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.
First published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares the different ways we argue, forgive and apologize — and how to honor each other's needs.
According to Gary Chapman, the author of "The Five Love Languages," each of us have a specific way we give and receive love. Likewise, we have a way we apologize and forgive best.
In my book, “The People Guidebook: For Great Relationships,” I explain how your unique values and fears make you different from other people and drive your behavior. In putting these different ideas together, I discovered there are four different ways we argue, forgive and apologize in communication with other people.
Read the “fighting styles” below to figure out the style that works best for you so you can see the pros and cons of it. You may also want to figure out the fighting style of your spouse, another family member or friend, as this will help you to resolve conflict and have difficult conversations in a way that works for both of you.
The 4 fighting styles
1. Long communicators with connection needed
These people are long talkers and always have lots to say, so they can argue or converse about a problem for a long time. This is fine, unless they are fighting with someone who is a short communicator (who can get easily overwhelmed or worn out by long talkers).
Long talkers often have a tendency toward a victim mentality and sometimes struggle to accept any blame or responsibility for a problem. They usually see themselves as the injured party. These people can get mean and ugly if pushed in an argument (which can be scary for less passionate and/or quieter people).
These people usually have lots of friends and highly value their connections. They often cannot resolve something and move on until they feel a close, caring connection has been restored. It’s easier for them to accept an apology after the person has taken responsibility for the slight or asked for forgiveness, or they have received validation about their feelings and feel cared for and reconnected again
2. Long communicators with restitution needed
These people are long talkers who need a person to restore their loss before they can let things go. They are very good communicators who can keep arguing for a long time. They are so good with words that they can twist the other person’s words around and use them against that other person.
These people tend to be very opinionated and stubborn. They have very black-and-white, right-and-wrong thinking styles, with no room for gray area. They are also very logical and practical (meaning not very emotional and sensitive) in how they see things. They can struggle to understand another person’s feelings if those feelings don’t make sense to them.
These people struggle to accept an apology until the other person has taken responsibility for the slight, asked for forgiveness, and has made some kind of restitution or major change in their behavior. If they feel taken from.
3. Short communicators with validation needed
These people cannot do long, drawn-out arguments, so don’t subject them to hours and hours of conversation. If you talk too much, they will start to shut down and will often say anything they have to just to make the conversation stop. If it doesn’t stop, they will pull back or leave. Don’t take this personally. It doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to work through the issue; it just means they can’t do it in one sitting.
These people don’t like mean, ugly, personal attacks or fighting that is loud and scary. These are quieter people who would rather avoid conflict. Angry criticism makes these people feel very unsafe. They need lots of positive validation before and after anything negative is mentioned.
The secret to engaging with these people is laying the ground rules before you engage. Tell them three things: how long this conversation will last (i.e. “30 minutes and no more, I promise”), how painful this is going to be (i.e. “I promise this is not an attack and you will get to give me feedback here too”), and what you are going to ask for in the end (i.e. “In the end, I am only going to ask you to change one little thing”). If you set up rules of engagement and stick to them, short communicators are more likely to stick with you and work things out.
These people cannot accept an apology until the other person has taken responsibility for the slight, asked for forgiveness, and has given them some positive validation about how good they are. If they feel like a failure at the end, they will struggle to forgive you.
4. Short communicators with restitution needed
These people cannot do long, drawn-out fights or arguments because they don’t have the patience for them. They are more likely to tell you off and then leave. Don’t take this personally. It doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to work through the issue; it just means they can’t do it in one sitting.
These people can get mean, ugly, loud and scary, but they won’t stay in that emotional state for a long time. They will explode and then cool down. This behavior can scare quieter people who would rather avoid conflict. Sometimes it will work best if you will let them explode and be mean, and then let them cool down before returning to the issue.
The secret to engaging with these people is to establish rules of engagement. Tell them the same three things from above: how long this conversation will last, how annoying or emotional this conversation is going to be (try to stay logical and practical), and what you are going to ask for in the end (let them know it won’t be asking for much).
These people cannot accept an apology until the other person has taken responsibility for the slight, asked for forgiveness, and has made some kind of restitution or major change in their behavior. If they feel taken from, apologies won’t matter until the loss has been restored or they see you have really been acting differently.
This information might be a game-changer in your relationship, because arguments and difficult conversations are only productive when both parties feel respected, heard, understood, and honored for their right to be them. You want to practice the Platinum Rule to treat people the way they want and need to be treated (not the way you want to be treated).
Don’t assume that the way you show up and handle yourself is the right way. It’s just a different way. Everyone has the right to be wired the way they are wired. Respect that and honor their differences and you can easily resolve most problems.
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.