Be Who You Are

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”

I love this quote by Margaret Young! I think this quote stands out to me so much because this is what I do. It happens to be how I make my living, but for me and for my clients it’s so much more than that. I help people to discover who they are. Embrace who they are. Learn to love who they are. Find comfort and stability and pride in who they are. And then, it’s amazing, the rest, what they said they wanted… it just comes. Are you ready to discover who you are?

Are You “Should-ing” All Over Your Relationship?

mindylovespanda

I am in the middle of reading an amazing book, I Thought it Was Just Me (but it’s not): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power by Brene Brown.  Brene Brown is a researcher who has spent the last 10 years studying women and shame.  In her book, Brene primarily focuses on how shame effects, influences women.  For me, as a couple’s counselor, I can’t help but make the connections between shame and relationships.

One aspect that Brene explores, that specifically relates to relationships, is how shame is all about perception; shame is how we see ourselves, and our relationships, from other people’s perspective.  In other words, we base what we “should” and/or “shouldn’t”do around what other people might think of us.

“The Should-ing”

We all have “should’s” in our lives.  We start learning them before we can even talk.  We learn ways that we “should” eat, play, wash, talk, study, work, manage money, raise our kids, clean our house, choose a car to drive, or a book to read, or a wine to purchase, or which extra activities we participate in, and even how to show our love and appreciate for others.  Really, the list could go on forever!  It becomes so second nature for us to “should” ourselves, that sometimes we forgot to stop and figure out if the “should” is even what we want. I see this all the time with the couples I work with!  Both come into the relationship with their own “should’s” for what a successful/happy relationship looks like.  How could they not, right?  And when I ask them what they want in a relationship, they have a hard time answering, because they don’t know. Often, we end up letting the desire to be seen as the hot, fun, most in love, magical, special, best, successful couple rule what we think we “should” do in our relationship.  Overtime, this creates disconnection and distance in our relationships, and soon our relationships becomes a “should do” like work, vs. a want to do.

The Good News

The good news is that we can change this!   Just like there isn’t one perfect profession for everyone, there isn’t one perfect relationship model for everyone either.  The best part of being in a relationship is that you get to create it to be whatever you want it to be!

What I mean by this….

Now, yes, there are some basic traits that successful relationships tend to have.  For example, John Gottman’s research has shown that a couple’s “ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitably in any relationship,” directly relates to the fulfillment and strength of the relationship.  So while the skill of conflict resolution is important in relationships, how you resolve conflict in your relationship is up to you. The HOW is yours to change, create, make, tailor to you and your relationship. It’s part of what makes relationships great, and yet we tend to forget this simple concept.  We get to create the relationship we want!  If you want to have taco Tuesday’s you can.  If you want Santa to visit your kids twice a year, guess what, you can.  If you want to plan in separate vacations each year, again, you can.  You want to resolve conflict by talking with funny accents….you can!

How you might be “should-ing” on your relationship

When our idea’s of what our relationship “should” look like, or how we “should” handle conflict, or what our partner “should” do for us comes from how we want to be perceived by others vs. what works for us, we end up “shoulding” all over our relationship.  (And let me tell you, “shoulding” feels just the way it’s similarly sounding friend {wink} feels when it happens to you!) Here’s a simple way to figure out some of the places you may be “should-ing” on your relationship without even knowing it…
  1. List out all the things you do in your relationship.  Include work, kids, money, entertainment, vacations, house chores…. anything and every area you can think of.
  2. Put a check by all the ones you do because you feel somehow, or in some way, like you “should” do.
  3. Now, circle the ones that are left that you do just because you love them.
  4. Ask yourself if this list of circled items they way you want to live your life?  Is it enough to fulfill you?

If not, stop”should-ing” on your relationship, and start creating the relationship of your dreams, literally!

       

How to Make Your Partner Feel Loved

In my last post we explored how the Golden Rule can actually be harming your relationship because it assumes that your partner wants and appreciates the same things you do. Now, when I share this concept with my clients, most totally get it, and yet have serious difficulties applying this concept to their relationship.   It may take a little effort, but this is one of the most helpful concepts to become skilled at understanding for your relationship: it’s not up to your partner to learn the way you express love, it’s up to you to learn the way your partner feels love.

Why is this distinction so important?

Understanding and applying this seemingly subtle distinction is very important in relationships because when you do things the way your partner experiences love it fills him/her up, but when you ask your partner to experience love from your way, you actually deplete them. There are already so many life stressors’ that cause stress and tax us, especially in our relationships.  Bills, in-laws, cleaning, work, friends, children, ex’s can all take their toll and leave us feeling depleted and tired.  It’s normal, natural, and happens in every relationship.  But here’s the thing- when you are feeling depleted and tired, how much tolerance do you have?  How strong is your ability to compromise?  To understand?  To communicate?  For most of us, these areas are all significantly decreased by being depleted and tired; yet our irritability, short temper, anger, and hurt skyrocket. Now think about how you handle the life’s stressors when you are well rested, happy, and content.  How much stronger is your ability to compromise, communicate, and understand?

Running on a full tank vs. an empty one

It’s like with your car, you’ve got to take time to fill up the gas tank before you run out of gas to keep your car running.   Showing your partner appreciation in a way they feel it, is like filling up their gas tank.  It gives them fuel to more easily handle the stressors in life, and to better navigate the waters of your relationship.

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to help kick start you understanding of this concept

How do you express love to others, especially your partner? What makes you feel the most loved and cared about? How does your partner express their love? What makes them feel the most loved and cared about? Have you ever asked your partner what makes them feel the most loved? What forms of love are you most comfortable expressing?  What forms are you most uncomfortable expressing? How do these (answers from above) influence your assumptions of what your partner likes?      

An Example of Couples Education

In my past post I shared how I feel like my title should actually be Couple’s Educator instead of Couple’s Counselor.  So this time I thought it might be helpful to share an example of this.  We all know the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have done unto you,” and many of us try to live by this code.  Seems nice, respectful, helpful, and what “good people” do, right?

What you might not realize, is that when it comes to relationships, the Golden Rule can be the kiss of death!

I’m serious!  This rule that we all learned back in kindergarten can be the downfall of your relationship.

Here’s my example of just how it can be damaging….

Let’s say there is a couple named Ross and Rachael. Ross grew up with 8 brothers and sisters, in the country, with little money.  In his family when it was someone’s birthday they got to pick what the family had for dinner that night, and everyone else pitched in and did their chores for the day. Rachael on the other hand, grew up an only child, in the city, with lot’s of money.  When it was her birthday, her parents threw her huge parties with clown’s, balloon animals, jumping houses, cotton candy machines- the works. As adults, Ross and Rachael meet, fall madly in love, and get married.  During their first year of marriage both really try hard to do things they think the other will like and appreciate, including birthday celebrations.   Ross has the first birthday and Rachael throws him a huge surprise party in their back yard.  All their friends and family are invited, it’s catered, there is live music, and a dance floor- it’s an elaborate celebration.  During the party Ross is a bit withdrawn and quiet and so Rachael asks him, “What’s wrong, don’t you like the party?”  Ross responds with, “You didn’t put this on the credit card, did you?” Rachael is heartbroken and hurt, she bursts into tears and feels totally unappreciated.  Ross feel frustrated, embarrassed, uncomfortable, and totally unsure about what just happened. Then, a few month’s later it’s Rachael’s birthday. Ross makes a point of coming home from early that day and says to her, “Baby, I want to take you out to dinner tonight.  Anywhere you want to go.  You pick it, and we’ll head out.  And, I want you to know that this weekend, no matter what, every single thing on that honey-do list you have for me, it’s getting done!  I don’t care how long it takes me, I promise I’ll get through the whole list.”  Rachael’s response to this birthday offering, “Is that all?!?” Again Rachael feels hurt, let down, and unappreciated.  Ross feels confused, frustrated, and again, totally unsure about what went wrong.

The message in this….

It’s a simple example, with a big message in it.  Both Ross and Rachael did things that appear nice, loving, and appreciative but here’s the catch, it was based on what they would want and appreciate not on what the other one would want and appreciate.

Can you see the difference?

So often in relationships we get excited and focused on what would feel good to us and totally forget that our partner is a different person than we are.  We do like we were taught in kindergarten, follow the Golden Rule with the best of intentions, and yet come out feeling like crap.  Then in the future, it’s the crap feeling we remember and focus on, and we begin to put less effort into surprising, or building up, or showing appreciation to our partner for fear of being shot down again.

So, how do we go about changing this cycle?

We start by asking our partner what they would like, and then believe them when they tell us! If you have a hard time believing them, tell them that.  Try explaining that it is so different from what you would want, that it’s hard for you to understand that they will be happy with their request.  Let them in to your world, and what you’d want, and then have fun comparing and contrasting what they want. In the end, the Golden Rule is about not hurting other people; it’s about treating people with respect.  By opening up this conversation with your partner, and learning more about them and their interests, you can follow the Golden Rule and have a happy successful relationship!