult Conversations” – Check out this blog here: How to Have Difficult Conversations]

How to Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship

“You complete me” is considered among the most romantic phrases that can be exchanged, but it’s also confused many people regarding what a good, healthy partnership looks like. Each person brings unique, vital elements of themselves as individuals, and to give up oneself would be a detriment to the relationship! At the same time, it’s normal to worry about what it will look like to take another person’s preferences, characteristics, and habits into account, especially when they will likely clash with your own. Here are some helpful questions to ask both yourself and your partner when you find yourselves in this very situation:

  • What areas of my life am I willing to compromise on vs. areas I am not willing to compromise? Why are these areas important to me?
  • What are some ways I can continue to show up for myself and my partner?
  • Is showing up for myself hurting my relationship or my partner? If not, how can I release any feelings of guilt I may have for honoring my own needs?  

At the end of the day, each partner’s independence allows for the relationship to grow in healthy ways and thrive!

Wishing you the best,

Parsa Shariati, MMFT

For Journaling Prompts & Conversation Starters, Download this PDF Here:

Journaling Prompts & Convo Starters_ How to Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship

online marriage counseling Tennessee, relationship coach Tennessee, online couples therapy, online premarital counselor

Whether working together in couples therapy, dating coaching, life coaching, or therapy, Parsa Shariati, MMFT is here to walk alongside you on your journey towards a thriving life and relationship.

Real Help For Your Relationship

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

 

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3 Stress Management Techniques for Chaotic Times

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3 Stress Management Techniques for Chaotic Times

Self-Care for Stress Management

Between COVID-19 and political upheaval, the past year has been chaotic for many. Many of my career and life-coaching clients, even those in other countries, have discussed feeling more stressed and anxious overall. There have been many uncertainties with some businesses laying off workers or closing altogether, people losing family members to COVID, and parents navigating work-from-home situations while trying not to lose their minds due to their young children’s school-from-home situations.  

The stress response in our body exists to address an imminent threat (aka the fight-or-flight response). This response is great when there is an immediate issue, such as a bear chasing you. It causes a release of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, in our body and sends the blood to our extremities, so that we can either run away from the bear—or fight it (though I don’t typically recommend fighting bears).

However, when the stress is chronic or long-term, our bodies stay in high-gear and cortisol levels stay elevated in our body which can cause negative long-term effects. Long-term stress has been identified in studies as a contributing factor in everything from heart disease to cancers. 

Below are a few tips for stress management and, if at all possible, I encourage you to practice these things before you are super stressed. It’s harder to use a new skill for the first time if you’re already in an intense situation and much easier if you’ve already been using the skill before you really need it. 

1. Deep Breathing

We tend to be a nation of chest breathers in our fast-paced society. When stressed, our breathing becomes even more rapid and shallow. Again, the stress response causes blood to go to our extremities, thus away from our brain. This is why people don’t think as clearly when they’re overly stressed. 

Taking a minute to do several slow, deep breaths where you breathe in air all the way down to your abdomen, literally bringing in more oxygen to your body—including your brain. 

Try putting your hand on your belly and slowly inhale through your nose to a count of 4, then exhale just as slowly through your mouth to a count of 4. Your belly should push your hand out as you inhale if you are breathing all the way to your abdomen instead of your chest. Repeat this slow breath two more times to feel immediately more centered and grounded. 

Tip: You can do this anywhere, even in traffic, and will notice a difference.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

 

2. Sleep

This one is actually the most important on the whole list. If you don’t have good sleep, the rest of this list won’t matter. Sleep is the period when your body restores and repairs itself. If you start with only one thing as far as stress management, start with protecting your sleep and going to bed at a reasonable time so that your body can cycle through to the deep stages of sleep which is where the magic happens. 

If you have difficulty falling asleep, start a consistent bedtime routine (a cup of tea, reading from a book, warm bath, etc) about an hour prior to your desired bedtime and keep that bedtime the same if possible. 

Some of my clients even set an alarm on their phone, in the beginning, to remind them to start their nighttime routine. In time, your body will automatically begin to wind down at a certain time—it’s like muscle memory. Your body will thank you for doing this and as a bonus, you’ll start out the next day feeling refreshed and energized if you’ve given yourself adequate time to recharge.

3. Meditation

Many of my clients are new to meditation when I begin working with them, but this one is life-changing. Meditation is simply the act of being present in the moment and resets your body from a state of stress to one of relaxation. 

If you think about it, the present moment is where all the good stuff in your life happens anyway, so you want to be there as much as possible. If you catch yourself worrying about something, it’s a red flag that you’re in the past or future rather than the present moment (unless a bear is chasing you and then you have bigger concerns to worry about). Meditating helps you to train your brain to stay in the present moment. 

Additionally, if you have issues with sleeping, such as insomnia or frequent waking, you can also use meditation at bedtime to help you relax so that you go into deeper stages of sleep.

Meditation doesn’t need to be done sitting cross-legged on a special cushion. You can meditate while walking, washing dishes, or doing yoga. 5-10 minutes is all you need, though some of my clients prefer to do it first thing in the morning and also at night before bed. 

MRI’s have shown the impact of meditation on the brain and there are some fascinating research studies on this. If you prefer music or guided meditation, there are numerous free apps available such as Insight Timer or Calm, and YouTube has free meditations on every subject available.

I’m a personal fan of binaural beat meditations, designed to bring your brain into different wavelengths such as theta or gamma, and I use Brainsync which is not free but worth the money in my opinion.

Bonus Stress Management Tip: Laughter

Laughter really is the best medicine and has been shown to release your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which act as natural pain killers and antidepressants. 

Spend time at night watching your favorite comedy series or movie (and never the news before bed!) or talk to some funny friends or family members. Try to keep your sense of humor even when times are tough and it can help shift your perspective to find silver linings of difficult situations. 

Dark humor can work too—I’ve worked with some first responders who said it was the only thing that prevented them from having a total breakdown. 

In Summary: Stress Management is Essential to a Healthy Life

Play around with these techniques and see what works best for you. Keep in mind that self-care and stress management are essential for living a healthy life. It’s like the flight attendant telling you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first—by caring for yourself, you have more to give the world around you. 

During stressful times, it’s more important than ever to protect your emotional and mental well-being. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, go breathe, sleep, meditate, and laugh your way to a better place. Your loved ones will thank you. 

Warm Wishes, 
Dr. Kristi

Dr. Kristi Helvig, PhD, LP, CPC

Dr. Kristi Helvig, Ph.D., LP, BCC is both a licensed psychologist and a board-certified coach, and she specializes in career and executive coaching. She can help you get clarity, overcome old obstacles, and climb the mountain to success — no matter how you define it.

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

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

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Expecting During an Unexpected Time

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Expecting During an Unexpected Time

Pregnancy During a Pandemic

We couldn’t have anticipated what 2020 would bring, for many of us it’s been a time of massive change, forcing us to practice flexibility, coping, and adaptability (that’s a lot of new skills!). In my work with clients who are expecting, this has been especially challenging. Whether this is your first or fifth pregnancy, it’s everyone's’ first pregnancy during a pandemic. As an expecting mother myself, I can understand the unique stressors the current circumstances present to pregnant women. 

In supporting clients (and going through this myself), I wanted to share two areas of focus that can help you have a positive pregnancy experience amidst a global pandemic: How to Renegotiate Your Expectations and Skills You Can Apply to Better Navigate the Challenging Emotional Terrain that is Pregnancy during a pandemic.

Renegotiating Your Expectations

If you’re like me, you may have pictured being pregnant as a time to be shared with family and friends and a time to celebrate, maybe you pictured, traveling somewhere special with your partner during your last months as a family of two (or three, or four, or five…)! Then Covid happened and what you pictured needed to shift. The unfortunate truth is, the plan you may have hoped for likely won’t be as conducive to the new reality. Changing expectations can be challenging, but the good news is we know what can help with this!

1)    Grieving the ambiguous loss: You may be grieving (feeling anger, shock, sadness, etc) the pregnancy you’d imagined.

Although this doesn't feel pleasant, it’s okay to allow these feelings of loss to exist. If you feel a sense of sadness when planning your virtual baby shower (or perhaps are for-going a baby shower altogether), allow yourself space and time to experience your emotional reality.

This may involve talking with someone you trust about what you’re feeling, journaling, or just finding time to check in with yourself.

2)    Develop a new, more present-focused vision: Reflect on what are more reasonable expectations, for right now. What can you focus on today or even this week that feels grounded in your reality?

For example, your baby shower may not be how you’d originally envisioned, but what are other (more realistic options) for how you can create an experience you will cherish?

3)    Adjust unhelpful thoughts: It’s easy to get stuck in the negative (in fact, humans are prone to do this). If you find yourself dwelling on potential catastrophic outcomes, remember all outcomes exist on a spectrum.

What are more positive possible outcomes? Shift your focus- this doesn’t mean avoid your feelings and worries, it’s an exercise in looking at what else exists within your emotional experience that could be more helpful).

4)   Find Gratitude and Reframe: What about this experience is working for you? For example, maybe you and your partner are both working from home, allowing you to fully experience this pregnancy together (which you wouldn’t have been able to do previously).

Perhaps, it has allowed you to involve out-of-state family members in more meaningful and creative ways. Whatever the case may be, find what is true for you and focus energy toward this reframe.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Skills to Navigate Challenging Emotions

You’re likely experiencing a mixed bag of emotions (perhaps, exacerbated by the expected hormonal shifts). You may notice feeling happy and grateful, while also feeling sadness or anxiety, then maybe guilt (because you should be happy all the time right now, right?). Wrong! You can feel what you feel.

  1.     Control what you can control: Try to focus on what is within your control (we know, worrying about the other “stuff” doesn’t work as well). I know, easier said than done.

    Try setting daily intentions that allow you to feel safe, secure, and connected to your growing little one. For some this may mean taking ownership over their prenatal health routine (cooking and workouts), for others this might mean cleaning their home.

  2.     Seek support: This is an opportunity to find healthy ways to lean on your social support network. Attempting to overcome these challenges in isolation, can make the experience feel even more daunting! Identify loved ones you can reach out to.

    You might also consider trying to connect with an Online Mothers Group. Talking with others who have a similar shared experience can be a powerful emotional outlet. Of course, you could also consider seeking the support of a counselor too!

  3.     Focus on developing your coping skills (specifically related to stress management): Take inventory of your current toolbox: what currently helps you to manage stress effectively and are there other ways we can expand your skillset?

    Perhaps this includes deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, listening to music, cooking, or going on walks. There are a plethora of stress management tools at your fingertips. Your challenge is to figure out what works best for you!

  4.     Focus on your values: Sometimes, shifting focus and concentrating on coming back into contact with what feels truly meaningful and important to us can help us to better manage discomfort.

    For example, becoming focused on details that are less important in the grand scheme of things (and, maybe not even in our control anyway), can create emotional discomfort. Instead, try to zoom out and look at what feels most important. For example, perhaps you’re noticing an increase in stress when researching the gazillion car seat options available to you (between the aesthetics of it, installing it, weight limitations, cost, safety ratings, convertibility as your little one ages, it’s overwhelming).

    Zoom out and look at the big picture – your primary concern may be safety. Re-focus your efforts to emphasize the priorities vs. getting stuck in the details.

  5.     Hold space: What are your feelings telling you? Feelings are data points. They are giving us clues to better help us understand our internal experience.

    What are your clues telling you?

    Make room for your feelings to exist and approach them with compassion. Attempt to use these data points to inform your next steps.

    For example, if you notice sadness creeping in, explore and inspect this feeling. Once you identify where it’s coming from and why it’s showing up, you can focus on what’s within your control to foster relief.

A Final Note

For those of you struggling with pregnancy brain fog (like me), here’s the cliff notes version of how to manage the unique stressors accompanying your pandemic pregnancy:

  1.     Adjust your expectations and stay grounded in your reality, not just the hard moments, but also the good moments.

    This time has brought great change, some of which is undoubtedly good. Try to honor this by reframing, addressing unhelpful thoughts, and allowing room for your grief experience.

  2.     Productively Navigate Your Feelings by acknowledging them, seeking support, and further developing your personal coping skills/tools.

I know this is a challenging time, pregnancy is hard no matter which way you slice it. However, it is also magical, exciting, and a time of tremendous change and growth.

I’m hopeful these tips may assist you in having a beautiful, and dare I say, fun pregnancy experience! You got this mamma!

Xoxo,
Rachel

 

Rachel-Harder-M.A. marriage counselor couples therapist denver broomfield colorado online marriage counseling

Rachel Hill, M.A., LPC, LMFT helps you find passion and joy in yourself and your relationships. She supports you in creating meaning and happiness, and not only facing your challenges — but triumphantly overcoming them.

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

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

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