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Feeling Invalidated By Your Partner?

Feeling Invalidated By Your Partner?

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

How to Stop Invalidating Your Partner in Three Easy Steps

Hi there. Are you reading this article because your partner just forwarded it to you, as a way of saying they have been feeling invalidated by you and would like that to change? First of all, sorry, but second of all… never fear. I’m the couples therapist in your corner. This one is going to boomerang nicely, and wind up working out in your favor. Promise.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that your partner — possibly not having read this article themselves before texting it to you on the headline alone — might not know yet: We all invalidate our partners accidentally. I’ll bet you a cookie that you probably feel invalidated by them from time to time too. Am I right? Yes? Welcome to relationships.

How do I know this is happening to you, too? First of all, I’ve been a marriage counselor for a long time. It is extremely rare to find a couple where one person has *actually* been exclusively responsible for all the hurt feelings. (Except in the tiny percentage of couples counseling cases that I could count on one hand where the hurt-inducing partner has been a diagnosable sociopath. But I will save that tale for another day).

Secondly, I’ve also been married for a long time to someone I adore and would never want to hurt on purpose. And I’m a marriage counselor!  I should know better! And To. This. day. I still do things that accidentally invalidate my husband and make him feel bad.

But I’m working on it, and it’s better than it used to be. You can do the same. Here’s how:

Step One: Understanding “Invalidation”

First of all, let’s talk a little about what “invalidation”  means. When you invalidate someone, you basically make them feel like you a) don’t understand them or their feelings or b) if you do understand, you don’t care.

In order to improve invalidation you need to be self-aware of when it’s happening, and what you’re doing to cause it. Invalidation comes in many flavors, and can happen in both subtle and dramatic ways. Let’s review.

Types of Invalidating Behaviors

Inattentive Invalidators: These types of invalidators don’t pay attention when their partner is talking about something important. (C’est moi!)

Example of Inattentive Invalidation in Action:

Them: “I had a really hard day at work today. I think I might be getting sick.”

You (And by “you” I mean “me”): “I was just thinking that it would be fun to go to Canada this summer. Or Newfoundland. What do you think?” [Picks up phone to start checking flight prices]

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Belligerent Invalidators: Their M.O. is to rebuttal rather than listen, and put their energy into making their own case instead of seeing things from their partner’s perspective.

Example of Belligerent Invalidation in Action:

Them: “I feel like you were rude to my friend.”

You: “Your friend is an annoying idiot who drinks too much and if you want to avoid these problems you should stop inviting him over.”

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Controlling invalidators:  These types of invalidators are extremely confident that their way of doing things is right and just, and will either intervene or undo things that their partner does in efforts to correct, (i.e. “help”) them. This happens in many situations including parenting, housekeeping, social situations, and more. (If I’m not careful, I actually have a tendency towards this one too).

Example of Controlling Invalidation in Action:

Them: “No, Timmy, you can’t go out to play because you have to take shower and clean your room.”

You: “Be back before dinner.”

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Judgmental Invalidators: These types of invalidators minimize the importance of things that they do not personally feel are interesting or important to them, in a way that creates disconnection in their relationships.

Example of Judgmental Invalidation in Action:

Them: “What should we do this weekend? So many fun things! Do you want to go to the farmer’s market / prepper expo / rv show / rodeo?”

You: “Pfft. NO. I have to spend the weekend finishing my Fortnite challenges. Wanna watch? No? Okay see you later.”

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Emotional Invalidators: Then of course there is the stereotypical, garden-variety Emotional Invalidator, who feels entitled to “disagree” with other people’s feelings, or argue that other’s feelings are not reasonable, or to talk them out of their feelings.

Example of Emotional Invalidation in Action:

Them: “Crying”

You: “You shouldn’t be sad. At least we have one healthy child already….”

You some more: “….That’s not what I meant. We can try again next month. You’re overreacting.”

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Fixit Invalidators: Lastly, there is the “Fixit” Invalidator, who would prefer to leap over messy feelings entirely and go straight to helpful solutions.

Example of Fixit invalidation in Action:

Them: “I am heartbroken about my argument with my sister. I feel really bad about what happened.”

You: “She’s just a drama queen. Forget about it. You should make plans with some of your other friends. I’ll see if Jenny and Phil want to come over on Friday.”

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There are so, so many ways to invalidate someone. Not sure what kind of invalidator you might be? Ask your partner. I’m sure they’d be happy to tell you.

Step Two: Understand The Importance of Validation

While the first step in learning how to stop accidentally invalidating your partner is to figure out what kinds of invalidation you are prone to, the second step is to learn what it means to be validating and why it’s so important.

So: What is “validation?” To validate someone means that you help them feel understood, accepted, and cared for by you. Like you really get how they see things, and that you support them in their perspective.

This is super important in relationships because validation is a cornerstone of emotional safety. And emotional safety — feeling like you are accepted and valued for who you are, like your thoughts and feelings and preferences are important to your partner, and that your relationship is loving and supportive — is the foundation of a healthy, happy relationship.

Just consider how wonderful it feels to hear these words, “I can understand why you would feel that way.” No matter what’s going on, when you hear that it feels like you’re accepted by the person you’re with and that it’s okay for you to feel the way you feel. That right there is the strong foundation from which you can then find your own way forward. (And in your own time).

Also, if we were to dissect pretty much any basic argument that a couple can have, 98% of the time, arguments start with one person feeling invalidated by the other. When anyone feels invalidated the natural response is to then escalate their efforts to be understood. Which can sound like yelling. Then if the invalidator doubles down on defending their invalidating behaviors in response, it can get pretty ugly pretty quick. As I’m sure you know.

So if you work towards being more validating you will not just stop pretty much any argument in its tracks, your partner will feel emotionally safe and accepted by you, and you will have a much stronger, happier relationship. Win, win, win.

Step Three: Intentionally Practice Validating Behaviors

The real problem with changing your (our) tendency to be accidentally invalidating is that it can be really hard to wrap your (our) brains around the fact that we really are hurting the people we love without meaning to. In none of the examples of “types of invalidators” was I describing anyone who was trying to be hurtful. They were just failing to understand their partner’s perspective or needs or feelings, and prioritizing their own instead. 

Human beings are generally self-focused, unless they put purposeful effort into being other-focused. Sad but true.

The good news is that it’s not hard to be more other-focused if you decide that it’s important enough to make it a priority. It just takes intention and practice, and a genuine desire to want your partner to feel more cared for by you.

Here’s what that looks like at my house:

My husband is telling me something but I’m not really connecting with what he is saying. He’s talking about his day at work, and how he’s not feeling great. And now he’s going on and on about this guy he works with who’s super annoying, and incompetent, and how he’s thinking about taking the day off tomorrow, and…

….I’ve zoned out, and am now following the spark of ideas that whatever he just said to me has just ignited into being, through the chambers of my own mind.  Day off… Netflix…. Nature documentary…. Camera lenses…. Majestic landscape photos…. I want to go somewhere beautiful… Catherine said good things about Quebec…. He’s still talking but I’m now having an entirely internal experience. I know he’s still there, but it’s the muffled, “Wa-wa-wa” like the adult in the old Charlie Brown cartoons.

Sometimes he can tell when I’m not there anymore, but most of the time neither of us realize what is happening until I say something apparently out of the blue, like “I was just thinking that it would be fun to go to Canada this summer. Or Newfoundland. What do you think?” [Picks up phone to start researching flight prices]. Then I look up from my phone to see his shoulders slump a little and this look cross his face like, “Do you even care about what I’m saying?” He’s annoyed. He should be.

Because in that moment, my lack of attention left him feeling invalidated in our conversation. He was left feeling like he wasn’t important or interesting enough for me to pay attention to, or worse, like I just hijacked the conversation to talk about whatever I was thinking of instead of what he was bringing up. Which I totally did.

But like you, I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings. It just happened because I wasn’t making him a priority in that moment, but indulging my own self-absorption.

In contrast, when I remind myself of my intention to be a good friend to him, to help him feel cared for and validated by me, it’s a totally different experience. I will myself to focus on what he is saying. I look in his eyes. When I feel my mind starting to slide towards something other than what he is talking about, I bring it back to him by very deliberately reflecting something I heard him say. Or I ask open-ended questions to help him say more about what is going on for him, but also as a strategy to keep myself engaged.

I try really hard to stay present, and stay on topic. Sometimes I am more successful than others, but I know he sees me trying. We know each other well enough now and we can even laugh about it, as we do when I glaze and he just stops talking and makes a face at me. Humor helps.

Every flavor of invalidation has a validating antidote that’s a little different. I could go into great detail about what the antidote for each involves, but then this would be an actual self-help book rather than a blog post. But, briefly:

  • Inattentive invalidators need to stay present and use mindfulness skills to focus.
  • Belligerent invalidators need to find compromises that honor their partner’s feelings, too.
  • We controlling invalidators need to manage our anxiety, and trust in the competence of others.
  • Judgmental invalidators need to work on acceptance and generosity.
  • Emotional invalidators need to work on empathy and emotional intelligence skills.
  • Fixit Invalidators must make peace with the fact that feelings are valuable, even dark ones.

I hope that this discussion of how you may be accidentally invalidating your partner was helpful to you, and gives you clarity about how to shift the emotional climate of your relationship just by making your partner’s feelings and perspective as important to you as your own .

Now, please send this post back to your partner.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Attachment Styles: How Do You Connect?

Attachment Styles: How Do You Connect?

Jenna Peterson, M.A., LMFTC is a marriage counselor, couples therapist, premarital counselor, therapist and life coach at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She has a friendly, light style, and uses effective, evidence-based techniques to help you achieve your most important goals for your life and your relationships.

What Are Attachment Styles? Why Do They Matter?

Attachment styles impact the way you “do” relationships. Do you tend to push your partner away when it gets emotional? Do you get anxious when your partner walks away from an argument?  Do you do both? There are four different patterns of adult attachment styles that start in childhood and continue into our adult relationships. Take this mini attachment style quiz to find out which one you are — and how to manage it!

Attachment theory, based on the research of John Bowlby,  began as a way to understand children and the different bonds they form with their caregivers as “patterns of attachment.”  

However, we now understand that attachment styles show up in adult relationships as well and can have a negative effect on a relationship if not understood and attended to appropriately. As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I often keep attachment styles in mind as I’m working with couples eager to improve their relationships.

The Four Attachment Styles. (Which are you?)

Secure Attachment Style

Those with secure attachment tend to have the ability to trust and feel trusted by their partner with ease.  They view their partner as their “secure base” and tend to feel comforted in an intimate relationship. In romantic relationships, they can express themselves and their feelings. A securely attached person is also likely to be self-aware and have an understanding for what triggers them. Additionally, they have empathy for others too.

Paradoxically, a secure attachment style makes it easier to have space in a romantic relationship. A person with secure attachment can be left alone by their partner for a period of time without feeling abandoned. Or if they do feel anxious or concerned, they talk about their feelings openly (and appropriately).

Though securely attached people seek to get to resolutions when problems occur, that doesn’t mean they don’t argue with loved ones.  People with this attachment style may get angry and frustrated with their partner, but they try to resolve issues with their partner’s needs in mind. They also tend to calm down more quickly after conflict.

At the core of a secure attachment style is self-love. [More on this topic, read: “What is self-love?”]

Avoidant Attachment Style

People with avoidant attachment usually prefer to not argue at all and may walk away from conflict, rather than engage.  Shutting down and becoming silent can be common for people with this attachment style.

Even though people with an avoidant attachment style may seem like they don’t care, the truth is that they often feel threatened and overwhelmed in emotionally intimate situations. Therefore, they may distance themselves emotionally from others and withdraw once a situation requires vulnerability.

Though people with avoidant attachment styles may long for closeness and intimacy with their partner, the urge to protect themselves and avoid feeling painful emotions become the ultimate motive for their behavior.  

Anxious Attachment Style

An anxious attachment style usually involves a person who deeply desires closeness with their partner in order to soothe the anxiety that distance creates.  People with anxious attachment styles often make bids for attention and connection (which is good!) but sometimes to the point where they may be perceived as “needy” in romantic relationships.

A person with an anxious attachment style may become insecure and jealous of their partner if they perceive that they’re not getting what they need, particularly around emotional support. They may feel fearful when their partner leaves for extended lengths of time. Although they desire closeness and connection, their attempts to communicate their pain may be perceived as angry or even hostile by their partner. [Check out, “Getting Anger Under Control”]

Unfortunately, because people with insecure attachment styles tend to worry and struggle with trust,  they may accuse their partner of inappropriate behavior, with or without evidence. People with this style may feel as if they show their partner love far more than they get in return.

Disorganized Attachment Style

Disorganized attachment tends to have a mixture of avoidant and anxious attachment styles (it’s also known as “fearful avoidant” attachment).  People with this attachment style often pull their partner in, but when they start to feel vulnerable, shut their partner down.

It is difficult for a person with a disorganized attachment style to feel secure in a relationship, sometimes even when their partner is supportive and caring.  A disorganized attachment style may demand attention and intimacy from their partner, then withdraw and shut down once they receive it.

Though it can be challenging, it may help to understand that people’s attachment styles are rooted in early childhood experiences. Keeping this in mind may help you to have empathy for your partner’ attachment style.

What is Your Attachment Style? What is Your Partner’s Attachment Style?

In reading through these attachment style descriptions (aka, our mini attachment style quiz), you may have noticed already that you have one attachment style and your partner has a different one.  That is very common! As a couples therapist and marriage counselor, I often work with couples with different attachment styles. I know this can make understanding and communicating with one another all the more difficult, but it’s a solvable problem.  

Different Attachment Styles in a Relationship: Tips For Bridging The Gap

  • Strategy 1: Express Yourself – Do you know what your partner needs from you in order to feel fulfilled and supported?  Have you told your partner what you need? If not, that’s a great place to start. Sit down together with some paper or a whiteboard and write down what each of you need.  
    • For instance an example might be, “I’d like you to tell me I look nice, or compliment my appearance more often.” Or, “I’d like you to initiate sex more frequently.”  The more specific you can be, the better!
    • If things start getting tense, take a cool down and come back to the list when you feel calm.  If you can hear what your partner needs from the relationship you can better understand how your attachment styles are coming into play!
  • Strategy 2: Recognize Your Attachment Style – Start to notice what attachment style you are and when it comes up.  When it does, explore it!
    • Examples:
      • Did I just walk away from a fight? What made me walk away? What would I have needed to stay in the room and continue the conversation?  
      • Or, when do I feel most anxious about my partner?  Why am I so upset when I don’t hear back from my partner for a few hours?  What could my partner do to make me feel more secure in this moment?

(FREE ADVICE FROM A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR:  Before you do any of these exercises, each partner has to agree not to get defensive, and do their best to hear what their partner needs.  This isn’t a time to list grievances and tell the other what they’re doing wrong, but to tell your partner directly how they can make the relationship even better for you. If you try to have this conversation and it disintegrates into a fight, this could be a sign that it’s time to see a professional couples counselor.)

If you try these strategies you may have an easier time understanding your partner and also yourself.  By paying attention to how attachment styles come up in your life, you can increase your overall awareness and more easily replace old patterns with new ones, keeping your partner’s needs in mind.

Over time, as you both work on empathy, responsiveness, and taking ownership of the way you show up in your relationship, you can create a safe, secure attachment that feels good for both of you. 

Warmly,

Jenna Peterson, M.A., LMFTC

 

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

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

What Are Your Expectations In a Relationship?

Avoid The Three Relationship Expectations That Will Always Mess Things Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip: Try spending time with friends both as a couple and individually to build up your community.

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

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

Warmly,

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC

Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Relationship After Baby: Three Ways to Prepare

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a Denver Marriage Counselor, Online Couples Therapist, Premarital Counselor and Life Coach at Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She specializes in helping individuals, couples, and families create health and happiness, and flourish —  together.

How to Have a Great Relationship After Baby?

Plan Ahead.

 

As a Denver marriage counselor, online couples therapist, licensed marriage and family therapist and married mom of two I know that bringing a new baby into the family is truly one of the most amazing life transitions. We spend countless hours preparing for our new little member by creating a perfect nursery, talking about a birth plan and reading book after parenting book, but often we forget to think about our relationship after baby. It’s vital to prepare your marriage for a child, too.

How Does Having a Child Change a Relationship?

Let’s face it, having a baby requires a major adjustment in our relationship, including the way you communicate, work together as a team, and even show each other love and affection. I should know, I have two children…under two years of age! (But that’s another blog post.)

Making space for a third, or fourth member of the family brings growing pains in a marriage and often it is the one area that gets overlooked. This is a problem, because your relationship after baby can need some TLC too. It’s important to strengthen your relationship before welcoming a new child, so that you both have the most positive experience possible.

We increase our ability to have a smooth transition from a family of two to a family of three or more only if we plan for it. Here are a few tips to help you successfully navigate the path from partners to parents.

One: Identify Your Support System Before Baby Arrives

As the age old saying goes, “It takes a village, ” and I honestly believe that it does. The first couple of months of newborn life can be challenging. No matter how many books you’ve read or classes you’ve taken, parenting is the true definition of on-the-job training. Not only are you trying to climb the learning curve of this new job but you’ll be doing it on very little sleep. It is imperative that you have a support system that you can rely on when you’re tired, overwhelmed, worried or downright terrified that you’re doing it wrong (don’t worry, you’re not).

Figure out who is your individual support and who is the support for you as a couple. I cannot stress enough the importance of support for new moms specifically. Being postpartum coupled with the sometimes challenging experience of breastfeeding (if that is your choice) can be especially hard, and being able to lean on others that have gone through it, is life saving.

Encourage your friends and family to check in on you two, accept any and all offers for meals, cleaning, a break for a nap or a shower, and know who you’re going to call when you just need a minute to cry/vent/complain etc. Remember that asking for help is the truest sign of strength and not weakness. Being willing and able to know when you’re at capacity and need to tap out can assist in avoiding symptoms of depression and/or care fatigue.

This will help both of you as individuals, and as a couple. Having someone to support you both in taking “time-out” together can help sustain your relationship after baby. Also, having support to prevent either of you from becoming so depleted that you don’t have anything left to give to your partnership is very important.

If you don’t have a natural support system with friends and family to lend a hand, consider making your own — Ideally, as part of your pre-baby prep plan. Check out in-person or online postpartum support groups for emotional support. You may also consider finding opportunities to connect with other young families in the same situation who would welcome the opportunity to trade childcare from time to time.

Two: Employ Your Empathy

The practice of cultivating empathy for both yourself and your partner is one of the most important tools you have. Let’s be honest, sleep deprivation is an actual tactic used for torture. So when you are feeling highly irritable, overly emotional and that your brain closely resembles a fried egg reach for your empathy.

What’s empathy? Empathy is understanding how another person feels, and having compassion for them (as opposed to criticism or judgment). When you’re adjusting to a new child, neither of you are at 100%. You’re both going to make mistakes, say the wrong thing, or do something that will annoy each other. This is the time to give each other a pass. [For more on this topic check out “Empathy: The Key to Communication And Connection”]

Remember that it makes sense that you’re feeling on edge, or that your partner seems more easily agitated. Remind yourself that it is only temporary. You will sleep again, your distress tolerance will come back, your ability to think clearly will re emerge but in the meantime you will practice patience with yourself, and those around you.

Be thoughtful about the fights you choose, allow space for tears, and be gentle with your words for both yourself and your other half. Ideally, begin intentionally cranking up the empathy in your relationship well before baby arrives so you have lots of practice being more tolerant of each other before stress and sleep deprivation shorten your fuses.

Three: Negotiate Your Roles Before Baby Arrives

One of the biggest challenges of any transition is a renegotiation of roles. Bringing another person, albeit a small one, still brings along a whole new set of tasks. Your relationship after baby can look very different in terms of who does what around the house. Before baby is born, spend some time with your partner considering how you are going to split those tasks up.

Questions to ask each other before baby comes:

  • Will one person be solely responsible for night feedings and diaper changes or will those tasks be divided?
  • Will both of you be responsible for washing bottles? Or will one person be the keeper of all things milk?
  • How will you make sure that you both are getting time to take a break and check out of parenting duties, even if only for 10 minutes?
  • If you have pets in your home, consider who will be in charge of their needs while you’re adjusting to the needs of baby.

Remember that these roles can always be renegotiated as you go, but starting off with an initial idea of what household roles and responsibilities will look like will decrease the chance of a 2 AM screaming match about who should be changing a dirty diaper. Tackling the responsibilities of parenting together will also help keep feelings of resentment at bay and protect your relationship after baby arrives.

In my experience the first two months are the hardest part of the transition. At about 8-10 weeks it feels like a fog lifts and suddenly you re-emerge into the world of the living, but the initial weeks can feel like a whirlwind. Having a plan with your partner will at the very least give you a road map of ways to navigate the sometimes treacherous path so that you can spend more time enjoying your new baby, and become a stronger couple (and family) in the process.

And… congratulations!

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

The Power of Praise

The Power of Praise

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.

Catch People Doing Something Right.

Did you know that you have the power to perk people up, appreciate their wonderful, unique selves, and make them feel good about what they’re doing? And… that you have the power to make yourself feel that way about YOU, too?

It’s as simple as noticing what you, and others, are doing right.

Something I’ve learned from years of being a therapist, a life coach, and a couples counselor (as well as a wife, mom, colleague and friend) is this: Noticing, and commenting approvingly on positive behaviors not only makes you and others feel good, it also encourages more of the same.

Too often, people try to create change in others — and themselves — through criticism. They only speak up when something is NOT working. This leads their partners to feel that they “can never do anything right” (which I hear about all the time in marriage counseling) and it leads them to feel badly about themselves, and even doubt their competence and worth (a common topic in the therapy and life coaching room). [For more on this subject, check out “Creating Self Confidence.”]

When people feel bad about themselves, or like they’re always going to disappoint their partners, it’s nearly impossible to muster up the energy and try harder to do better. It feels like it doesn’t matter anyway, so why try?

Have you ever trained a dog? Do you scream at it whenever it does something you disapprove of, and ignore the instances when it behaves beautifully? No! Exactly the opposite is true: When your pup obediently sits / lays down / comes to you on command you lavish it with praise and reward with a treat. “Who’s a good dog? Who’s the best doggie? You are the best doggie!”

In contrast, think about your own internal dialogue when you don’t do something just right: You miss your workout, eat the donut, or make a mistake at work. If you’re like a lot of people, your inner critic berates you, calls you names, brings up all the other times you disappointed, and paints a bleak future. [For more on how to get a handle on your inner critic, check out The Happiness Class].

Now, think about your inner dialogue when you did make it to the gym, ordered the salad (dressing on the side!), and did your work just right………. Crickets. Chirping. Most people glide right by their own awesomeness, and that’s a shame.

Same goes for your partner. It’s so easy to jump all over people, or automatically radiate disapproving energy when others fail to meet our expectations. It’s also very easy to completely miss all the times — which are probably most of the times — that your partner is kind and generous.

You could certainly indulge the, “Why should I compliment them for just doing what they should be doing?” school of thought. But you’re probably reading this article because you want a next-level type of relationship. If that’s the case I invite you to imagine what kind of love-fest might ensue were you to slather on the praise and positivity when your partner is actually being great.

A simpler way to connect with the power of praise is to think about how YOU feel when your efforts are noticed, your specialness is admired by others, and your gifts are celebrated. It’s affirming. It’s validating. It makes you feel like you’re on the right track, and that you should keep doing more of what you’re doing, right?

Here’s one from me to you: I think that it’s fantastic that you’re browsing around online for articles that will help you build yourself up, feel happier, and have better relationships with others. Not everyone does that. Many just complain about their circumstances or blame other people.

But you understand that knowledge is power, and you’re open to new ideas. You are aware that you’re in control of your life, and you have the power to shape the results you get. You get that what you do, matters — and you’re committed to putting in your best effort.

That is a pretty great thing about you. I hope that you remind yourself of that fact as you go about the rest of your day — tossing around positivity and praise like you were the mayor of happy-town.

Much love,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. While you’re at it, try this one with a kid. Comment on something they did well, (like, “Good job listening!” or “I really like it when you look right into my eyes when I’m talking to you!”) and they will not just puff up with pride, but often fall all over themselves to get more of your approval. They’re hungry for it.

P.P.S. Everyone is.

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching