Relationships – what changes can you make?
A bad relationship with your spouse or partner is a toxic and debilitating experience. You will be spending a lot of your time aroused and angry and resentful and feeling stuck or unsafe. And this will be impacting on other parts of your life – your relationships with other family members, with friends and perhaps your work also. And your efforts to find a way through to meeting some of your essential human needs from the relationship (for intimacy and connection and control) may be leading you to concealment and betrayal or addictive behaviours.
I can help you both find a way through – to calm you, to react differently and bring you both some resolution and sustainable help.
The best relationships advice is to know what you can do to create a new dynamic in your marriage or partnership. Good couples counselling is less to do with you as a couple but more about you individually. My experience is that most problems can be solved by you (or you both acting separately at first) to find that change and see where it goes.
A good intimate relationship is essential for emotional health and there is a great deal that you can do to save yours. Good couples counselling is not that different from one on one counselling – which is about knowing what you can do differently to live a life of better balance and control.
If you want something you have never had, then you must do something you have never done.
You really do have to do something differently you know – and not just repeat the same old strategy you typically use – but just wrapped up a little bit differently.
Your relationship is a complex dance – where a small change in your behaviour will have a big second and third order effect. Act differently and (like the butterfly who flutters his wing in China) there will be an effect on your relationship?
There are so many threads in your relationship – the everyday living – of bills to be paid, money to be earned, children to be cared for perhaps, houses to be cleaned and meals to be cooked. And your relationships will extend out to each of your families, common friends and separate friends …. And shared interests and passions …. And those activities that you find are just for you … or for him or her.
And who could possible comprehend all those connections that defines the complex and largely unconscious web of your relationship – of change and stability too. And that includes you of course.
As you realise something of the complexity of your relationship with your partner, you can realise also that this insight is exciting and liberating.
It means that there are so many ways and so many points of entry for you to have an influence. For you to take a degree of control in order to initiate real change and movement.
John Gottman – one of the giants in the relationship field
He found that there are four responses of a partner that are toxic for a relationship – the four Horsemen. Click here for Gottman’s website
- Criticism – always finding something wrong in your partner and generalising
- Contempt – clearly showing a lack of respect
- Defensiveness – always looking and acting to defend yourself
- Stonewalling – for men mainly, just not engaging and running away
Gottman also discovered in his research the 5 to 1 rule. In good relationships – there are 5 good encounters for every 1 that is bad.
Using the Gottman insights to initiate a small change?
Less critical, contemptuous, defensive and stone walling – and getting the ratio up of good to bad encounters.
When are your conversations and words with your partner generalised and toxic? …you always do…you never ever…you are just…I never did say that… why do you always…you know what I mean
- Be specific instead – cut down your habits of generalised criticism and contempt and of cutting off and looking to protect (you never listen, you are so controlling).
- Cultivate specific compliments that require you to observe and think about them in order that you can make them real and specific compliments. Not generalised stuff like you are wonderful or funny but specific like – I really admire you when you ……
Working on yourself
And listen to this, my Improving Partner Relationships MP3:
When we are highly aroused – angry or scared or scornful or whatever it is – then we have to calm down to gain control and so be able to use our intelligent developed brain. That part that is aware of consequences and not just the immediate high emotion moment and the overwhelming desire to discharge and complete the emotion – whatever the consequences may be.
See that line in the sand that you know you cannot cross – because if you do, then control is lost. What are the sign posts to that line? How much warning do you have? And how easy is it to turn back and wait until you are calm again.
Ideally you need at least 20 minutes to calm down, to really calm down. To take a walk, go to a different room; listen to some music or busy yourself or whatever. And you and ideally your partner must heed these signs and take that time out.
Because men and women are natural compliments – go here for more on this
Men will tend to focus in problem solving – being specific and wanting to get on with things. And when aroused or stressed, men are more likely to want be on their own or doing something else. Men are more aware and happy with pecking orders and are less comfortable with high emotion. They talk less and respond better to structure and order.
Women are more comfortable multitasking – yes they really are. And in contrast to men will be happier talking about it and not necessarily to find the resolution. They can be more sensitive and uncomfortable with the unspoken rules behind social interaction which seem to create inequalities. Women are more comfortable with emotions.
I can see you together or individually – and we can begin to change what needs to be changed.