Freaked Out By “Shoulds” – A client’s letter to her mother

I realize that I was always trying to be who you wanted me to be …

This letter was written by a client as a ‘therapy’ homework assignment and I thought it was incredibly powerful. She gave me permission to reproduce it as long as I waited at least a year and omitted her name. I have done both. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen through the years that could have written the same letter addressed to either a mother or father.  Read through and see my thoughts at the end…

Dear Mama,

I’ve been asked to write a letter to you that expresses my feelings about growing up as your daughter. I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to say to you because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. In fact, I’ve always wanted to just love you. I’ve wanted you to love me and I think you did. In your own way. I have had a hard time understanding that you love me because I don’t believe that you ever accepted me. There were so. many. shoulds. I can’t get rid of them.

I know, you say that you do accept me except that you kept telling me all the things I “should” do. You told me I ‘should’ go to church, that I ‘should’ date Kevin, that I ‘should study harder, and that I ‘should’ go back to school. I tried to tell you that those things didn’t matter to me but you didn’t listen. You told me I ‘should watch what I eat” that I ‘should’ wear my hair short, and that I ‘shouldn’t’ wear short shorts. If I had done those things, I would have been a mini version of YOU – not me. Those things weren’t ‘me’. More than that, you told me I ‘should’ have kids before I got much older and when I did you went so far as to tell us how we ‘should’ parent them. Jesus mom… why ‘should’ I??

Today, I am freaked out by all the ‘shoulds’ that I’ve never achieved. I feel like a failure. I didn’t do what you thought I ‘should’ and somehow I decided that since I wasn’t doing those things that you wouldn’t (couldn’t?) love me. I am not all the things I ‘should’ be mama and I know you are disappointed. Here’s the thing I am confused about.

Why couldn’t you just love ME. The person I am. Why do I have to be like you in order to be considered good or OK? Why do I have to like what you like? Why can’t you just be OK with the person that I am? I’m not a crack addict or a mass murderer. I’m a pretty good person but I feel like it will never be ‘good enough’.

Frankly mama, I didn’t ask to be here. You did that. And because you chose to bring me into this world, I would assume that you might just be happy with who I am but that’s not what I thought for most of the time that I was growing up.

Yes, you came to my basketball games. Yes, you bought me a prom dress. Yes, you sent me to college. I probably didn’t appreciate any of those things at the time as much as I could have. However, I never felt like I could really talk to you. I was always waiting for the next criticism to come. “Don’t eat that”, “you need to lose five pounds”, “Don’t drink, or have sex, or curse”, “go to class”, “clean your car”, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I’m in therapy now mama and I am trying to discover who I am. I realize that I was always trying to be who you wanted me to be and I never figured out what felt right to me. I am almost forty and I am just now doing that. I am not blaming you per se as the therapist tells me you probably did the best you knew how to do. I hope to accept that someday.

In the meantime, I want you to know that I am throwing all those shoulds out the window and I am asking you right here, right now to ACCEPT ME AS I AM. I think that is your role as my mother. Just love me and all the things that might be different from you. We don’t have to agree, we just need to respect that we are two different people and accept those discrepancies, not judge them.

I want you in my life IF you are willing to just take me as I am. I, in turn, will take you as you are. No blame. Just compassion and acceptance. That’s it.

As children, we make the general assumption that our parents love us – or at least we have the unconscious and simply human expectation that they do/will. We tend to develop an understanding of love’s expression via the environment, television, social cues, etc… if a father beats his child stating it is ‘because’ he loves him/her – the child develops an understanding that physical abuse is a form of ‘love’ until he/she is taught otherwise.

If a parent is ‘absent’ – for whatever reason – there is generally an assumption on the child’s part that love is also absent. Children have difficulty sometimes separating ‘fact’ from ‘perception’ – actually even adults are challenged with that from time to time and yet we may expect that our children ‘know better’ (well, of course I love you).

Parents can listen more and preach less.

Parents can accept more and judge less.

Parents can teach more and dominate less.

Parents can trust more and fix less.

Parents can guide more and dictate less.

Most parents do the best they can – based on what they know – in that moment. We really can’t expect much more than that but… when we learn more we need to make it a point to do better instead of assuming that it’s too late or that we are too old to make big changes.

The mother of the client who wrote this letter eventually came to a few sessions with my client where they discussed this letter and learned to accept and honor one another’s differences. Today, the client and the mother have a loving relationship based on compassion, tolerance, and clear expectations. It is working.

Too bad it took almost 40 years.

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Does ‘Everything Happen For A Reason’??

Some people believe there is no reason at all – that shit happens – plain and simple…

I heard someone this week say that they had a love/hate relationship with the thought that ‘everything happens for a reason’. How does one consider that the death of a newborn baby or the young father of four children or the massacre of a village has a ‘reason’? How hard is it to try and believe that the most devastating thing we’ve ever experienced may have some kind of ‘purpose’ attached to it?

It’s completely nonsensical and yet our humanness insists on trying to answer the question… “Why?”

We just can’t help but wonder…

When I was fifteen years old, I accompanied a friend to Youth For Christ student conference. For me, it was about going to the beach because it was in Ocean City, Maryland and I had only seen the ocean one other time so I was really excited. On that first day as I woke with thoughts about donning my bikini and lathering myself with baby oil, we were instead herded into this big auditorium with hundreds of other teenagers to listen to people talk for a couple of hours. Someone promised me that I would eventually get to the beach.

The first speaker began by telling us a story that I have never forgotten. He talked about how he was late for a speech one day and he was flying down the interstate, driving way too fast, being way too aggressive and focused only on getting to where he needed to go so that he wouldn’t be late.

He talked about how annoyed he was that a little red car was driving in the left lane, the lane that was supposed to be for passing people only. He described how he got right up on the bumper of that little red car and flashed his lights so that the car would pull over and let him by. But the car just kept going, preventing this guy from going any faster.

And then he said, he got a flat tire. He recounted hearing the pop, noticing the wobble in the steering wheel and feeling the car pull. He had no choice but to pull over to the side of the road and he said that he cursed the entire way; so frustrated that he was going to be even more late than he already was.

This guy was angry. He explained that the entire time he was changing the tire he thought dark, ugly thoughts and then he got back on the road and went even faster.

After a few miles he hit a traffic jam and could see a lot of emergency lights up ahead. Again, he described extreme frustration because everything that could be going wrong this particular morning, was going wrong and it was making him later and later.

As he came upon the problem there was a car upside down in the middle of the roadway with bloodstains across the windshield. Alongside that car was the little red one that he had been tailgating just a while earlier and it looked like an accordion, having been smashed from both the front and the back.

In that split moment, he said realized that if it hadn’t been for the flat tire, the upside-down car may very well, have been his car. He could have been the one IN this accident. He could be on his way to the hospital or worse, he could be dead.

If it weren’t for that flat tire.

This man, and I am sorry that I don’t know his name, spoke about how he got off the interstate, cancelled his speaking engagement, and went to church. He went to church to say thank you for the flat tire. He went to church to express gratitude and from that day forward, every time something bad happened, he would go to church and say thanks. No questions asked.

I’ve never forgotten that story and in fact… it has directed much of my life; so much of the perspective that I’ve attempted to solidify when something unexpected and indeed, tragic has happened. It’s amazing how many different ‘reasons’ I’ve considered for some of the things I’ve experienced.

Is it true? Does everything happen for a reason? When it’s a minor thing like a flat tire or a cancelled flight, thinking that there may be a Universal rational is easy to consider. But when it is a true tragedy, a horrific accident or unnecessary death, the theory seems to implode; to be nonsensical and we can’t seem to rectify the logic.

We don’t know. We’ll never truly know – not until we die.

There are books written from people who have died, temporarily at least – and they tell us that there was light… God… Angels… and Sprit Masters… that’s a great thought.

I’m a bit of a skeptic at heart though and I consider that perhaps they just wanted to sell books, to make money and have a moment of fame but maybe not… maybe it’s real. And don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that I don’t believe in God… I am simply vacillating over the idea a ‘divine plan’.

I generally end up at the point where I believe that it is as possible as anything else. Some people believe there is no reason at all – that shit happens – plain and simple and I guess that is possible too.

However, that doesn’t help me. That doesn’t make my day to day life better here and now and so I prefer to believe that there is some kind of reason – some value. I find it comforting to think that my soul is on a journey and that it chose to come here and learn the lessons presented to me in this lifetime. If I look for the value in my experiences and consider possibilities, I feel empowered and willing to push on; to keep learning.

I don’t know why shit happens and frankly, I am human so when it hurts – I hurt. When it sucks, I am challenged. When it is heavy and hard, I struggle. But… I am always seeking the lesson. I am always attempting to find something of value in the midst of the misery because I *hope* that my soul is in the midst of learning something important. Perhaps something that will guide me in whatever happens in my next life or… next in my life.

And so when I hear someone say (or when I use the words) that “everything happens for a reason” – I am really believing and/or saying that ‘it’s OK, my soul is learning’.

And I can accept that.

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When Things Get Tough…

We never committed to one another in a public forum; we don’t have a ‘legal’ union.

So… things have been tough lately. H made it through surgery ok but it was a rough start to recovery. The last ten days have been a heavy-duty wakeup call in understanding the impact that his illness has on our lives.

I vacillate between being deeply heartbroken for him, for us, and for myself. This isn’t how either one of us ever pictured our time together. I am aching to go on a bike ride with him and I know he aches to feel the wind on his face.

I think I have gained every pound he has lost. I wonder if at night, they secretly move from him to me in an effort to avoid contamination by the cancer cells. We eat the same amount of food I think… and yet I am the only one gaining weight. It may be that I still love to eat and he is sometimes only eating because I force it in front of him, sometimes with little compassion and too much energy. I feel afraid when I notice how thin he is becoming.

I try not to notice every time he shudders with the agony of the bone lesions because it stirs in me an urge to scream for him but it never comes out that way. Instead, it emerges as impatience and frustration which is equally infuriating because that is never my intent. I want it to go away so that he can smile again, drink a Mojito, and mow the lawn because those are the things that give him pleasure.

We never committed to one another in a public forum; we don’t have a ‘legal’ union. However, on that beach in Vieques without a stitch of clothing on, in broad daylight, as the waves gently crested across our knees, we promised to trust one another and to tell the truth – no matter what. We didn’t promise to stay together “in sickness and in health, til death do us part” but I am not ready to let go of him. I don’t care that he is sick – I still want to hear the sound of his breath above the roaring fan at night as he snores loud enough to attract the zombie apocalypse. I still want to hold his hand while he man crushes over Pete Nelson or Chip Gaines.

The doctors say that the cancer is managed; the treatment is working but we stay confused about that because in nine months, a lot has changed. Right now, it’s better than it was thirty days ago so we stay hopeful that these last attempts at pain management will continue to mitigate his discomfort. And we dream. We’re making plans as if it was last summer when we hopped on our bicycles to enjoy the sounds and temperatures of early summer evenings. We continue to think about things we’ll do ‘when he feels stronger’ which feels much better than thinking about all the things we may never do again.

And I attempt to do what I tell people to do every day. I deliberately work at self-care. I write. Sometimes it’s for just me and then there are times I have something to say that I know is relatable or helpful and I share. I go on walks. I talk with friends. I read. And apparently, I eat.  Work is a blessing because it allows me to shift my focus; to problem solve, which is of course, my passion.

And I seek inspiration… Here are some thoughts that keep me moving. I hope they do the same for you.

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TEN TIPS FOR MAKING THE MOST OUT OF THERAPY

There are as many different types, styles, and personalities of mental health professionals as there are people.

People go to therapy for various reasons certainly. Some are coping with stress or anxiety; others with depression or grief. Couples may seek counseling for infidelity, communication, or intimacy deficiencies. Perhaps others may go to bolster self-esteem and/or confidence.

No matter the reason, there is a distinct difference between those who get the most out of the experience and those who decide that ‘therapy didn’t work’.

Here are my tips for getting the most bang for your buck.

Find a therapist you like.

Obviously, you won’t ‘know’ the therapist but it is imperative that you feel as though you connect to that person. You will be sharing your deepest self with them and a certain level of trust and comfort is needed for you to experience the kind of vulnerability that will ultimately help you. It may take a couple of tries with a few therapists to find one. Be patient and persevere through the process. Most therapists will refer you to someone ‘different’ than them if you let them know it’s not a good fit.

Be honest.

A therapist can only work with the information they receive. If you don’t lay all the puzzle pieces on the table, you are wasting your money and their time. If it is too difficult to throw it all out there in the beginning – say that. Let the counselor know that the story is hard for you to open up about but you hope to tell the whole of it as time goes by. We are trained to be patient and guide you gently to the truth.

Keep a Therapy Notebook.

And take it to your appointments. You only have an hour and in that hour your therapist may share some important information with you. It’s difficult to remember everything when you get home especially if the session was emotional. In addition, there may be ‘homework’ and you’ll have more success if you know exactly what is recommended. If you can’t write in the session for some reason – when you get to your car – write down your thoughts; as many as you can while it is fresh in your mind. In addition, keep the notebook near you in between sessions so that you can write down thoughts and/or questions you want to discuss at your next meeting.

Do the Work.

Not only is it important for you to do the ‘homework’ but you only spend an hour (on average) a week with your counselor. What are you doing the other roughly 150 – 180 hours in between therapy appointments? It’s vital for you to *think* about your situation, your growing opportunities, and the ideas / suggestions that your therapist makes after you leave the office.

Read.

There are thousands of books about various mental health topics and a few of them are excellent in each subject matter. Your therapist has one perspective that is beneficial and either supporting it or gaining another by reading is often valuable. Many counselors recommend supportive reading, so ask. Read, underline, earmark, highlight the parts of the book that resonate with you – ignore the parts that don’t. Not every paragraph or chapter applies to your particular scenario so don’t let the parts that you don’t connect to rob you, deter you from the parts that speak to your heart. Furthermore, if you find you are stuck on something, make a note and bring it up in therapy; perhaps it is a point that you can pull apart and digest in session.

Keep Going.

One of the biggest mistakes people make regarding therapy is that they stop going when they begin to feel a little better. However, lasting change needs reinforced and cemented into place. Clearly, the frequency of sessions can decrease as you improve but maintaining change is a supportive process and your therapist is the key support person.

Be Patient.

Change takes time! Sure, you want to feel better now; we understand. Realize though that true change, the kind that lasts longer than a few weeks – happens slowly. In many ways, you are learning a new language; a new way of being. Chances are your situation didn’t evolve over a short time span and so it’s irrational to think that it can change right away.

Be Kind.

Going to therapy is one of the best ways to practice self-care. You are making time to look at yourself and make a change. That’s great! It’s incredibly important for you to express internal kindness – be a friend to yourself – throughout the process. Many, many people struggle from time to time because no one is perfect and no one can go it alone ALL the time and stay healthy. Make learning to love yourself part of your growth.

Get Support.

Let your peeps – those who know and love you – know about this important step you’ve taken to feel better about yourself and your life. Again – no one is without some element of hardship or challenge from time to time. Working to make positive change in one’s life is an extremely respectable step.

Offer feedback.

Therapists don’t know everything. Sometimes, we hypothesis as we collect information from you and our suggestions don’t work or need to be reworked. Let us know what is helping you and what isn’t. If we make a recommendation and it feels really ‘off’ to you – say something. Our job and our passion is to help you feel better.

There are dozens of different therapeutic ideologies that counselors practice from. Some are solidly positioned inside one frame (i.e., Psychodynamic Theory) and others are eclectic – pulling strategies from a variety of platforms. There are as many different types, styles, and personalities of mental health professionals as there are people. For the best result – first and foremost – find someone you like!

Feel free to share and distribute as long as this source is credited.  www.ThisIsLeslyn.com – author Leslyn Kantner

 

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I Hear You Einstein…

I learned early and well that nothing ever comes without an effort.

“You never fail until you stop trying.” ― Albert Einstein

What’s that old saying? When it rains it pours. Oh yea. That should be the motto of my life. It can rain good things, problems, money, debt, happiness, sadness; when things come, they seem to come all at once or not at all. I find it interesting that there are times when I feel as if nothing at all happens because I think that there really is something going on all the time and yet right now it is as if every. single. minute. of every day is committed to something important.

Please know that I am not complaining. In fact, I am deeply grateful for all the activity in my life I just wish that I had a few extra hours in every day to fit it all in. I want to do it all – well, maybe I can go without cleaning another toilet or changing the sheets on another bed, but to the rest of it I say “bring it on”.

Essentially it means that I need to prioritize and I have a difficult time deciphering which things need to supersede others but I am making it work. It’s all good.

This weekend – in between care giving for H who had surgery last week (and is progressing well) – I attended a writer’s workshop and man, THAT was humbling. You see, I thought I was a bit special because I had actually finished an entire manuscript – or something that I called a book and no one else in my circle of friends, family, and acquaintances had done that to my knowledge. I felt quite accomplished. Yet, there I was on Saturday with a thousand-other people who had also written a book and it was just one city across America where the same kind of experience would unfold. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people write books. Hmm… how naïve of me to think otherwise.

I am so thankful that I waited to attend the workshop before attempting to self-publish my manuscript. I learned so much! Essentially, it’s pretty easy these days to publish a book but it is NOT easy to get a publisher!!

I’m not giving up by any means but I am rethinking on all levels.

I hired an editor. Yup… I am making an investment in myself and in my book. I have been so close to it and felt that there were holes. I have to eliminate 10,000 words but couldn’t identify which ones didn’t add value to the story.

It’s probably the best thing I’ve done in a while. She has forced me to think about the story from a different perspective. She has asked some hard questions and has offered some solid ideas. She has a fresh set of eyes because she didn’t read it as I was writing and posting and she didn’t know my story beforehand, yet she is intrigued. I’m excited again about polishing it.

While at the workshop on Saturday I spoke with Jennifer Unter, a literary agent from NYC. I pitched her actually, a little on the fly but it was a pitch. Her eyes got bigger and bigger as I spoke and then she said “you’ve got a story”. I was momentarily excited. And then, she asked… “how big is your platform?”

Ugh… I knew that was coming. Essentially, she was asking me how many people care about my story. Hmm… not sure about that. As it is – I suspect the people who care have already read it. She made it very clear that unless I had a strong platform of 30 to 50 THOUSAND people, publishers would more than likely dismiss my work without reading it – unless of course, it was incredible writing.

So, that’s my goal. To make the writing incredible and build a platform as strong as it can get. I will be launching a ThisIsLeslyn FB page separate from my counseling page because I want people to know me as a therapist too.

I know, I know… this is like the 5th endeavor I’ve attempted in the last 10 years besides my practice. A review…

  • Of course, Harmony Counseling (TheHarmonyCC.com) is my practice site. I don’t update the blog anymore as I am writing on ThisIsLeslyn but there is a lot of good info there and the Facebook page is active. I like that my clients check that and go there.
  • Uencounter.me is still up although it is basically just sitting there – people still use it and we’ve agreed to keep it up until we don’t make enough money on it to host it. For now, it is self-supporting.
  • Pickett Lane Paper is a venture that H and I began almost two years ago but once he got sick it became too hard for him to do craft venues and without those outlets, its not cost efficient.
  • LesKanCrafts – my personal Etsy shop still has a bunch of items on it and I still crochet for relaxation although in truth, writing is more of a passion for me. I will let what is there sell and probably won’t update it.
  • And now ThisIsLeslyn – me, as a writer and speaker.

It is clear that I love to create. It’s not new. My childhood friends and I picked bouquets of spring violets and went door to door selling them for $.10/ small and $.25 for a large one. I was one of those high school kids who belonged to Junior Achievement. We designed wooden bead necklaces, produced them, created a marketing plan, and ultimately sold them. In my early 30’s I produced a prototype of a ‘Love coupon book’ but never did anything with it. I’ve seen them in Hallmark stores through the years.

I have ideas and I try. It the Bill Phelan genes in me I guess – he was the ultimate dreamer. I learned early and well that nothing ever comes without an effort and that the only true way to fail is in not trying.

In any regard, I hope that you will stay with me – follow along – and share in the journey. Let’s see where the road leads!

 

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6 THINGS EVERY WIFE CRAVES

When you take an interest in the things I think about also, my desire for you grows.

“A happy wife is a happy life” – Gavin Rossdale

…As the saying goes. After years of listening to wives talk about what would make them happy and what their partner can do to improve the relationship, I’ve assembled this simple list of free and easy items.

Spend time with me

When you spend time with me, I feel loved. Put your laptop, phone, and remote control down for an hour and ask about my day. Generic questions like “how was your day” are too broad. I want you to ask about ME… what did I think and feel today? Take a walk with me or cook with me while we chat. I want to spend time with you!

Help Me

When you help me, I feel supported. If we both work outside the house then it’s important to equally share the responsibilities of raising the children, keeping our home, and paying the bills.  If being at home is my job, then understand that it is a 24/7/365 job and I probably need a break and/or some time off!! Help me make that happen. The more help I get, the more time and energy I have.

Listen to me

When you listen to me I feel respected. Please don’t interrupt me when I talk. I may have to use more words than is comfortable to convey my thoughts but I want to know that they matter to you. When I say something, or ask a question it isn’t “because I’m nosy or stupid” – it’s because I am curious or wanting to learn. I don’t wake up in the morning with an intention of being bitchy. If I am… ask me “what’s going on” and listen to the answer without getting defensive. Also… you don’t have to ‘fix’ everything. Sometimes its enough to just let me vent.

Have My Back

When you have my back, I feel protected. Back me up with the kids and your family. Take my side or at the very least, say nothing until we are alone and you can tell me how you feel and what you think. If I am wrong, tell me privately. If I am afraid, hold me. If I am annoyed, just listen. I want us to be on the same team!

Make Love WITH me

When you make love with me, I feel sexy. Women get turned on by loving looks, gentle kisses, and patient cuddles. I need to know that you want to hug me even if it doesn’t lead to sex. Rubbing my shoulders and holding my hand goes much further than grabbing my breasts and fondling my crotch. While a quickie once in a while is fun, letting that be the rule of thumb so you can go to sleep, is not.

Talk to Me

When you talk to me, I feel valued. We don’t have to talk about emotional stuff to have productive and worthwhile conversations. I like to hear about your job and your friends but I also want to know what you think about; politics, spirituality, books, etcetera. SHARE yourself with me and let me share back. When you take an interest in the things I think about also, my desire for you grows.

Women who feel valued, sexy, protected, respected, supported, and loved are going to reciprocate in kind; forging a relationship that is resilient to outside forces and influences.

 

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10 HABITS THAT RUIN RELATIONSHIPS

Failure to think of yourself as one part of a whole may lead to your partner feeling as if they don’t matter.

“We become what we repeatedly do.” ― Sean Covey

1. INTERRUPTING: interrupting your partner demonstrates that you are NOT listening. 

How can you listen well if you aren’t letting your partner finish their thought? Wait for them to finish speaking – take a deep breath – and then respond.

2. TIT FOR TAT: You do it so, why can’t I?

Two wrongs don’t make a right, do they? When your partner is attempting to discuss something that is troublesome and we point out that they do it too, we are triggering a spiral escalator that often ends up in a place no one wanted to go. If you partner is attempting to address something that is problematic for them, hear it through – resolve it – and then bring up your own issue. Remember, one thing at a time.

3. LACK OF APPRECIATION: Who cares?

Over time, we typically learn to ‘expect’ and fail to acknowledge the effort that people put into daily living. Does your husband always have his check deposited into a joint account to pay bills? Be appreciative! Does your wife transport the kids from one activity to another day after day? Be grateful! Gratitude is free! And there are hundreds of ways to express it so make it a daily habit to find something that you can appreciate in your significant other.

4. TOO MANY ASSUMPTIONS: Don’t be a mind reader.

Over time we learn to make assumptions based on prior history. If Tim always like his mother’s meatloaf, it doesn’t mean that he wants it every Sunday. If Mary didn’t want flowers when you were on a tight budget, it doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like them occasionally now that things are better financially.  We tend to generalize our knowledge without checking in with our partner to validate what we think is true. Even if there is no doubt in your mind – from time to time it is important to ASK and VERIFY.

5. “YOU….” STATEMENTS. Playing the blame game.

Whenever anyone hears a sentence that begins with ‘YOU’… they are going to call up defenses. We tend to start sentences with “you… “instead of sharing what is happening for us by using “I” statements.  Expressing oneself by accusing another person for what is wrong or frustrating is rarely a solid communication skill. Change “why don’t you ever help?” to “It’s important to me that we share the responsibility”.

6. FORGETTING THAT YOU ARE A “WE”; Failure to consider your partner

Too many times I hear partners in crisis mode talk from the perspective of ME instead of WE. It is ‘my’ child instead of ‘our’ child, or ‘my house’ instead of ‘our house’.  Failure to think of yourself as one part of a whole may lead to your partner feeling as if they don’t matter.

7. FAILURE TO PRIORITIZE TIME TOGETHER: How do you spend your time?

Yes, our lives are busy. Raising a family, working, and taking care of a home are all time-consuming activities but when you make a commitment to share your life with one another, it means dedicating at least some attention to growing that relationship. Think of your relationship as a plant – if you don’t’ water it a little every week – it WILL die.

8. CRITICISM: Focus on mistakes.

Constructive criticism can be helpful but frequently pointing out mistakes will erode even the most fortified self-esteem over time. “That shirt is too wrinkled.”, “How could you forget to pay that bill?”, “Seriously, you’re doing that now?” If you must point out something erroneous – use love and compassion. “Sweetheart, can I iron your shirt for you?”, “Don’t worry babe, I’ll sit down and go through the bills to make sure everything is on time.”, “Honey, can we do that later?”

9. COMPLACENCY: Failure to compliment.

Think about how easily we hand out compliments when we first meet someone… “You look nice.”, “I love your beard”, “You work so hard.”, etcetera. Let’s face it… we all enjoy compliments and whomever is dishing them out the most consistently will get our attention. Make sure it is YOU.

10. DISTRACTION: Failure to be attentive.

Even if you are home a lot, don’t say much, and share household duties it’s possible to starve your relationship from true emotional connection. We are constantly connected to the world via the internet on our phones, tablets, laptops, and the television. When we can’t disconnect our attention from the outside world and direct it specifically to the people we love, we are failing to nurture the emotional vibe that keeps us wanting to be with one another. It doesn’t have to be dramatic to be effective; hold hands while you watch a TV showed of shared interest, look at one another while you describe your day, have a dedicated ‘no phone zone’ like your family room or bedroom.

This is by no means, an exhaustive list but eliminating these ten habits will most definitely provide a healthier environment for a positive and supportive relationship.

 

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