This was first published on ksl.com
First, I have to say I love reading your weekly articles. The last few weeks have really resonated with me. My girlfriend and I have been together for about four years. Lately, I find myself really wanting affection, validation, a compliment or to feel wanted by her. She used to do little things for me and tell me nice things all the time. Whenever I try to talk to her about it and ask for what I need, she gets angry and feels like I am criticizing her and she feels like she's not good enough. I don't feel like I am doing this with critical intentions. I feel myself getting passive-aggressive about it and feeling bad that she doesn't do these things. I feel like I can't even talk to her about it or she'll just get mad, so I feel like I just have to accept it as it is or give up on the relationship. Do you have any recommendations?
I am going to teach you some tricks for having hard conversations about your relationship, but I will also give you some tips for making the relationship more fulfilling and rich. It is definitely worth trying these things before you give up.
It would be a good exercise for every couple to sit together, read this article and discuss how they can do better in all six areas. Relationships take work; being willing to improve yourself and make changes is critical.
1. Learn more about your partner and how they are wired differently from you
Detailed information on how to learn more about your partner and how he or she is wired can be found in an article I wrote called "The anatomy of your relationship." Once you've done this, make sure you are loving them for who they are and giving them room to be themselves. You are never going to make a task-driven and not very emotional person into an attentive, emotional empath. You will (to some degree) have to learn to love who they really are. This doesn’t mean you can’t bring up offenses or request more loving behavior from them, you just have to do it the right way without attacking them or expecting them to be you. I will explain the right way to do so below.
2. Work on managing your own fear triggers
Your No. 1 job in the relationship is to stay in a trust and love state and be responsible for balanced behavior. When done correctly, this takes so much work and effort that you shouldn’t have much time left for trying to fix your partner.
If you have a hard time getting feedback from your partner and tend to get defensive or feel attacked, you may have a fear-of-failure problem that is hindering your ability to show up with love. You are so worried about not being good enough, you can’t access love for your partner. You may need to get some professional help to manage your fear and become more capable of receiving feedback without feeling attacked. A therapist or coach can make this process easier and faster. Likewise, if you are easily offended, overly critical, or judgmental, you may have a fear-of-loss problem you need to work on. Your partner needs you to own these issues and get to work on becoming a more balanced you.
It is also your partner's No. 1 job to stay in a trust and love state. If he or she is not willing to work on themselves, this might not be the healthy relationship you want to be in. That is something you will have to consider.
3. Have mutually validating conversations about what you both need — every week
Make it a weekly tradition that you find some quiet time (every week at the same day and time works best) and ask each other, "How you are feeling about our relationship and what is one thing I could do to show up for you better?" Then, listen and validate, honor and respect their right to be experiencing things the way they are and feeling how they do. Thank them for being open and honest with you and commit to trying to give what they requested. Then, have them do the same for you. Remember, mutually validating conversations are about listening to understand and better love the other person; they are about giving to each other, not trying to get what you need. If you both go into these conversations with a giving mindset, no one should get offended.
4. Become the cure to your partner's core fear
As you learn more about your partner and their differences, figure out what their biggest core fear trigger is. It will likely be something around being not good enough (fear of failure) or feeling taken from or mistreated (fear of loss). Ask lots of questions and figure out what makes them feel the most unsafe in the relationship. Figure out how you can become the cure to that fear and make them feel safe every single day — as much as you are able to, anyway. Most of their fear work ultimately has to be done by them, but you can help by being a constant source of validation and reassurance. Doing your best to make them feel safe with you is guaranteed to make a difference.
5. Make sure your partner feels admired, appreciated, respected and wanted every day
These four things create really rich relationships. Real love happens best when they are all present. If you love your partner but don’t respect or admire them, it won’t be the kind of love they are really after. If your partner loves you but doesn’t appreciate what you do, you won’t feel very loved. The one thing you have control over in this relationship is what you are giving the other person. Try every single day to say and do something that makes your partner feel admired, appreciated, respected and wanted, and you will be amazed at what you get back.
6. Forgive, give the benefit of the doubt, and be slow to get offended
Below are some things that will help you be more forgiving and less easily offended:
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
I have been dating a guy for about seven months. We have talked about marriage but are not sure if we are ready. I have some concerns about how critical of each other we both are. He is critical of my clothes, car, cleanliness. I am critical of his schedule and how he doesn’t make time for me. I want to make the relationship works after all the time I have invested into it, but my feeling is that if we are critical of each other now, does that reflect a mismatch of values and perhaps mean it is time to move on? So my question is, how hard should you have to work on a dating relationship to make it work and when is it time to move on?
I love this question, but I am going to break it down into the three smaller questions that will make the answer easier to understand.
1. Why are you two being so critical of each other and what’s up with that behavior?
There are a few reasons this conflict might be happening. People are critical or conflict-prone because:
2. Is it a bad sign that means the relationship is wrong or doomed?
Criticizing one another does not necessarily mean the relationship won’t work, will be too hard, or isn’t right. But there are three things it could mean and, again, you will have to listen to your inner GPS to know which is happening in your case.
I teach relationship dynamics for a living, and I can tell you that the perfect match for you is rarely someone just like you. You were likely drawn to this person because of their differences. See if you can love those differences, laugh at their quirkiness and stop trying to change them.
3. Should you stay together and keep working on it, or when should you move on?
You are the only one entitled to the answer to this question, but you are entitled to it. Think it out, listen to your gut and make the decision that feels right, then try on the answer for a few hours — or a few days — and see how it feels. Even though breaking up is painful, sad and hard, you will know if it’s the right thing to do.
If you cannot figure out what your gut is saying, you probably have some fear in the way. You may need some help to quiet the fears so you can hear your gut. Again, some professional relationship help can make this easier.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I had a client ask me about the anatomy of the argument they keep having over and over throughout their marriage. They have noticed that other couples say the same thing: they always argue over the same thing or around the same basic issue. So, I thought that maybe I would explain a simple way to take apart that argument and see what is really happening.
The first thing you need to understand is that fear is in play. I believe there are two fears we all battle with every day, and have done so since we were small children. They are the fear of failure (that I might not be good enough) and the fear of loss (that I am not safe). We all experience both of these, but each person has one that is more dominant.
Find the fear
When thinking about your most common argument, it’s important to figure out which fear is in play for each of you. Ask the following questions to determine which fear is dominant for you, and then for your partner.
Fear of failure questions
Fear of loss questions
Study the fight
The reason it is important to know a person’s core fear is that once you understand where their fear is based, you also know the key trigger that knocks them out of balance and brings out their bad behavior. Most of your arguments will be the same basic fear getting triggered.
People who are fear-of-failure dominant get offended when they feel judged, criticized, rejected, unloved, abandoned or insulted.
People who are fear-of-loss dominant get offended when they feel taken from, mistreated, disregarded, disrespected or like they are losing something.
Think back on your most common argument or disagreement you have with a person. Which one of the above offenses happened first? Someone started this argument when they felt one of those things. Can you see which fear was in play first?
When their first fear was triggered, the person reacted and behaved in a way that triggered the other person’s fear. Can you see which fear that was?
Whenever you react from fear, the behavior that results is almost always selfish and focused solely on protecting yourself. This behavior makes the other person feel unsafe. When you are so focused on protecting yourself, you are not going to be thinking about protecting the other person. It is important that you can see behavior that the first person displayed, or what they said that got the second person triggered, too.
What did the first person’s behavior make the second person feel? Did they feel ...
See the solution
It is critical to understand the anatomy of these arguments so you can see the solution. At the end of the day, you both just want to feel safe, loved, respected, admired and wanted by your partner. This argument is really about the fact that you don’t feel that way.
So, the answer to ending this argument for good is to learn how to make your partner feel safe, loved, respected, admired and wanted when they first get triggered.
What if you could pause right at the beginning of the argument, when the first trigger happens, and ask yourself:
Mary and John
Let me give you an example of how this works:
Mary and her husband John live on a tight budget and are very careful in stretching their paycheck to the end of the month. John opens the fridge and finds a bag of salad that has gone bad and has to be thrown out. He turns to Mary and in anger says "That is just great! Why didn’t you use this before it sat in the fridge and rotted? What’s the matter with you?" Mary yells back, "Why do you have to be such a jerk? You are the worst husband ever." The argument escalates from there.
Let’s take this one apart: This argument started when John got triggered by fear of loss. He was already worried about not having enough money this month, and seeing food go bad triggered that fear. But notice that he doesn’t see it as a money fear problem; he inaccurately sees it as Mary’s problem. So, he aimed his bad reaction right at Mary, insulting and verbally attacking her.
This, of course, triggered Mary’s fear of failure, as John was accusing her of being careless and wasteful. But instead of recognizing what John’s fear was really about (the money fear), she goes on the defense and attacks him back. Now, both John and Mary feel unsafe with each other and instead of addressing the actual fear issue, they have made the argument about each other.
The truth is that most bad behavior is a cry for help, love or reassurance because the person is scared of something; it’s always more about the person’s fears about themselves than it is about you.
People who are grouchy and rude and attack you for small mistakes, or right out of the blue, are usually battling a huge fear that they aren’t good enough; however, they aren't conscious of that, so they project their self-hate onto you, which is easier for them than facing it.
Many people who feel mistreated, taken from, or are easily offended are really angry at life for disappointing them. They can’t punish life for their losses, so they project the problem onto everyone around them. If you can start stepping back and looking at each argument through this filter, you will find they are easier to understand and resolve than you think.
You can do this.
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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.