Solving Marital Conflict

5 STEPS to Resolving Marital Conflict

Conflict has a way of spiraling, and that spiral can continue to get worse until the damage can become irrevocable. The results of unresolved conflict can have negative effects on those around you, especially children. Marriages that work tend to practice positive conflict resolution skills – which moves things forward instead of pulling them back or causing the relationship to stagnate. Here are 5 STEPS to practice:

  • State the problem clearly – Don’t fight about fuzzy things, be specific about what the conflict is over. Muddying the water with lots of issues is not at all productive, and is only destructive.
  • Talk through possible solutions – Keeping the conflict solution based will ensure that you’re actually moving towards a resolution instead of just going around in circles. Each person should offer up possible solutions.
  • Exercise self-control – This can be challenging, especially when emotions are high. You will be tempted to pursue things that aren’t part of the current issue. And perhaps tempted to say things that aren’t helping but that feel good in the moment. For the sake of your relationship, take a time out if necessary and practice self control.
  • Pick a solution to try – Choose one solution to try. Anything, it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to absolutely please everyone. Just agreeing to decide on one course of action can help move you closure together and reduce some emotional stress.
  • See how it works – Be open to a solution actually working. Don’t stay trapped in the current situation through sabotage or by having a negative attitude. Even if it wasn’t your idea or the idea that you thought was best, give it a chance and if it doesn’t work, try something else.

Following these STEPS can be easy at times, but it can also be difficult. Sometimes an impartial third party with professional experience can help couples manage emotions and improve communication . If you are finding it challenging to manage conflicts, couples therapy can help. Don’t wait or let frustrations pile up. Learn the skills you need to help restore peace.

Before you get married, love, marriage

7 Things You Should Know Before You Get Married

 

We often put SO much focus on the wedding day that we rarely consider what’s coming later in the marriage itself. The marriage is what it’s about! So before you jump in, or get carried away with dresses and honeymoons, read over these 7 marriage essentials.

  • Marriage is risky business – It is often said that with great risk there is great reward. But sometimes, especially if you are not prepared, things can go sideways and upside down quickly. That’s just a fact. This doesn’t mean that you should be paralyzed by fear, but it does mean that you need to realize that there are no guarantees. And you might consider investing in pre-marital counseling to help identify and prepare for possible risks while strengthening your loving bond and commitment.
  • Marriage is work – Not only does it take work, but the union of two imperfect and evolving people is a work in progress. It doesn’t come easy. But it does not have to be burdensome. Like any great work of art, the work of marriage can be a creative and exciting transfer of energy that ignites growth and improves the quality of your life. You will have to put effort into it to make it happen, a whole lot more than you might imagine.
  • Marriage is not a fairy tale – There is no mythical happily ever after. Yes there can be great moments of happiness and a deep feeling of contentment, but the story does not end there. Unlike fairy tales, marriage is a continuous journey of ups and downs and everything in between.
  • Marriage is the joining of two individuals – Losing yourself is not a requirement for marriage. In fact it’s about valuing yourself enough to show up authentically in a loving and respectful way that fosters love, acceptance and growth. It’s about staying true to who you are while being part of something bigger than yourself.
  • Marriage involves more than just two people – There are the in-laws, the friends, the kids, the boss. All these relationships have an impact on you and will also have an impact in your married life. In marriage you get it all.
  • Marriage is an adventure – You’re creating as story together! One that will constantly be changing and evolving. It’s OK to make edits along the way. You may need to learn some new skills to fully embrace and enjoy this adventure of a lifetime.
  • Marriage can be very rewarding – There’s almost nothing better than sharing your life with someone. There’s a reason that so many people do it! Be ready for the good stuff, because if you are open, realistic, willing to work and to give of yourself, the rewards are immense!
Stress, Secondary Trauma, affect of violence in the news

“If it bleeds it leads” –but may also lead to Secondary Traumatic Stress for Individuals and Families

 

Daily reports of violent acts, including police and video footage of shootings and killings, have left many people feeling angry, afraid and worried. Many African Americans and those in other minority communities have vicariously identified with the victims in several of these tragedies. This personal identification has led to feelings of hopelessness, shock and fear. A great number of people from various ethnic and racial backgrounds have cried out for justice, positive change and peace. And others have spoken out on social media under #BlackLivesMatter. Some have responded with #AllLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter. In the midst of all the controversy, what is evident is the deeply personal and systemic emotional pain. Even though many of us may not be directly involved in these horrific events and are just hearing about them and/or watching and re-watching them on TV or other media, we are emotionally affected. And some people experience more severe emotions than others. These common distressful reactions to hearing about traumatic events and the effects of watching horrific acts can often lead to Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS).

What is Secondary Traumatic Stress? Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional distress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another. Its symptoms mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Accordingly, individuals affected by secondary stress may find themselves re-experiencing personal trauma or notice an increase in arousal and avoidance reactions related to the indirect trauma exposure. They may also experience changes in memory and perception; alterations in their sense of self-efficacy, a depletion of personal resources, and disruption in their perceptions of safety, trust, and independence. [1]
What are some of the symptoms? This is a partial list:
  • Anger
  • Hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Avoidance
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Poor Concentration
  • Aggression
Who Suffers? Everyone is at risk. Anyone who reads, watches the news or overhears conversations is vulnerable to STS. Couples and families and whole communities can be adversely affected. However, children, adolescents, parents and those in helping professions may be at greater risk. Risk appears to be greater among women and among individuals who are highly empathetic by nature or have unresolved personal trauma.
What are some solutions?
  • Increase Awareness of STS
  • Exercise and Good Nutrition
  • Stay Connected-prioritize personal relationships
  • Make a Wellness Plan
  • Psychotherapy
  • Practice good self-care
  • Create and/or participate in an accountability buddy system
We are all in this together. Ask for help when needed. Take periodic breaks from media. Take time to meditate. Nourish your personal relationships, your body and mind. Make personal wellness a priority.
“Love yourself, accept yourself, forgive yourself, and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” ~Dr. Leo Buscaglia
[1] http://www.nctsn.org/resources/topics/secondary-traumatic-stress
Improve Communicaton, relationships, conflict in relationships

7 Ways to Improve Communication

Ever feel like you’re not quite sure how a conversation got so out of hand? Maybe you started talking about plans to visit your mother and ended up in a yelling match about something that happened years ago. Sometimes you can feel like the person you are talking to is from another planet. And this is not because either of you looks or acts strange, but because you just can’t understand what the other is saying, or more importantly, what they mean by the words coming out of their mouth.

At times communication can be very challenging. This is partially due to the fact that in every relationship there are 3 interdependent entities at work that all need to be considered at the same time. These entities are namely–I, You and Us. The agenda of all these entities is to avoid pain and be understood, but often the approaches taken to accomplish this is what causes problems. Our style of managing conflict depends on how we have learned to cope and deal with pain.

The “I” part of a relationship is filled with thoughts and feelings that are filtered through a unique history and set of experiences that affect what is heard and how it is heard. For example if I had a bad day at work and when I get home the first question my spouse asks is “What’s for dinner,” depending on the tone of the question, my response will be based on how I process that question through my own emotional filter of sadness or frustration. In that simple question I might have heard “I am not important” or “I am a failure” or “I am inadequate.” The “I” in this situation might hear this message as a result of past personal pain that was triggered by events at work. In an effort to avoid pain, the “I” will practice coping behaviors that were learned long before “I” met “You.” And “I’s” response could result in behaviors that include things like getting angry, crying, criticizing or shutting down. These styles of coping generally fall under the category of blaming, shaming, controlling or escaping.

Likewise the “You” has its own set of thoughts, feelings and experiences that act as a filter and affect what is said and understood. In the same scenario, suppose “You” felt hungry and was looking forward to having a meal together and wanted I’s input. In this case I’s response could be quite confusing. In this situation, based on your partner’s history of personal pain, I’s response might have been interpreted by “You” as “I’m not safe” or “I am unworthy.”  As a result, the “You” might try to avoid pain by using sarcasm, manipulation, nagging or avoiding. The thoughts and responses of both I and You feed into painful feelings which escalate conflict and create a cycle of miscommunication for Us.

This third entity, Us, is a culmination of shared experiences. The Us processes information based on history together and can be triggered by non-verbal as well as verbal cues. Have you ever just had a sense that “We’re about to have an argument?” That’s the Us sensing danger and preparing to avoid pain. The Us is greatly influenced by the independent experiences of “I” and “You” as well as the give and take experiences between the two. The cycle created through these experiences with giving and receiving information becomes the learned coping style of Us. So not only is communication influenced by what I say, hear and understand based on my unique set of experiences, but it is also impacted by what You say, hear and understand and what was felt and experienced by Us.

You’re probably thinking –“No wonder it’s so complicated!” And because relationships thrive on communication it’s important to make every effort to get it right. Especially when a message that is misunderstood or a non-verbal cue that is misread can cause problems that can escalate quickly. So if you’re feeling a conflict or a disconnection, then try remembering the simple phrase and 7 letter acronym I LOVE US. It can help you regulate your own emotions and be a quick positive reminder to stay on track while helping you improve communication.

  • I – I have my own thoughts, feelings and reactions. Ask yourself these questions: What am I feeling and why? What do I tend to do when I feel this way and what reaction do I usually get? Is that the reaction I want? What do I want & need? What can I do differently?
  • Listen – Listen to your answers and listen to your spouse’s pain. This can be challenging so take a breath and a longer pause than you might be used to. Allow the other person to get their thoughts completely out without interruption or feeling rushed. Listen to understand rather than to just reply.
  • Observe – Observe your own feelings and your partner’s body language without reacting, almost as if you were watching a movie. Observe without criticism to gain information.
  • Validate – Acknowledge the other person’s feelings by paraphrasing what you hear. This shows that you are listening and seek to understand. For example: “I hear you saying you feel exhausted because you had a hard day at work. Is that right?”
  • Express – If what you hear is correct then express compassion and/or offer to help. You can also express your thoughts and feelings in a constructive and respectful way using the US part of the acronym.
  • Use “I” Statements – Phrase everything from your point of view, and really hold yourself to not using the word “you.” It sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s incredibly powerful. This puts the focus on what you’re feeling and thinking, rather than assuming or accusing.
  • Say what you mean & Stay on the Subject – When tempers rise it’s easy to say things you don’t really mean. Take a breath. Think before you speak and only say what you mean and what is relevant to the topic. Words can’t be taken back.

Although this tool can be easy to remember it does take practice and might require the help of a therapist to aid in creating positive lasting change. Don’t be hard on yourselves. Take a time out to avoid escalating conflicts when necessary and seek professional help when needed.

Wishing you Blockbuster Love Always,

 

Abusive relationships, power and control, domestic violence

Healthy Relationships Are Never Abusive

Leslie’s Story

I was reminded of Leslie’s story and the horrifying statistics about violence against women as I listened to the recent heartbreaking news report of a special education teacher that was fatally shot, while in her classroom, by her estranged husband. A sad truth is that many stories like these go untold, unnoticed and are repeated day after day. It could happen to any of us ­­– your sister, your mother, your daughter, a friend or you. Some men are victims too. Here’s one woman’s story that did not make the news.

It was a cold day in the city. So 30 year old Leslie* borrowed her mother’s heavy coat as she headed out to work. She ventured out in confidence, believing her estranged husband was behind bars for disturbing the peace and making verbal threats against her life a few nights before. Little did she know that her abuser had gotten out on bail and decided to discreetly follow and violently confront her with a deadly weapon.

Sadly, Leslie’s story is not uncommon. Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.[i]

Many times these cases involve red flag issues surrounding power and control that can destroy even non-violent relationships. What’s interesting is that frequently the actions that result from this power and control dynamic are not caused by a sense of over-importance, but are instead driven by fear, vulnerability and incompleteness. We all want to feel loved and desired in a deep, instinctual way. But when some people don’t think they have access to those emotions and make destructive choices based on their uncontrolled emotions that may have been influenced by poor role models or past trauma, then they might lash out and create a dangerously controlling and negative environment.

This was Leslie’s story. She had been married for 4 years too long and had attempted to run away from her abuser several times during their tumultuous relationship. Each time she ran away she was followed and out of fear, lured back into the cycle of violence. She thought this time was different because she ran far away to another city and had the courage to tell her story to family and the police. But as often is the case, things got worse before they got better. Her abuser was not derailed by distance and attacked her with a knife at a train station. Her coat was soaked with blood, her vision impaired and she was left with permanent scars. Thankfully she found help and is now free of the abuse and lived to tell her story. But not everyone survives.

Power and control are serious issues in a relationship, and can severely escalate down the line. If your partner is showing any of the signs of power and control in the cycle of violence, then it’s time to seek help immediately. In Chapter 3 of my book Blockbuster Love – Lessons from the Movies on How to Create Lasting Love: Part 1 Romance, I discuss the lesson that love is not obsession. “Sometimes…people mistake intense infatuation for being deeply and ‘crazy in love.’ Often these impulsive feelings are used as justification for the strength of their love when in fact it may suggest more of the intensity of their loneliness or fear of being alone. This can also lead to obsession.” It can also lead to desires to control another person and actions that support those desires.

Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Coercion and threats
  • Isolation
  • Emotional abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Deny, blame and minimizing
  • Punishing behaviors
  • Economic abuse
  • Intimidation
  • Shame, guilt and/or fear

Healthy relationships are never abusive. If you’re concerned about yourself or someone that you know being in an abusive relationship, seek help now! Call 911 or you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website at http://www.thehotline.org/ for more information. Your life is valuable. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

*Name and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individual.

[i] http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/

 

Myths about love, Love, Relationships

Living In La La Land & Other Myths About Love

Still in my pajamas from the night before, I sat tearfully disillusioned on my therapist’s couch. I had no energy to dress myself that day but somehow mustered just enough strength and courage to drive myself across town to seek answers, gain clarity and figure out the pieces of my life. As I stared out the floor to ceiling window of the office, I could see the Hollywood Hills in the distance. “What are you thinking right now,” my therapist asked.  I replied, “I’m thinking I don’t want to live in La La Land anymore.”

That was over 10 years ago, but I remember making that statement with two meanings in mind. On one hand I was thinking I’m tired of living in a town that seems to glorify the fake, make empty promises that builds your hopes then discards you like used tissue. On the other hand I was also thinking I’m tired of being lied to and closing my ears to the truth. You see at that time in my life I was struggling to make sense of life’s disappointments. I was questioning love and my husband’s Hollywood “deferred” dreams that were contributing to stress in our marriage. For me, moving to Hollywood was all about supporting my husband’s screenwriting career. And in the process I began to have some Hollywood dreams of my own. After a lot of rejection and delays, I began to feel a bit like Mia in the movie La La Land when she said “Maybe I’m not good enough! Maybe it’s like a pipe dream.”

Several years ago my husband wrote the national bestseller What I Wish I Knew before I Moved to Hollywood. In it he chronicled his journey in the City of Stars. When I saw the movie La La Land I immediately connected to the story and reflected on our own journey and the things I’ve learned about love and relationships along the way.

Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t yet seen the movie La La Land and plan to see it, you might want to watch it before reading further.

For those of you who have already seen this award winning film, you know that it artfully depicts a love story between jazz musician, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and rising actress Mia (Emma Stone). What you might not realize is that this movie also dispels some myths about romantic relationships and love. Here are five:

Myth #1

  • When you’re in love you’ll never be lonely again – In the film Mia and Sebastian each experience times of loneliness when the other is off pursuing their career. The truth is you can feel very lonely even when you are in the company of others. Loneliness is not about being in or out of love. Everyone feels lonely at times. But chronic loneliness is about social and emotional pain that has the potential to spur personal growth or contribute to depression.

Myth #2

  • My partner should always make me happyIf you are waiting for someone to make you happy, you’ll never be. Mia and Sebastian both pursued their individual interests that contributed to some shared joyful moments. The truth is there will be good and bad days but general happiness is more dependent on your own thoughts and actions and is within your personal control.

 Myth #3

  • We will always like the same things – I love the scene in the movie where Mia tells Sabastian she doesn’t like jazz. As important as jazz is to this musician, this difference in musical taste does not stop their love connection. They disagree about many things including the name of Sebastian’s club. Differences can add spice to relationships while contributing to positive growth. In the end Mia came to appreciate jazz and Sebastian finally agreed with Mia about the name of his club. In reality it’s great to have things in common but people change and just because you don’t like the same things doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed.

Myth #4

  • Love is an uncontrollable & irrational feeling – This is a common myth that has its roots in infatuation. The truth is love is a choice. In the movie the couple choose to be together and in the end even though they choose to part ways, Mia says “I’m always gonna love you.” And Sebastian replies “I’m always gonna love you too. It’s important to realize we each have the power to choose love over hate.

Myth #5

  • Love should be easy – Many people believe that if love is not easy it’s not real. However, common life experiences show us that love can be messy, imperfect, satisfying and very real. In fact this film does a great job of depicting just a peek at how beautifully imperfect love can sometimes be. From Sabastian missing Mia’s important play to arguments about career decisions, personal disappointments and mishaps -through all the conflict and miscommunication, love survives. It even survives their eventual break up and continues into Mia’s new roles as wife and mother. What Sebastian says about jazz is also true of love –it involves “conflict and compromise and it’s very, very exciting.”

Ultimately, I chose to stay in Southern California and work on myself and our marriage. I learned that it’s ok to take risks and it’s even ok to fail. I grew to understand that disappointments are opportunities for growth.  And I learned that being good enough is not measured in the eyes of others but in how I view and value myself. I realized that I am strong enough to handle the truth and I can let go of fear. Also more important than where I live is how I live, especially how I live with myself. I’ve learned many invaluable lessons, changed careers and experienced joy I wouldn’t trade for anything. Like the final scene in La La Land so beautifully illustrates, life is about making choices that are often bittersweet and although love stories are not always perfect -as Seb’s final knowing smile indicates – It’s always worth it.

stuck in same relationships

Relationship Loops: Feeling Stuck and Starting Over

Have you or someone you know ever been caught in a relationship déjà vu? You know the kind of feeling you get when you date different people but they all seem the same? Or perhaps a friend introduces you to her new guy and he’s just like her old guy. Not only that, but the relationship ends just like the last one ended. Wash, rinse, repeat–things keep happening the same way. I call this phenomenon a “Relationship Loop”–no matter how many different faces you date, they all seem to be the same person and the relationship leaves you frustrated and disappointed. It reminds me of the film Groundhog Day where Phil (Murray) is stuck in a time loop and illustrates the painful process of starting over.

Phil is stuck in a agonizing situation. Everyday is February 2nd. Everyday he is surrounded with the same people and same set of circumstances. Like many of us he is forced to make choices. He makes choices between hope and despair, selfishness and generosity, gratitude and entitlement, and love and loneliness. Through trial and error he learns to choose wisely and practices a new way of living that ultimately moves his life forward, reaping great rewards. He learns that the only person stopping him from achieving love and life satisfaction is himself. When he gets out of his own way and starts seeing each day as a gift, starting over get easier and there is a new found joy in his daily journey.

Some relationships may end prematurely due to one or both people feeling stuck and believing that starting over with someone new is the answer. This can lead to relationship loops–a feeling that regardless of the number of times you change relationships, you’re still with the same person that has a different body. Is it possible that instead of being with a new person you could focus on becoming a better version of yourself? Or could it be that you are with the right person but have the wrong attitude and the person who needs to change is looking at you in the mirror?

Many couples who are satisfied in their relationships have discovered that there will be ups, downs and plateaus along the way. How the couple responds at each of these stages can make or break relationships. Lasting love is attained by self-reflection, emotional self-regulation and self-improvement in the plateau stage. Making choices that support love, hope, generosity and gratitude, can produce a joyous spike that can carry you through whatever comes your way. It is by practicing these virtues that we achieve and maintain lasting love.

If you are experiencing distress in your relationships and would like to speak with a therapist please call 818-806-9170 to schedule a free 10 minute phone consultation.

To purchase a copy of Lisa Locke’s book Blockbuster Love – Part1: Romance: Lessons from the Movies on How to Create Lasting Love, click here.

Create lasting relationships, making relationships last, love, relationships

7 Secrets for Lasting Love

How can love last for a lifetime? It’s not as complex as you might think, though at times it’s not easy either.

  1. Express physical love daily – Every single day do something that connects you physically in a positive way. This can be as little as a quick kiss or as lovely as a long bath together. Sex is great, but don’t limit yourself to only one way to express physical love. Explore new opportunities to bring each other pleasure. Cuddle for just a moment, linger in a hug, hold hands, keep that physical relationship alive.
  2. Make goals together – Your life together will only be together if you plan your future that way. Certainly have your own goals too, but the broad vision of your life must be a shared one.
  3. Give and Take – You’re just not going to get your way all of the time. On big things, on small things, on lots and lots of things. It’s important to have a loving balance of giving and receiving that is not out of obligation or fear.
  4. Spend time together – Do this more than you might think that you need to. Plan weekly date nights. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just focus on spending quality time together. The more time you spend together, the closer you’ll grow.
  5. Spend time apart – Spending some time alone or with friends is just as important as spending time together. Maybe plan a girls or guys night out once a month. Expecting your partner to provide all your interpersonal needs can put a strain on the relationship. Nourish yourself in healthy ways so you can contribute to the health to the relationship.
  6. Communicate – This can’t be said enough. If couples are not talking, listening and understanding each other, problems are bound to occur. If necessary, work on improving your communication skills in therapy. Check in with your partner daily. Make time to express thoughts and feelings. And really listen!
  7. Commit – Lasting love is a choice. It takes work. But like anything else you desire to achieve, it is possible with dedicated effort. When both parties decide to make this a goal and commit to making the relationship a priority, especially through tough times, then love can last forever.

The Best Gift to Give at Christmas

The holidays are here and I have no idea what to get my husband for Christmas. It doesn’t help that he tends to go shopping for himself right before Christmas, his birthday and father’s day which limits my choices and is the source of mild frustration. As a matter of fact, he just walked in from the mall with the very thing I was considering getting for him. Arghhh!

If you’re at all like me and hate crowded malls and sometimes agonize to find the perfect gifts for family and friends, then maybe you can sympathize. Today as I sat scouring the internet for gift ideas, the thought occurred to me that perhaps others are really struggling with this time-honored tradition of gift giving and receiving at this time of year. Or maybe some of you are worried that you will not receive the gift you are hoping for and have trouble trusting and waiting.

Gift giving and receiving, particularly during the holidays, can bring joy but can also be stressful. For some, the mere thought of what to buy someone can trigger anxiety, guilt, or even fear. For others, not getting a desired gift can lead to disappointment, anger, blame and arguments. On the flip side, sometimes being showered with gifts can trigger feelings of unworthiness and lead to shaming behaviors. Financial issues can add an additional layer of stress and shame to what is termed to be “The most wonderful time of the year.” So why all this tension and stress around something seemingly simple that can bring so much cheer? And what can be done to alleviate it?

Looking through the lens of the Restoration Therapy model, these distressful feelings can often be traced to our childhood. Did someone reject an expression of our love or violate our trust in our formative years? For me, I remember dreading participation in gift exchanges in elementary school. My family did not have a lot of money when I was growing up and there were times when the gifts I offered at school were ridiculed by peers. There were other times I spent more than I could afford and was disappointed with what I received. These experiences caused me to second guess myself and question the safety of gift giving in relationships. As a result, I learned to cope with feelings of inadequacy by shaming myself through unnecessary apologies and being negative. I internalized the sensed rejection of my gift or the unequal reciprocation to mean something was wrong with me. As an adult, sometimes when faced with gift giving or receiving I tend to experience the same dysregulating feelings of inadequacy and enact the same negative coping behaviors. This usually results in “perceived” criticism from others (i.e. “You shouldn’t have.”) which only feeds more into my feelings of inadequacy. In restoration therapy this pattern is referred to as a pain cycle. When we experience a violation of love or trust we create meaning about our identity and/or safety. This meaning we create drives our actions and influences how we cope. The way others respond to our actions feeds back into our painful feelings. So in essence it’s never about the gifts but what they represent to us based on our past pain. It’s about the meaning we attach to them and thoughts we create about ourselves. The good news is we can also create new thoughts and feelings to break the pain cycle.

A good place to start is by gifting yourself with love and compassion, recognizing your cycle of pain and practicing what Professor Terry Hargrave calls your peace cycle. This is done by following these 4 simple steps:

  • Say what you feel…I feel unworthy
  • Say what you tend to do when you feel that way…When I feel unworthy I shame myself by being overly negative and apologetic
  • Say your truth…The truth is I am worthy of love & acceptance and I love & accept myself
  • Say what you will do differently…Therefore I will give freely with joy without apology and accept gifts with gratitude

Although I’m still not sure what I will get my husband for Christmas, I am certain that as I practice my peace cycle my emotions calm and I’m reminded that the greatest gift is love. Love keeps on giving and for this I am forever grateful.

May you experience peace as you choose to give and receive the gift of love to yourself and others this holiday season and always.

Happy Holidays!

Marriage and Money, Manageing money in marriage

Money Matters

Money management is a top cause of relationship failures. The reason is that people have vastly different expectations of how money should be managed depending on their background and economic status. The main thing with money, just as with everything else in relationships, is to have open and honest communication. That’s easy to say! Here are some expert tips for managing money within a relationship that can benefit any couple.

  • Set guidelines and either stick to them or renegotiate, don’t let resentment build.
  • Allow for some financial freedom for everyone. It can be $10 or $500, but that ability to make decisions separately is an important part of maintaining healthy relationships. It contributes to the feeling that everyone has a separate worth.
  • Don’t hide spending habits. Ever. This is non-negotiable. Make it clear that any mistakes can be worked through and that you can make it work as partners, so that everyone is comfortable being honest.
  • Get real about your money. Set boundaries and live within them, so that excess spending doesn’t leave you regretting something. Never make big purchases without consulting your partner.
  • Money is not a weapon, don’t use it like one in your relationship or you’ll just skewer yourself.
  • If you find that you and your partner are arguing about money, take a step back and ask yourself – is this fight really over money or something else? It’s easy to use finances as a scapegoat.