Tag Archives: marriage

Little Children Come Out to Play

26 Jan

It would be nice if they would ask our permission, but they don’t. Our little children come out to play without any warning at all. I’m not talking about our sons and daughters. I’m talking about that outer child we all have. the outer child that protects the inner child inside of us. Sound confusing? Maybe but you know the one… they are always causing problems for us. They get in the way of happy, healthy relationships.

One little comment to a grown up can come off one way but once the outer child hears it, it becomes quite the problem. Not because the comment was anything big and not because the outer child is overly dramatic. It is solely because the outer child feels the responsibility to protect the inner child also known as the wounded child. And they are hurting – always. They lie beneath our surface and wait. When they hear anything that sounds remotely like the hurtful words of our parents or they see something happening that reminds them of the hurts and fears of childhood, they call on the outer child and well let’s just say it is downhill from there. As adults we can no longer see clearly or think rationally. We are overtaken by the tantrums and fits of our outer child. We operate from a place of hurt and start moving further and further away from healing. Who knew these little people could do so much damage?

The bad news is the inner child and the outer child are a part of us now and forever. The good news is they are not strangers to us. We know them well and they are close enough to call on and speak directly to. First you have to make sure you recognize your outer child is there. Go back to a previous blog called Identifying Your Outer Child and see if you recognize yours.

The next step is to get to know them a little better when things are calm. Start talking to them now before they jump out and yell at your partner on your behalf. The irony is they think they are helping. They go into attack mode to try to defend because they are protecting the hurting child inside of you. It gets even more complicated because as it turns out, they weren’t really yelling at your partner at all. They were fighting with your partner’s outer child. Now we’ve got multiple children who have come out without permission and they are really getting into it. It can be ugly.

The best way to get to know your inner and outer children is to start talking to them. Be kind, because they are typically in a state of hurt most of the time and only have the reasoning of children. Be patient when they are immature and not listening to you or your partner. Then… lay down the law. For example, I had to start by explaining to my inner child that she is safe because I am a grown up and I will take care of her. That job belongs to me I will never abandon her. I am here, always. I tell her that I understand she needs attention and that I will work hard, in a grown up way, to get it. I explain that fits of crying and sarcastic comments from the outer child will not help me and my partner. I tell my outer child that she needs to stay quiet and let the grown up part of me take care of my relationship. I tell my inner child that I love her but that I’ve got this and she is not to send out the outer child and start causing problems. Most of the time she listens and the grown up side of me gets to stay happy and healthy.

But there is something else that is really important. It’s not enough just to see your own inner and outer children. You must recognize that there is a wounded child inside your mate. That child was told ugly things and hurt in ways you may never fully understand. You don’t have too really you just have to keep your outer child at bay when dealing with your mate’s “children.”. The grown up in you can step up and soothe their inner child. You can say kind things to build them up or calm them down. See the child, be the grown up. You would never yell at a hurting child on purpose but that is essentially what is happening if we are not clearly seeing who is standing before us, our grown up mate or their outer child who has come out without permission.


Look Both Ways Before Crossing…

23 Dec

I know you’ve heard those words of wisdom, at least in reference to crossing streets.  I’d like to put a new spin on it for you and encourage you to look both ways before crossing your partner.

Remember first that you are with them for a reason, hopefully many reasons.  One of the reasons is because they get you.  Most of choose someone who understands us, and knows us like no one else.  Sometimes they can see us when we can’t even see ourselves.

I’m the first to admit that I am stubborn and I usually start off every argument sure that I’m right and it is just a matter of proving it.  In my head it sounds like this… “Once I state my case I can go on my merry way of doing things the way I do them.   They’ll see that I was right all along.”

I have often fallen into the trap of preparing my evidence rather than listening to the other side and the perspectives of those who matter to me.  Listening can be difficult when I’m on a mission to prove myself right.  And I find the hardest thing to do is to stop talking and hear how I am being perceived by those I love.  But eventually I do it and I call that looking both ways, my way and their way. 

I know their way matters.  I respect their way of seeing things, it is one of the reasons I chose them to be in my life.  They are smart, observant and they shoot straight with me.  Yes it hurts.  The truth always does.

It’s not in my best interest to cross them and walk around being right all the time.  It’s not in yours either.  Look at the loves in your life.  How and why did you let them in?  Is it safe to be you?   When they call you out on something is it out of love and their hope for you to be accountable and be your best?  For you to grow and be more of who they learned to love in the beginning?  If so… look both ways before crossing your partner.

His Needs, Her Needs

11 Aug

If you are married or in a committed relationship that could use a little help, I hope that you’ll keep reading. Women are different from men, so different in fact, we’ve even seen books about the two sexes being from different planets. It can feel like it sometimes. While men often wonder why we women over complicate things, we can’t figure out how men can be so simple-minded sometimes. How can everything be black and white? I’ve got a million more questions about how the other sex operates, I bet you do too. While it is fun to sit around with our same-sex peers and wonder at the mystery of the other, most of us would stop criticizing if we just knew what their needs are and how to meet them. If you want to save your relationship, the best thing you can do is learn what your partner’s needs are and meet them. If that is your intention, then I highly recommend the book “His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair Proof Marriage” by Willard F. Harley.

I admit I was turned off a little when I saw the world “affair” in the title. A relationship in trouble doesn’t always include an affair. I think you might be surprised how common they are. The author does an excellent job explaining how even those who never intend to have one can find themselves there. They begin in the simplest ways of someone outside the marriage/relationship meeting the needs of one of the partners. In a nutshell, if you can’t meet your partner’s needs, I promise you there is someone who can and will.

The man’s five most basic needs in a marriage tend to be:
1. Sexual fulfillment
2. Recreational companionship
3. An attractive spouse
4. Domestic support
5. Admiration

The woman’s five most basic needs in a marriage tend to be:
1. Affection
2. Conversation
3. Honesty and openness
4. Financial support
5. Family commitment

According to Harley, When partners don’t understand each other’s needs, they try to fulfill the needs that he or she fulfills. A woman will become overly affectionate and a man will make more than usual sexual advances. At best the mate will respond with mild pressure and at worst becomes annoyed, irritated or frigid.

Even worse, if a man is not affectionate (meeting the woman’s need) she is not likely to have sex with him (meeting the man’s need). Once the cycle begins, it can be tough to find your way out. From each partner’s perspective, it clearly appears to be the other partner’s fault.

What I encourage you to do is to rise to the challenge. I understand your needs are not being met, but my guess is, neither are your partner’s. Take the initiative and begin to meet your partner’s needs. Put your hurt feelings aside and see what happens in time when you begin to meet their most basic needs. The commitment to be together is a commitment to meet each other’s needs, for better or for worse. Watch their heart change as you begin to give them what they need. Your heart will soften as well when you realize your needs will be met in kind. You’ll be glad you made the first move.

The Maturity Continuum

23 Dec

As time goes by and the break up is further behind me, the lessons are coming into focus and the clarity is mine. After a long term relationship with someone who was so dependent on me, it only seems natural that I found myself in this last relationship with someone who was very independent. I can’t stress the word “very” enough. I remember someone asking me what it was that I gave to him and it took me awhile to come up with an answer and even when I did, I was stretching the truth and feeling pretty lame. It was an odd place for me to be. I’ve been a natural born helper as long as I can remember. It feels good to be able to do for others and it often helps me in some small way. So you can imagine, I wasn’t feeling much like myself in the relationship and often questioned whether or not I was even needed. Yes, I admit, I need to be needed. I don’t admit this with shame because now I know about the Maturity Continuum.
This concept of the Maturity Continuum was offered up by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I hope you find this helpful, because it was exactly what I needed to hear. I always believed that people moved through life from a stage of dependence to independence and that was it. There was nothing to follow. It makes sense that we come into this world one hundred percent reliant on others to care for us and meet our needs. Without them, we would not survive. As the years go by, we begin to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially to a place where we are independent, self-directed and no longer need others to care of us. While independence is a wonderful and necessary achievement, it does not reign supreme.

Here comes the cool part. As we continue to grow and mature, we realize the interdependence that surrounds us in nature and in our society. We come to recognize that the higher reaches of our nature have to do with our relationships with others. Essentially, human life is also interdependent. We can move from “you must do this for me” to “I can do this for myself” to ultimately arrive at “we can do greater things if we do them together.” So maybe the concept is not new. I’ve heard people say “I’m a better person because of him.” Maybe this is what they are talking about. Their interdependence on each other elevates them to higher levels of effectiveness as human beings. I’ve also heard people in the business world say they don’t know everything but they know to surround themselves with smart people. In both of these scenarios, they make a great team and together they conquer the world.

How do you move towards interdependence? Well, I will tell you now that dependent people cannot. As Covey says, “They don’t have the character to do it; they don’t own enough of themselves.” They have to work towards their own independence first and experience those private victories.
When we do move through the maturity continuum towards interdependence, we are in a place to honor the opportunities that lie before us: to share ourselves deeply, meaningfully, with others, and have access to the vast resources and potential of other human beings.

My ex, as well as many others, cannot move past their place of independence because they do not have the maturity to see how vastly different it is from interdependence. They often feel they would be retreating to a place of reliance on others. They sense that it requires vulnerability on their part and that is unthinkable for some. We see people leaving marriages, relationships and all kinds of social responsibilities so that they can become liberated and independent. Covey says it best, “Of course we may need to change our circumstances. But the dependence problem is a personal maturity issue that has little to do with circumstances. Even with better circumstances, immaturity and dependence often persist. True independence of character empowers us to act rather than to be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. But it is not the ultimate goal in effective living.”

In a nutshell, my ex, like so many people don’t know there is a maturity continuum. They are unaware of the divine beauty of interdependent relationships. They stand proudly in their independence believing whole heartedly they have arrived at their final destination. They see open, vulnerable people who are willing to grow and connect with others as threats to their existence. Their immaturity literally stunts them and their growth towards interdependence. It’s a shame really. As for me, my journey continues. I invite all of you into my life and onto my team, where together we can conquer the world.

Strengthen Your Relationship – It’s Worth It

4 Nov

Things my be going along just fine in your relationship.  Congratulations!  This is the perfect time to bring up some discussion questions and do a check-in with your significant other.  Most people don’t want to “rock the boat” if they don’t have to but there is no better time to check-in and see if the two of you are on the same page.   When we don’t “check in” on a regular basis we can find our relationship in a really yucky place before we know it.  Even worse – we aren’t sure how it got there which can make the recovery period even more difficult.

Here are some discussion points for you and your partner.  You can try to answer for each other in a game format and see how well you know each other, but be sure by the end of it  your partner knows where you stand on each one.  When there are differences in your responses don’t panic, just dig a little deeper and discuss them.

  • I am important to our marriage/relationship because…
  • What I contribute to your success is…
  • Ways I have fun with you are…
  • The ways I seek space in our relationship are…
  • Ways I am intimate with you are…
  • My most important role as your spouse is…
  • I feel most feminine/masculine in our bond when…
  • I deal with stress by…
  • I need you to…
  • I feel most loved by you when you…
  • You may not know it, but I am loving you best when I…

Fear is a primary emotion.   Men’s biggest fear is failure.  Women’s biggest fear is abandonment.  These may be likely culprits if you are having any troubles in your relationship.  Women: Check yourself and the kind of messages you are sending to your male partner.  Are you criticizing a lot?  Are you sending the message that he can’t cut it or that you don’t even need him?  Are you cheerleading him and supporting him?  How often do you say you are proud of him and all that he does?  Showing gratitude can be invaluable.  Men: How are you speaking to the woman in your life?  Do you remember to call when you are running late or your plans change?  Do you remind her how important she is to you?  How often do you express that you look forward to “forever” with her?    In a relationship, these small acts of kindness can go a long way to soothe our biggest fears.  After all, this is the partner you chose.  Remind them why you had to have them.

If you have other ways of “checking in” or connecting with your partner, leave a comment, I’d love to hear it!


What Happens When One Person In A Relationship Changes

21 Oct

With the divorce rate as high as it is today, I often wonder what is happening to couples.  I am especially intrigued by the divorcing couples that have been married for 15 plus years.  They’ve been together so long, some since they were sweethearts in high school. What changed?

I am reading a great book by Harriet Lerner that is helping me understand the mystery of relationships.  One of the reasons relationships end up in divorce is because one partner in the relationship changed.   Even if one partner changes for the better, it can be met with great resistance from the other.   This can play out in families as well.  According to Bowen Family Systems Theory, in all families there is a powerful opposition to one member defining a more independent self.   Here are some of the reactions toward the changing individual:

  • “You are wrong,” and they go on to list their reasons to support this.
  • “Change back and we’ll accept you again.”
  • “If you don’t change back, these are the consequences,” which are then  listed.

In couples and in families, the person changing will likely see some counter-moves.  They may catch some verbal backlash and be accused of being disloyal, selfish, and having little disregard for others.  Their partners and families may threaten to terminate the relationship with them.    These are some pretty devastating consequences for a person who is simply trying to better themselves.

If you are the one who his changing, consider this – “Counter-moves are the other person’s unconscious attempt to restore a relationship to its prior balance or equilibrium, when anxiety about separateness and change gets too high. ” (Lerner, p.35)  In other words, people are not making counter-move to be controlling or chauvinistic.  Whether they have those qualities are not is sort of beside the point.  counter-move are an expression of anxiety , as well as of closeness and attachment.

If you are the one changing – it is really important to keep clear about your own position.  It is not your job to try to prevent the counter-move or tell that person they should not be reacting that way.  Let it be.  Focus on their feeling behind their behavior.  It’s how they feel and you can’t argue with that.

More often than not, depending on how one proceeds with their changes, it can really enhance  and strengthen their relationship rather than threaten it.  There is no way to predict whether or not you’ll be met with a counter-move, but when you are, now you will understand what is going on and that the person is likely afraid of change and mostly afraid of losing their relationship with you.  Communicate what the changes will mean for both of you and offer assurances when you can.

Don’t be afraid to change, just be ready for the counter-move and handle it with grace.

If you’re interested in more about Harriet Lerner’s perspective, Her book – The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships has been really eye-opening.

Romancing Your Female Partner

3 Oct

A friend of mine stumbled upon a cool link and shared it with me today.  I found this article there so I am passing it onto you.   For those of you that are familiar with Love Languages and the work of Gary Chapman, it will seem familiar to you.  I may share more good stuff from the site down the road but feel free to check it out on your own.  It’s http://www.twoofus.org/index.aspx

Romancing Your Female Partner

The concept of “romance” hasn’t received much original thought in decades. Hollywood spits out clichés. Romance-starved fans gobble them up. Some people make a noble attempt to emulate what they have seen on the silver screen: flower-filled baths, rings sparkling in champagne.

Reproducing the kind of romance shown in movies can feel rather like an act: You know what your audience wants. So you go through the motions for her. But you both know it’s a little scripted.

Ultimately, what makes romance real is making romance your own. If it doesn’t feel sincere, you aren’t likely to keep the production going for very long. And as much as a woman may crave a grand romantic gesture once in a while, she also craves an enduring romance. What makes romance both powerful and sustainable is tailoring your style of romance to the needs of your female partner.

Have a Game Plan

Taking initiative is incredibly attractive to most women. Brainstorm new restaurants, activities or experiences to share together. Start with a solid plan for your dates, then adapt to the mood and the moment as needed. Say something like, “Tonight, I’d like to take you to dinner at Vito’s and then to go see the new Daniel Craig movie. How does that sound to you?” This allows her to express her preferences but spares you both the familiar, “What do you want to do? / I don’t know” rigmarole.

Give a Just-Because Gift

Make a point of picking up a present for her any time you travel. Choose something that reflects both her personality and the location. You don’t need to spend a lot; what’s most impressive is realizing you were thinking of her when you were away. Do the same thing when running errands in town. Keep an eye out for little things she would love: a new book by her favorite author or her favorite fruit from the local farmer’s market.

Be Responsible

You’ll never see it being used to sell body wash ads, but women generally find responsibility incredibly sexy. She’s not necessarily a gold-digger; she’s just looking for someone she can trust to be a true partner. Holding a steady job, staying on top of the bills and giving back to your community are undeniably attractive traits.

Be Specific to Your Woman

What makes your partner feel loved and safe? What makes her feel just a tiny bit spoiled? You may buy her tickets to the hottest Broadway musical, but if she’d rather be courtside, your efforts (and money) are wasted. Would she rather go on a hike/picnic or go out for a night on the town? Most women appreciate flowers, but do you know what specific flowers she likes? And do you know what she might prefer to have more than flowers? If not, don’t be afraid to ask. Say, “What can I do today that would make you feel really loved?”

Do an Unsolicited Chore

Housework isn’t naturally appealing to most people. But doing chores—especially without being asked—can make you more appealing to your partner. Women don’t really enjoy nagging. But some women do have a hard time relaxing in a messy house. By freeing your partner from some household drudgery, you free her to focus on taking good care of herself … and you.

The Way to Her Heart

The old adage is: “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” But the same may be true for women—especially women who have spent the day with insane coworkers or tantrum-prone toddlers.

You don’t have to be rich: You can stay home and cook. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef: The meal could be a humble offering of spaghetti and salad. For that matter, you don’t even have to cook at all: Simply swing by her favorite to-go place on the way home from work.

Show (and Expect) Respect

Different women have different ideas of chivalry. But every woman wants to be treated with respect and consideration. Likewise, you should fully expect to receive respect from your female partner. Romance isn’t about abasing yourself. It’s about elevating and strengthening your connection as a couple.

Despite what you see in movies, romance doesn’t require goopy sentimentalism or lavish public displays. romance is making art out of everyday experiences … and applying creativity and thoughtfulness in a relationship.

Best of luck to the guys out there!  I’m rooting for you!