Tag Archives: communication

Personal House Rules

I think often we have unspoken rules about how we want to conduct our lives. It can be confusing for someone to automatically know that -you-should-take-your-shoes-off-when-you-come-inside-the-door.  Then when the person doesn’t quickly act in the way we are expecting, we are confronted with a choice. We  let the new person know the expectations directly or we sadly can  stay silent and be upset that they didn’t do it right.

This is the same thing that we do with the rules of self, we expect  that everyone will know how to we want to live our lives, what works and what doesn’t, how to treat us, what our boundaries are, and the very best way to show us love. This is mind reading  at its best. It is all so obvious to us.

I have a saying that I use with clients a lot “If it is obvious, then you need to say it out loud.” We are so accustomed to our own mind and beliefs that it seems a given, but if it is that ingrained within us that means it is pretty important. Hence, saying our ideas, expectations, and  boundaries out loud not only makes sense but also creates a much more open dynamic.

The approach of letting others know what your personal house are allows everyone to have a framework of interaction. You get to avoid a lot of the messy parts of stepping on each other’s toes.  Everyone decides if the structure is workable and provides an understanding of the boundaries. It sound so simple but that is exactly what we so often miss, stating that which seems like a default to our own system.

I really love the idea of putting your house rules out for everyone to see  (physically like photo above or state directly). Consider wearing your expectations with a badge of honor that you want others to know about from the start. Be proud of who you are and what you want from yourself and others!


Couples Communication

So often, I hear couples wanting to come in to learn communication skills.  They say they can no longer talk to one another without fighting. In truth, it is the rarest of couples that I actually need to teach how to communicate. In fact, it is because they are communicating so well that they are fighting so much.

Couples have figured out what the other person is thinking and feeling (never mind if it is actually true), that they have given up listening. They just wait and respond with contempt, anger, and resentment. This is nothing new, we have seen the classic couple portrayed as fighting it out for as long as we can remember.

Still, why do these people stay together? Well, overall because they love each other. They haven’t stopped loving one another typically, it is that they are no longer know how to share their bigger dreams and desires. This has been documented time and time again by researchers like Dr. Gottman and Dr. Schnarch (who are both experts in the field).  The bond hasn’t been torn apart but it has been broken down by snide comments, non follow-through, and unrealistic expectations.

You may read this and think “yep, that is my partner” but here is the catch, it is each and every one of us. We are human and we experience the whole realm of emotions and responses. This includes even when you do and say really crappy things to the people around you that you love.

As a therapist, I’m not here to stop anyone from feeling anything. In fact, I encourage every single feeling you have. I don’t think that suppressing feelings helps anyone. I think that being brave enough and honest enough to say that you hate, love, like, dislike, lust, and admire all different aspects of your partner is important. Our society doesn’t allow us to express these emotions, as in a healthy relationship we are “only supposed to do the happy parts” but that isn’t real. At least this approach isn’t real for something long term.

If you want to pretend that you don’t have times where you hate your partner AND pretend that your partner never has similar thoughts, then therapy may not be the best place for you. If instead, you want to be real and direct about the full scope of emotions and learn how to handle those feelings within yourself and with your partner in a healthy way well then, therapy is the place for you.

It isn’t easy being honest. Sure we all say we want it, but in truth we want someone to just love us exactly as is while we work to change them in all the ways we want. This is pretty much how it is for all of us, you are not alone in this desire. It also isn’t typically the best way to keep a relationship healthy. However, denying that these feelings exist doesn’t help situations either.

So one of the first places to start, is to sit down with yourself and have a real heart to heart. You don’t have to share your feelings with anyone else, but admit if you have moments where you just dislike your partner a great deal.  This reality check helps you realize that you are fully capable of being honest. If you struggle with this step, then the rest might be beyond your abilities currently.

Next, consider what kind of context you currently have with your partner. If you have already established a truly open expression of feelings, then you might be able to express fully. However, most couples I know, even the really healthy ones, have trouble saying things when it is about “hard emotions”. No one wants to hurt another person’s feelings, unless of course you are angry. And that is the catch. We want to learn how to express the hard stuff when we are calm and loving rather than in the midst of a fight/flight moment of reaction.

If you don’t have the skills or the kind of relationship where you can share these tough feelings then therapy might be the next step towards becoming closer. Having a third party there to meditate through the emotions, help keep everyone on task, and someone from the outside to listen to everyone can change the dynamics.

Consider if you can be your authentic self with your partner. And if the answer is no, then look into ways that you can be more fully visible within your relationship. If the answer is yes, then smile and know that you are on the right track to a fulfilling life.

How much to really share?

Should you really share about your past?  How much should you talk about yourself in a conversation?  When should you tell someone you are interested in them romantically? All these questions and a few zillion more are asked on a daily basis within the walls of a therapist’s office. The answer of course is… it all depends.

While there is a general idea that sharing ideas helps foster trust, communication, and openness… everything is done within context. For instance, one wouldn’t share their past medical history with the bank teller while making a deposit.  The same is true in relationships. The mastery of when and where and how to share depends a great deal upon the situation.

Many people claim they want to know everything about you … and in the first blush of a relationship … this isn’t necessarily a false statement. However, pacing helps you get to know the other person, yourself, and how to gain trust with one another over time.  You can share every little detail that you can think of about yourself and yet we as humans hit a certain saturation point. We can only take in so much data even about the potential love of our life.

We want to know everything often as a way to manage our insecurities, fears, and control our environment.  So sometimes we share everything in hopes of setting the other at ease.

There is a balance that is struck when two people naturally connect.  Here is a rule of thumb if you are unsure:  share at the same level and pace as the person you are talking with… they are giving you a great starting point for what they are already comfortable with in discussions.

It takes practice to learn when and how much to share. Don’t expect to get it right every time. The more you interact with others, build relationships, and get feedback, the more you will trust yourself. Plus if you ever feel as if you have no idea what to share or not share … there is the fall back safe and secure topic of the weather.

Hard Truth

I say a lot of things that people do not want to hear in therapy. I will ask questions, name things directly, and confront clients on issues that are sensitive. That is part of my job to encourage each person to find their personal truth. I am there to push, challenge, and support each client in ways that help them reach their specific goals.

With all of this said, there still remains some areas of discussion that are difficult.  People know they are coming in for therapy and that it is going to be work. Yet, no one wants to admit what is really true for all of us if we are in a relationship long enough.

So, I’ll say it for you here just like I do to clients… There are times you will love your partner and there are times you will hate your partner. These are not mutually exclusive. Sure sure, people tell you all the time they have experienced this but it is very rare that you will hear this kind of directness while someone is actually in the relationship they are talking about.

It is common place to say that you love your partner. However, it is rare to hear someone say “I really dislike you right now.” I don’t mean this phrase is said out of anger or fear, just a real truth in the moment just like you say you “really like someone” in a moment of truth.  We are so afraid of being who we really are often due to a fear or being left that we then keep everything pushed down. From there we begin to feel a disconnection as we are not being authentic and quickly this can lead to resentment.

Now, hear me correctly … having this kind of openness isn’t right for every couple. Literally there are some couples that if they say this the relationship would break apart. I’m not suggesting you be mean, cruel, or hurtful. I am suggesting that the more open, honest, and direct you are in a loving way the better chance you have for longevity within your relationship.

When you can express in a loving way  that you are experiencing dislike, as much as like, in certain circumstances the better the chance that you will be able to express everything else in the middle. It is a hard truth but I guarantee you WILL have times where you can’t stand your partner. It is my belief that the better we are expressing such things the better we are at dealing with such things and the better we are of having the real relationships we want.

It takes time, practice, and trust to be able to build towards being able to tell your partner that they make you crazy … because the moment you are being that honest is the moment you see how they deal with it. That can be scary but learning how to be your true self within your relationship will ultimately lend itself to far more good times than bad AND you will have the emotional security to deal with the bad in a more directly healthy way.

So be brave in a caring form and express who you really are… it is my understanding that your partner will at first be scared to death and freak out but it is my hope that in the end respect and love you all the more for it.