This was first published on KSL.com
After 14 years of marriage I am feeling frustrated and discouraged. My spouse and I continue to argue over the same issues without ever coming to any resolution. I’m worried about the long-term impact of us not being able to move forward and gain any progress. I feel that we both hold onto resentment and this leads us to become easily frustrated with each other. I don’t want us to have these issues go on for years. What can we do to let go of the past offenses that create this constant resentment?
Built up resentment is a very common experience for many couples. In order to change this, you will need to understand the real issues below the surface of your anger and resentment, what causes them, and why you always have the same fight again and again. It all comes down to your core fears and subconscious reactions.
You and your spouse both suffer from the same two core fears, the fear of failure (the fear of being inadequate, which gets triggered whenever you feel criticized or make a mistake) and the fear of loss (the fear of being taken from, which gets triggered when you feel mistreated or life doesn’t meet your expectations).
Most of us have one of the two fears, though, that is bigger than the other and that fear is the real trigger behind almost all of your bad behavior. Chances are your spouse is really good at triggering that core fear and you are good at irritating theirs.
For example, you might have fear of failure and you might be easily triggered by criticism. When you feel criticized, you might react by pulling away from your spouse to protect yourself. Your spouse might feel you pulling back, which might trigger his fear of loss or abandonment. When he feels abandoned he might behave badly back and even criticize you again, which will trigger even more fear of failure and bad behavior in you.
Most couples have a perfect storm of fear triggers that cause these fights again and again. When this kind of fighting happens you may also start to feel disappointed in each other - and feeling disappointed is the poison that kills relationships and creates resentment. It also makes you feel unsafe with your partner. If you sense your spouse is disappointed with you, it doesn’t make you want to try harder to love more either. It usually makes you pull away or want to look for faults in them, so you can prove they are at least as bad as you are.
Does this sound familiar? Is there a subconscious game going on in your marriage to figure out who treats who worse, and who really is the bad one?
If this is happening in your marriage, don’t give up hope, you can change this. You can stop the fear triggers, forgive each other, let go of resentments and move forward feeling safer with your spouse, but it is going to take both of you doing some work on your fear issues. (Many people think the problem is a communication issue or an attraction issue – we disaggree. We believe if you could stop feeling inadequate, taken from, criticized and walked on, quiet your fears and improve your self-esteem, you would find yourself more attracted, less resentful and communication would be easier.
The first step to forgive the past, let go of anger and resentment, and reconnect, is to get clarity and make sure you are seeing yourself, your spouse and this journey through life accurately. This will fundamentally change the way you feel about everything in your life, especially your marriage
Here are some steps for making that happen:
1. Remember you are here in school and you have married your greatest teacher.
This person is in your life to help you grow and become better. This means their job is to push your buttons and trigger your fears issues, giving you a chance to see them and work on them. That is why every marriage is a perfect storm of fear, because this special relationship forces you to rise up and learn to be more mature and loving than any other in your life. When you see your journey accurately as your classroom you handle situation better.
2. See every moment as your chance to forgive and grow.
Our clients say when they see their spouse’s bad behavior as their own school class, they harbor less resentment and handle situations better. They feel more motivated to rise to the occasion and take the high road. Forgiving the past also becomes easier, if you see all past conflict as being your perfect classroom, and whatever bad behavior your spouse was guilty of, was about their fear about themselves. It wasn’t really about you. You might want take stock of the positives your past fights have created. There always are some. When you see your spouse as your perfect teacher and their past bad behavior as your perfect classroom, it becomes much easier to forgive them. For more help with forgiveness check out Clarity on Forgiveness on my website.
3. Take responsibility for your fear issues.
You must take responsibility for your insecurities and fears and the bad behavior they create. When you can ‘flag’ and name your fear triggers (in the moment they happen) and if you understand your spouse’s triggers and can see when they get triggered, it will be far easier for you to see the situation accurately and be less reactive or offended.
Instead of shutting down or exploding you can say, “I need you to reassure me and love me through the insecurities this has triggered in me.” or ask “What do you need right now to make you feel safer with me?” You will understand the fear in play and what you both need to quiet those fears.
Your spouse might need you to listen, and honor and respect their right to think and feel the way they do. They also need you to own your past bad behavior and apologize for it. (Even if you think they behaved worse, own your part and say sorry.) Being vulnerable and humble creates a safer space where they are more likely to own their bad behavior too.
If you get angry and fly off the handle (regularly) you are again, having a fear issue. You only get angry when you fear failure or loss and feel either insulted, taken from or mistreated, which are all fear.
If anger is an issue for you, identify your core anger trigger and start practicing choosing to trust your value cannot be diminished by anyone or anything. If your spouse gets disappointed or frustrated with your behavior, there might be some good lessons there, but you still have the same intrinsic value as everyone else. If you see yourself and your value as unchangeable you won’t get angry as often.
Then, choose to trust the universe you are safe all the time and can’t fail or lose anything unless it serves you to lose it and is your perfect classroom. If you choose a perspective of fearlessness and safety, you spouse will no longer be a threat, and you won’t get angry or offended as often. We have a new Anger DVD on my website that would help if anger is an issue for you.
Resentment is by far one of the most dangerous emotion in your marriage. It can build walls and create disconnection that can even become permanent. Instead of worrying about your future, focus today on showing up with love and kindness, quiet your spouse’s fears with lots of validation and reassurance, and be quick to own and apologize when you do wrong.
Any good, long lasting relationship is made of two good forgivers. We have many great articles, worksheets and podcasts about forgiveness on our website that might also help. We are also hosting a personal development event called Get Clarity on March 45-25th at the City Creek Marriott and tickets are still available, and a Marriage Mastery Retreat in April that would be life-changing for you.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and a human behavior expert and speaker. Nicole Cunningham is also a Master Coach who specializes in family and corporate dynamics and people skills.
This was first published on KSL.com
My wife and I keep having the same fight over the same thing, again and again. It comes down to feeling second to her phone, her social media, her work and the kids, especially at night. My question is, how do I overcome those feelings and stop feeling I am not that important to her? How do I get more of her attention? Every time I bring it up I must do it wrong, because it blows up into a huge fight, which drives more of a wedge between us. Hit me with your knowledge, Coach.
I’m going to give you a process to help you find the right response to any relationship problem, so you can find the answer yourself every time.
We call this process “The Clarity Questions,” and you can download it as a worksheet on our website. Let’s run through the process, pretending it’s a night when you want your wife’s attention, but she is on her phone. You may have to walk away from the situation when this happens and run through the steps on paper, then come back.
Step 1: Remember your value (and hers) are not in question. You both have the same value, and no one is better or worse than the other. You are both struggling, scared students in the classroom of life, and you both behave badly at times. Make sure you remember you aren’t perfect either, so you aren’t coming from a place of judgment as the good one, casting them as the bad one.
Step 2: Remember life is a classroom and the universe has one goal, to grow you and help you become better and more loving. If this is truth, then this experience (with this person) is today’s lesson for your growth. This situation is your chance to learn to be more mature, balanced and kind. If you see the situation as your classroom, you will handle it with more love and maturity.
Step 3: Identify what is bothering you, using nothing but the facts, and use “I” statements more than “you” statements. This needs to be a statement owning what you are choosing to experience. Don’t bring up all their past mistakes or your past baggage nor apply meaning to their behavior. This step can be hard to do. You may need feedback from someone who isn’t emotionally involved to accurately see what the raw facts are.
Your's might sound like, “My spouse is on her phone and I am choosing to feel unloved and alone because of that.” (Don’t say this to her yet — just accurately own what the situation is.)
Step 4: Get really clear on what you want. The way you handle this situation is going to create what happens next. What outcome do you want?
Your's might sound like, “I want more of my spouse’s undivided attention tonight and I’d like her to want to spend time with me.”
The goal is to figure out what behavior would create what you want. This is the most important step, because without it you might behave in a way that creates the exact opposite of what you really want.
Step 5: Write down (on paper) all your behavior options. Take your time and write down every option you can think of (both good and bad). Then write next to each option what outcome you think that behavior is likely to create.
Here are some possible options and their outcomes:
Option 1: You can say nothing, but let it bother you, fester and create resentment.
What would this create? Your feelings won't go away and will probably get bigger and bigger until you eventually explode in anger and create an even bigger wedge in your relationship.
Option 2: You could just blurt out what you are feeling and tell her being on her phone at night really bothers you and makes you feel unloved, and you think she cares more about Facebook than she cares about you.
What might that create? This will probably trigger her fear of not being good enough, because criticism brings out the fear of failure in almost everyone unless you handle it the right way (and just blurting it out isn’t the right way).
This approach is also selfish and doesn’t show any concern about her and what she wants or needs. So, she will probably react in fear, by either lashing back about your faults to prove she isn’t the only one who isn’t perfect, or she will get defensive and pull away from you further. Neither of those are going to create what you want, and there definitely won’t be any intimacy tonight because defensiveness doesn’t create the mood.
Option 3: You could have a mutually validating conversation. This is the best option if your relationship is struggling. There are details on how to do these conversations right in my book, "Choosing Clarity," but basically you make the first part of the conversation about her and her feelings by asking questions and listening. Ask her if you make her feel loved enough and is there anything you could do to make her feel more loved? (Ask for feedback about your behavior and be willing to take it.) This will make her more open to doing the same.
After you spend time asking questions, listening and validating her, ask if you could ask her a favor. Then, using “I” statements more than “you” statements, explain that you love her so much and would love to spend a little more time with her at night. (Make sure you have a loving WHY for this, though). You want to spend time with her because you love her company so much, because she’s so fun and so beautiful, and you love time with her. Notice, it’s not about only your needs getting met, it’s about love, not fear or lack.
It’s a good practice once a week, to ask your spouse what you could do to make them feel more loved, wanted, admired and appreciated. This would do wonders for your marriage. We are teaching these kinds of tips at our Marriage Mastery in April.
What might that create? Caring about her first, then asking for what you want, should make her like the idea of spending more time with you. Make sure you are fun, happy and giving her lots of positive validation (all day, every day) about how amazing she is, and she will be crazy about you. Seeing her as loving, giving, affectionate and fun (and telling her this is who you see) will encourage more of that behavior. Telling her she is rude, self-centered and always on her phone will only create more of that, because what you see is what you get.
Option 4: Distract her. (This is the best option if your relationship is pretty good.) Remember when you had small children fighting over a toy. The fastest way to end the fight was to distract them with something better. All you had to say was, “Who wants ice cream?” and the fight was over.
Next time she is on her phone at night, instead of getting in fear and starting a fight, choose love and fun. Tempt her with something better, something she loves. Just start kissing her, massage her feet, nibble on her ear. If you don’t know what your spouse loves more than her phone, ask her! “What could I do that would tempt you away from social media tonight and make you wildly happy?”
What might that create? A fun night spending time together and a marriage that is more fun than demanding, defensive and resentful, which is what you wanted!
Step 6: Choose the option that feels the most loving, mature and balanced.
Sometimes we get stuck in ego though and don’t want to choose love. Our ego wants to win the fight and make the other person pay for their bad behavior. It likes to stay mad and cast your spouse as the bad one. If you find yourself here and lack the motivation to show up with love, try imagining yourself years from now looking back at this moment. What kind of behavior towards your spouse right now would make you proud of yourself?
Choose to take the high road, forgive, be kind and loving towards your spouse, and be the first to apologize, because you will like yourself in the long run if you do.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
I need help with parenting and getting my child to follow my lead in the values my wife and I have. My daughter doesn’t seem to care about honesty, responsibility and the other virtues we care about. How can I change that? How can I raise my kids to be more trustworthy?
We all strive to be good people, to be generous, kind and responsible. We are people with values, who work hard and do the right things. We like to believe, because we have good morals, we are raising children to live the same way. But are you sure you are raising children who will thrive in adulthood, and be contributing members of society, who you and others can trust?
There is a quiz on my website to find out if you are creating trust in your relationship with your child and teaching them to be trustworthy.
Here are a few ways you can improve your parenting to facilitate lessons that ensure your children will grow into responsible, functional and trustworthy citizens:
1. See your children's magic
See your children for all of their genius, talents and strengths. Remember your children are on loan to you and they are meant to learn from you, but they are also here to help you grow in wisdom and love. They are your teachers as much as you are theirs. This attitude will help you see your child as the same as you in value and importance. Your parenting will be love motivated when you truly see their unlimited potential and accurately understand your role. Unfortunately, most of us parent from fear. Our fear-driven behavior comes out when we try to protect our children from failure, rescue them from their mistakes, or when we fail to give them learning opportunities and experience the consequences. Many children today are not given the opportunity to develop trust in themselves and their journey because they are being bailed out at every turn by fearful parents.
Instead, teach your children to trust themselves and their journey. You do this by choosing to trust the universe to handle their education and constantly tell them how amazing they are. Take every opportunity to tell them they have value, talents, wisdom and capacity and that you believe in them. Remember your children will always receive the perfect lessons they need from the universe, so there is nothing to fear. When you choose to trust this truth, you become more peaceful and encouraging in your parenting.
2. Play the long game
Many parents struggle with the big picture. Due to their fear they play the short game of putting out fires and rescuing, instead of facilitating long-term growth. Good parenting is a long game and requires vision. It’s the difference between taking the time to teach a child to wash dishes versus doing it yourself because it’s faster. Paying for a car instead of helping them earn the money. When we adopt a long-game perspective, we see the details in our children’s lives have purpose and meaning. This gives us the opportunity to support and encourage learning.
Don’t become too attached to your child’s performance or position. It’s easy to project your own goals on them when you don’t think they have any. Your need for control, perfectionism and progress can quickly override your desire for their happiness. Remember your children are always on track in their unique and personal classroom. They are signing themselves up for the lessons they need. You must drop your agenda and show up as their cheer squad. Don’t get hung up on short-term losses. Give children your unconditional love and support, instead of judgment or fearful control. Remember your job isn’t controlling them into adulthood, it’s helping them grow their way there. This may require letting them experience painful mistakes, so they win in the long term. It’s better for them to fail while under your roof than later in life when they aren’t.
3. Don’t stress over mistakes
What is your attitude toward mistakes? Do you allow yourself to make mistakes and your children to do the same? Do you find yourself feeling disappointed or taking your child’s mistakes personally? Guess what, adolescence is practice time. When we role model emotional resilience through healthy language and behavior when we make mistakes, we show our children mistakes are not failures.
Life is about learning and we can only learn by trying and sometimes that means failing. Adolescence is the time to make mistakes, reset, recover and try again. Don’t be so quick to judge a mistake as a bad thing. Also, don’t be too quick to rescue your child and save them from the lessons their mistakes create. It can serve a child to experience disappointment, rejection and some humility.
Perfectionism may keep you aligned to the idea (and delusion) that you can control their life. This can negatively affect your language and behavior. Your real job is to hold them accountable, show them love and help them navigate through the mistake with confidence and emotional resilience. If you have trouble with perfectionism or you beat yourself up for any mistake, you must get help with this too, because your children will follow your example.
4. Set them up to succeed
Do you set your children up to succeed with realistic expectations? Sometimes our fear can get the better of us and we find our expectations high and unrealistic. Do you and your spouse discuss your expectations or even allow input from your children as to the goals and expectations? Do you realize the bar should be set differently for each child? Some children are driven, self-motivated and set their own goals, while others need a lot of encouragement and guidance.
We help parents understand the unique psychological inclinations of each child, so they can be smarter parents. Analyze your children and ask yourself which of your children need more pressure and responsibly, and which need less. Trust naturally grows out of responsibility, and your job as a parent is to let go and hand responsibility over to the child, step by step, as they are ready. Setting goals together where they can succeed not only boosts confidence but also provides fertile ground for trust.
Every parent wants their children to be trustworthy, to know what makes them happy and for them to feel confident and independent in making good choices for themselves. This can only happen when they are set up to succeed with wisdom and love.
If you are having trouble parenting with wisdom and love, it means you might have some fear of failure or loss yourself. You may need to get some help to work on your fear issues before you try to guide your child. You can’t teach what you don’t have. Then give your children opportunities, responsibilities, practice ground and the freedom to experience consequences and you will produce trustworthy children who you and others can rely on.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles and Nicole Cunningham own claritypointcoaching.com. They are master executive coaches who also work with couples, families, parents and teens.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.