This was first published on KSL.com
In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares a few suggestions for changing the cycle of offense and blame and making your relationship richer.
I love your advice on KSL and it's helped me a lot, but my question is how do you stop feeling offended when people disregard you or make you feel unimportant? My spouse says our problems are my fault because I get upset too easily. I think our problems are his fault because he is so often thoughtless. We keep having the same fight again and again because of this issue. I know I get offended often, but I think it's his behavior that needs to change and he thinks I just shouldn't get mad. If I don't get mad, though, he will keep treating me this way. I feel stuck in this cycle and we can't get out. Any advice on this?
Almost all relationships get stuck in a fear and blame cycle at some point. It becomes like the chicken and the egg question: which came first and who is to blame? Did he start it with his rudeness or did you start it by getting offended?
The truth likely is that you are both equally responsible for allowing the relationship to become a place of fear and distrust instead of one of safety and love. It is going to take both of you to turn it around. You both must commit to changing yourself, not each other. As long as you are both pointing fingers, nothing will change.
To focus on changing your own behavior, ask yourself: How can I step it up and be more forgiving, loving and kind? How can I take responsibility for my unloving behavior? Your spouse must do the same in committing to work on himself and change his "selfish" behavior.
You must work on your triggers and figure out what beliefs you have that are making you feel unsafe (offended). There is usually a pattern to it, and it's tied to some foundational beliefs you adopted in childhood. You may want to consider working with a coach or counselor to process these beliefs; it's faster and easier with help.
Here are some things you can do to start the process:
1. Figure out what your beliefs are and where they come from
Think back to some of your earliest memories of being upset. Can you remember what you thought or felt at that time? Did you feel unloved, unimportant, worthless, unwanted, mistreated, distrustful toward someone who was supposed to protect you?
Write down your thoughts and feelings about how these early experiences. Did you draw any conclusions from these experiences? Some might include: "People can't be trusted," "I am all on my own," "It's safer not to talk," "I must defend myself because no one else will," "I am not good enough," "I am not safe," or "I don't deserve love."
It is highly likely that these thoughts and conclusions have become your beliefs and that these beliefs are making you feel unsafe a lot of the time. It's not really your spouse who is making you feel this way; you have programs in your subconscious mind that already believed these things before your spouse was even in the picture. You have had these beliefs and thoughts for so long, they are now just easy to trigger and bring out. This is your problem, not your spouse's.
2. Get ready to do the work
Remember, a relationship is a place where two imperfect, scared people come together to work on improving themselves. Your relationship is not a picnic, a dream come true, or a vacation. It is school and it's going to take work and dedication to stay in it and make it work. You both must commit to seeing your relationship — and your disagreements — as perfect classroom material and dedicate yourself to self-improvement.
3. See your spouse as an amazing teacher in your life classroom
As your significant other, your husband is in a unique position to trigger your deepest fears and bring them out so you can work on them. No one can trigger your very worst behavior better than your significant other. No one has more power to hurt you. No one else sees you at your worst and knows the faults that you hide from the world. Because of this, these relationships are often hard and painful, but they can also be the richest part of your life if you are both committed to creating that.
That being said, if you are physically, emotionally or psychologically unsafe in your relationship, you should seek professional help immediately. You might need to leave the relationship until the other person does some work on their side. If you suspect that you might be experiencing abuse, contact a mental health professional and get some support.
When your spouse says or does something that triggers you to feel angry, mistreated or insulted, step back and ask these questions before you respond:
4. Remember, nothing can diminish you
Your value is infinite and absolute. You have the same worth as everyone else, regardless of what others do or say. So, you can choose to see yourself as bulletproof. You could decide to let this offense bounce off. But if you feel you must address this offense with your spouse, do so with the understanding that your value can't change and this is a perfect lesson for you. This will make you feel safer and allow you to show more love for them.
5. Choose to take control and responsibility in this situation
You get to choose how you will experience each situation. You are going to tell yourself a story about what happened and add meaning to it, one way or another. You can choose to be hurt and offended, and have self-pity or righteous anger story. You can use it to cast the other person as the "bad guy" so you can feel superior. You could use this to play the victim. But if you choose any of these scenarios, you will be giving your power away and inviting division into your relationship.
In every interaction with your significant other, you are adding either fear and distrust or love into the relationship. If you snap, criticize, insult, are harsh or insensitive, you are adding fear to the relationship. If you are reacting badly to your partner's behavior and getting offended, you are adding fear. If you keep choosing to protect yourself over showing love to the other, you are adding fear. If you both keep adding fear all the time, there will soon be no love left in it.
You must be responsible for what you are adding to this relationship every day. What can you do to add love into the relationship at this moment? Ask yourself after every interaction: Did I add fear or love? Was I more about protecting myself or loving them? This is the key to making your relationship a safer place for both of you.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Most of the questions submitted to me from KSL.com readers are about getting along better with family members. When your relationships with your spouse, children, parents, in-laws and siblings are struggling, or there is disappointment, anger, resentment or distrust in the mix, it is terribly painful and can suck the joy from your life.
Most relationships that are in trouble started out with just minor issues, but over time the resentment and distrust have grown. Now that there has been a lot of bad water under the bridge, fixing the problem is much more difficult. Most people wait until a problem is huge before they seek help; they get therapy or life coaching as a last resort before splitting up instead of seeking help at the first sign of trouble, when a problem is easier to fix.
This also applies to your relationships with your children. Parents often tell me how they used to be close to their child and now their child won't talk to them. Most of the time, what has happened is a slow decline in trust, respect, validation, listening and communication. The change can be so gradual you don't realize the relationship is in trouble until it's almost too late.
There are things you can do to avoid these problems and/or address them earlier, but you have to first recognize a problem is happening. The following health checks can assist you in recognizing issues earlier.
Check the temperature of your relationship
Are things 'too hot' with conflict?
Is either of you feeling angry, defensive, confrontational, volatile or bothered? Is there conflict and fighting every week? Does someone get offended a few times a week? Even if this happens once a month, it is a sign that there is a problem that requires attention.
Heat in the relationship often means there is a fear of loss, mistreatment or feeling deprived in play. It could mean you or the other person is struggling with not feeling safe. They might be on the lookout for offenses in order to protect themselves. This is a big sign of trouble, but it's not hard to fix if addressed early.
You might show your partner this article and say, "I think we run hot. What do you think?" Ask questions about how safe they feel in the relationship and just listen. Don't defend yourself or try to fix it; just be willing to listen to how they feel and validate their right to have those feelings today. You could say "I can understand how you might feel this way. Thanks for sharing with me. Would you ever be open to getting some relationship help with this before it gets any bigger?"
Don't be afraid that things will get worse, scarier or more complicated if you seek help — it won't. Learning new skills and tools can actually turn things around quickly. Heat in a relationship is something to watch closely and remedy as soon as you can. Reassure the person that you are on their side and have their back and want this relationship to thrive. Seek some professional help and get some skills and tools to help you resolve conflict in a calm, mature, less emotional way.
Are things 'too cold,' meaning quiet or distant?
Is there distance between you? Do you feel there is a wedge of some kind in play? Is something dividing you? This is something you want to address right now, while the distance is narrow. If you let this issue fester and grow, it can become as large as the Grand Canyon, making it almost impossible to cross.
If one of you has the habit of getting cold and quiet when bothered, this is not healthy relationship behavior. It could mean you don't have the skills and tools necessary to talk about the issue or you don't feel safe enough with your spouse to try talking about it. Either way, you need to learn how to make yourself feel safe so you can address issues and problems in the moment, and not stuff them.
Again, I recommend you seek professional help on communication, strength and self-esteem. Don't wait for years of coldness to pass by and freeze the relationship up.
As you know, a healthy body temperature is on average 98 degrees Fahrenheit. But even a tiny three-point increase means you have a fever of 101 and are really sick. It doesn't take much to knock your relationship out of balance, too.
A healthy relationship temperature is one where both parties feel safe with each other and there is mutual love, respect, admiration and appreciation. Check the temperature every day and don't let heat or cold continue untreated. I have written many articles on solving specific relationship problems in the past that you can find searching KSL.com
Take the relationship blood pressure
What direction is your relationship pressure going? If it is not rising/improving, then it is going down. Just like blood is constantly on the move in your body, your relationship is always moving. It is either getting stronger or it is weakening.
What are you doing to move it forward and improve it right now? Are you reading books together, engaged in life coaching or counseling, spending quality time together, asking questions and listening, validating each other, doing nice things, planning dates, making time for intimacy, or showing that you admire, respect and appreciate your partner? Check your blood pressure and make sure you are doing something each day to keep the relationship rising. See if your partner is on board to work on this together.
How much does this relationship weigh?
Is your relationship heavy or light? Is it a place that feels sluggish and weighted down or is it light, happy and fun?
You might have gone through some heavy stuff together, and this adds burden and strain to your relationship. If this is the case, you may need some professional help to give you skills and tools for coping, being resilient and bouncing back.
In the meantime, commit to bringing more joy and fun into the relationship. Make it fun and light to be with you. Plan fun activities together, watch funny movies, go outside, have some adventure, and start choosing some joy every day. If you or your partner are struggling with depression and this sounds nearly impossible, get some help with this. Don't let the heaviness become a permanent thing.
Check for investment in your relationship health
For any relationship to be healthy it requires investment. It might require you to invest some money — for dates, activities and fun together — and it will absolutely require an investment of time and energy.
Your time is your most limited resource and there are many things competing for it. You have many responsibilities and demands that make it easy to lose track of what is most important, but your relationships with the people you love, in the end, will always be the thing that matters most. Ask yourself how you can invest in making sure your relationship is healthy.
There are many options that don't cost a lot. You can read relationship books from the library. You can go on free dates like hikes or picnics. But all of these require you to invest some time and energy into it. I promise it will be worth it.
All your relationships require investment to maintain, and even more investment if you want them to thrive. This applies to spouses, partners, children, parents, in-laws and friends. You can health check all these relationships daily to help you see where extra TLC or attention is needed.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSl.COM
This week I want to share some interesting things about human behavior that will help you understand yourself and your loved ones and why we behave the ways we do. I have been teaching people skills and coaching people through relationship problems for over 25 years, and in that time I've come to realize that whatever bad behavior you are seeing in another person (or yourself) it is being driven by their (or your) fears.
If you read my column regularly you've heard that before, but today I am taking it a little deeper because there are some other important truths about human behavior and fear that might also help improve your relationships. Here they are:
Fear always wins
What I mean is you subconsciously make decisions from your fears, way more often than by love or values. Your need for safety is your most basic need. Maslow didn't agree with me on this when he created his hierarchy of needs though. Maslow put food and water as the most basic need and then safety after that, but I think he got it wrong.
This is because, if you are starving but at the same time you are being chased by a tiger, you wouldn't stop to eat. Your safety comes first. Once you were safe, then you would worry about food and water. This makes sense if you are being chased by a tiger, but it doesn't work well in your personal relationships, when you are choosing between fear and love.
When your spouse offends you, you will automatically react from fear and protect yourself before you will respond with love. It's your natural programming to do so. I wish this wasn't true, but your subconscious fears will almost always override your love, values and intentions, unless you consciously choose otherwise.
Behavior driven by fear is inherently selfish and void of love
This is because you cannot do love and fear at the same time. Fear-driven behavior is all about protecting yourself and seeking safety. It is not about the other person and what they need. All bad behavior is driven by fear for ourselves and this selfish, loveless behavior creates a divide in relationships.
When you show up in fear you trigger the other person's fears, too
When you show up in a relationship in fear (instead of love) you trigger fear in your partner. They can feel that you don't love them in that moment and that scares them. They feel unsafe and they automatically respond back in fear, to protect themselves. You will then feel this lack of love in their response and you will be triggered further.
This is the vicious cycle I see in almost all relationships. Can you see it in yours? One person gets scared and responds in fear and this triggers the other to respond in fear and soon, there is no love showing up?
We can change our fear-driven bad behavior and choose love
This fear-driven behavior is something we can work on and change, but it takes a great deal of mindfulness, awareness and practice. Everything I write and teach comes down to recognizing when fear is driving, choosing to feel safe in that moment, and choosing to show up in love not fear. I will be the first to say that it isn't easy, though, because we are subconsciously wired for fear. We do have the power to watch our behavior and thinking for fear reactions though, and consciously choose love-driven responses.
Here are some examples of how fear over love reactions happen:
Example 1: A child loves his parents and wants to make good choices for himself, but he also fears not being accepted by his peers. He might be fear of failure dominant, which means he needs acceptance and validation so badly, he might choose to follow his friends and make poor choices in order to feel safe and accepted. His fears around acceptance will drive his choice, and he will choose safety over love for himself.
The parent loves this child but also fears losing them and failing them. When the child makes a bad choice, the parent gets fear triggered. They react badly, yell, scream, ground the child for a year, or punish them in whatever way will make the parent feel safer again. They might become controlling, if this feels safer. Their parenting behavior is fear-driven though and it is all about them, not what the child needs right now. The parent will put safety before love, the same way the child did.
The answer here is to help the child build their self-esteem and have less fear of rejection, so they don't need approval from their friends so badly. He needs help making choices that are love driven for himself. The parent needs to learn to trust their child's journey and see life as a classroom, not a test. They need to have less fear and more trust in their value and journey. This will help them parent from love and wisdom, doing what's best for their child, not what feels safer for themselves.
Understanding each other's fear-driven behavior brings compassion for why they did what they did though. We understand it because we have the same fears and they drive our bad behavior too.
Example 2: A husband loves his wife, but he has a great deal of fear around losing or wasting money. When he sees the wife has spent money on food that didn't get eaten and went bad, he gets angry and upset with her, even treating her badly. He subconsciously thinks being angry and unkind to her will teach her to be more careful with money, which will make him feel safer. This is fear-driven bad behavior, and he is obviously choosing to act from fear not love.
The wife loves her husband but has a deep fear of failure and feeling attacked and criticized triggers her badly. She doesn't at this point feel safe with her husband. So she pulls back, gets silent and stays away from being close to him. This is also a fear-driven bad behavior that means she is choosing fear over love. She thinks she is safer pulling away.
The husband feels his wife pulling away from him and not wanting to be close to him. This fear-driven behavior of hers triggers more fear of loss and anger in him. Instead of showing up with love at this point, he gets more angry, because that subconsciously feels like it's protecting him. This further triggers her. This vicious cycle of choosing fear over love can continue until there is no love left in the relationship.
The real answer here is for the husband to get help around his fears of loss, waste and money. He most likely has fear issues around being mistreated and disregarded, and these are his fear issues to solve and manage. He must learn to see loss and recognize that acting from fear won't create what he wants in his marriage. He has to learn how to handle situations with love and respect, if he wants love and respect back.
The wife hopefully can see why her husband behaves the way he does and understands that when he lets fear dictate his behavior, it's not really about her, it's about his own fear of loss issues. She must learn to manage her fear of failure issues, so when she is criticized, she can see it's about his fear and not take it personally. She must learn to make herself feel safe so she can show up with love and forgiveness when he is scared.
Here are the core principles from all this:
This was first published on ksl.com
I recently got out of a relationship where I was dating someone that really loved me, but I was not sure what I was feeling at that point. I had a lot going on in my mind, so we decided to call it good and part ways. However, we left the door open to getting back together in the future. As time went on, I started to have clarity of my feelings. I love this person with all my heart, but I also realize we both have things to work on in order to have a healthy relationship. When I needed space, my partner would instead give me a lot of love and affection. I would then push him away. Now that my life is in a better place, I am trying to get rid of this self-defense mechanism. I started therapy and I am also on medication for depression. I reached out to my partner a few weeks ago and he requested some space, which I am giving him. So my questions are: How can a couple get through phases like this? What is the best way to approach reconciliation between me and my partner?
It sounds to me like you and your partner have different attachment styles. One is pushing while the other is pulling away, and neither of you feels secure in the relationship. The first step toward reconciliation would be to understand what happened last time so you don't repeat it.
Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller wrote an interesting book on attachment styles called "Attached." In the book, the authors explain there are three basic attachment styles and we are all functioning from one of them all the time. But your attachment style can change with different life experiences, they say. Your attachment style is your way of functioning in relationships and with intimacy at any point in time.
What is your attachment style?
Understanding your attachment style can help you to see why you behave and react the way you do. Here are the three attachment styles Levine and Rachel discuss:
The anxious person believes no one loves them and the avoidant believes love is smothering, the authors say. They each fulfill these beliefs for the other. These relationships are also the most difficult because the natural reactions and behaviors of an anxious person are the perfect triggers for the avoidant person and vice versa. This cycle isn't a healthy relationship for either party.
Changing your behavior
Here are some of the game playing, bad behaviors each type can display that triggers the other:
If the answers to those questions are "yes," then you need to decide what you both need and want in a relationship. You must do this without your partner because with them you might just list things you think your partner wants to hear. By working alone, however, you can be honest about your needs and what you think a healthy secure relationship should look like. Then be honest about whether you can really provide this for each other.
If you are avoidant and your partner is anxious, you both have some work to do on your fear triggers before this will work. Here are some things each of you can work on:
Anxious people can:
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I love your book "Choosing Clarity." I work in it every morning and plan to for the rest of my life. I have a problem with my spouse, though. She goes on and on with negativity and has for 30 years. She claims it's a fact she is a loser and a failure. I just don't want to hear or validate that anymore. I could listen for hours, and she never moves to a more positive place. She recounts over and over every failure she can find. She is never interested in trying to see it a different way. She won't read your book or try anything to feel better. She has post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. How do I proceed from here? I am so tired of it, and now she says I don't listen or care. I am just so tired of the same conversation that is so negative. What can I do?
This is hard since you cannot fix or change another person. No amount of begging, pleading or trying to solve it will ever change someone until they want to change. This can be discouraging and exhausting.
The good news is there are some things you can do to maintain your own positivity and encourage your partner to want to change themselves. Here are a few suggestions:
Don't try to fix it or be responsible for it
Most negative people want understanding about the pain they are in; they don't want a solution. They simply want you to know they are in pain, scared and unhappy. Your natural instinct will be to find a solution, but all they need you to say is "I am sorry your hurting. It sounds painful. I hate knowing your hurting because I love you."
Don't offer any solutions, especially if you have offered solutions in the past. Allow them to be where they are and be responsible for it. If you offer solutions, they may think that you're partly responsible for fixing it, which you cannot be. It's not your problem to fix, it is theirs.
Just affirm that you love and care for your spouse. If they ask why you aren't offering solutions anymore, tell them you realized they are the only person who can change it, and it's best to just love them where they are.
Stop trying to change them
The more you try to change someone, the more they will dig in and insist on staying where they are. They want to be loved and accepted where they are right now, even when they are really hard to live with. If they can feel you are disappointed in them and wish they were different, they will resist any change even more.
Stop saying or acting like you want anything different. This creates a space where they will be more open to change.
Use the encouragement technique
You cannot change another person, but you can encourage them when they want to change themselves. This is how it works: Imagine the way you want your spouse to think and behave. Make a list of the qualities you wish they possessed and the way you wish they behaved if they were being their best. Then, look for any signs of that kind of behavior. When you see it, make sure you mention how awesome they are.
Be specific and tell them how wonderful it is that they are acting more positive and happy now. Tell them what an upbeat, positive person they are being.
The goal is to show them this is the person you see when you look at them. People always want to live up to your highest opinion of them, so they may decide to be like this on their own. Just make sure any comment you make is positive and don't respond to the negative behavior at all.
Change your belief about human value and make it the language in your home
The only way this person will feel different or think differently about themselves and their life is if they do some work to change their beliefs.
We all currently have a belief that we might not be good enough. It sounds like your partner even believes she is a total failure. This is not a fact, just a belief. It comes from a deep foundational belief that human value can change and has to be earned. As long as a person believes that, they will always feel "not good enough."
The best way to change self-esteem for every member of your family is to teach them a new, better belief – that all human beings have the same, unchangeable, intrinsic worth and there is nothing they can do to change that. Talk about this new belief often with your family and make it the language in your home. Your partner will start to get it if you talk about it often.
You could also offer to encourage them to work with a coach or counselor if they want to better understand the principle. It's better to let them learn it on their own with their private coach than for you to try to teach it to them.
Encourage your family to have compassion for others
The way you judge other people is always tied to the way you judge yourself. If you are hard on yourself, chances are you are also hard on others and quick to see their faults as diminishing their value. As long as you do that, you will also see your own faults as diminishing your value. So, if you encourage compassion for others and really work on seeing them as good enough, you will also grow in love for yourself.
Help your family to trust the journey as your perfect classroom
Share with your family the idea that we are on the planet to learn and grow, and the universe is a wise teacher bringing the perfect lessons we need every day. This means when we have failures, they don't change our value; they are just lessons here to teach us something.
Talk about this principle often in your home and let your spouse hear it. Don't preach it or try to teach it to them, though. Just talk about it as something you believe.
Understand this partner can be your perfect classroom
We tend to surround ourselves with people who can become good teachers in our journey. I wonder if this partner struggling with this issue can be the perfect spouse for you. What can you learn?
If you keep asking this question, the universe will provide an answer. Maybe it's to learn to love others when they are hard to love. Maybe it's about loving yourself or trusting God more. When you see your spouse as part of your perfect classroom, you can have more patience with and compassion for them.
(Note: This suggestion is not meant to be applied in situations that involve abuse. If you feel unsafe because you experience emotional, mental or physical abuse, you must seek outside help.)
See your spouse as scared, not negative
By attaching negative labels to your spouse, you're more likely to have less compassion for and experience more frustration with them. It would be more accurate — and more helpful — to see them as scared and lacking some skills and tools than to see them as a negative person. Your spouse is just a person who is struggling because they don't know a better way to process their life, but that doesn't affect their value at all.
Have some boundaries when you need them
Lovingly tell your spouse that you are sorry they are hurting and you love them. But it's also OK to let them know you can handle about five more minutes of negative talk, and then you'll need to either focus on some positives or leave the room. Make sure they know this isn't about them, but about what you need to stay balanced today yourself.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
I work with many couples who are struggling to get along, handle conflict and feel safe with each other. When they tell me about the disagreements they have, I can always see some simple questions they could have asked that might have stopped the fight before it started.
It might help you apply this article to yourself if you could think back to a specific fight or conflict you have had in the past and replay it in your mind. Then imagine what might have happened if you had tried the suggestions below.
Conflict usually begins when someone says or does something that makes the other person feel insulted, criticized, taken from or disregarded. I call this the triggering incident. When these incidents happen, the other person then feels they must defend or protect themselves, and they often respond with a defensive response or counterattack.
The best time to stop a fight is right when the triggering incident happens — before you get defensive or make a counterattack. But it is difficult to stop and think clearly when you have just been offended.
Stopping at the triggering point is going to take some practice and some battling with your ego — because your ego always wants to react defensively or attack back. Your ego shows up to protect you any time there is a perceived threat, but it's important to remember your ego is fear-driven and not capable of love-driven behavior. If you let your ego respond from fear, you are always going to make the situation worse.
The other thing to keep in mind is that most triggering incidents are unintentional and driven by our own fears. When people feel unsafe they behave selfishly and carelessly, and most of the time it isn't really about you at all.
So here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you pause, get out of ego, get more information and respond to triggering events in a more mature, balanced way:
What am I feeling?
The moment a triggering incident happens, walk away, close your eyes, ask for a minute to get your head clear, or just pause and pay attention to what's happening inside yourself. What are you feeling? How did that trigger make you feel?
Don't stop asking questions here, though. You don't want to let your ego make these emotions bigger. Before you start ruminating about the offense, ask some more questions.
Am I applying meaning to what was said or done?
For example, maybe you're thinking: "My spouse making that comment means they don't care about me at all." Does it really mean that? Take the meaning away and just look at the content of the comment or action alone.
How am I perceiving this?
Ask yourself: Is there any way that I am hearing or perceiving this to be malicious while it wasn't meant that way? Do I have a tendency to feel insulted or taken from easily? This could mean I see offenses when they aren't really there; own it if this might be true.
You may want to ask the other person about their intent. Did they mean that to sound critical or judgmental, or is that just the way you are hearing it? Give them a chance to explain their intent. Ask this from a place of really wanting to understand the other person, not from a place of judgment where you are talking down to them.
Was it malicious?
Ask yourself: Do I think this person purposefully wants to hurt or offend me? Is there malice in their actions and do they intend harm? Or, do they love me and just say or do thoughtless things because they aren't paying attention?
What is going on with your partner at this moment? Are they tired, hungry, distracted or experiencing fear that might keep their focus on themselves? Could there be another reason they did this triggering behavior, one that isn't even about you and has no malice in it?
What do I want to happen?
Ask yourself: What do I want this day or night to look like? What kind of experience would I like to have with my partner today? Are there reactions to this triggering incident that will create what I want and others that would totally destroy what I want? Consciously choose a response that will create what you want.
How often does this happen?
Ask yourself: Is this kind of offense something that is happening often? Is the behavior creating fear about this relationship not working long term? Is that scaring me? If it is, then you must address the behavior, but you must do that the right way and at the right time. Think about the best time and place to have this sensitive conversation.
Then, make sure when the right time comes, you ask the other person if they are open to having a heartfelt conversation about the relationship. Get their buy-in to do this. Let them know that your intention here is to make the relationship stronger, not poke holes in it. You are not mad at them, and this isn't about attacking each other; it's about understanding each other better. Let them know you love them and give them some validation around all the things they do right.
Start the conversation by asking them questions about how they feel the relationship is going. Is there anything that concerns them or scares them? Is there anything you could do to show up for them better?
Spend time here listening to understand them, how they see things and how they feel. Honor and respect their right to think and feel the way they do. Ask lots of questions and stay here until they feel heard and understood. If you do this right, you will probably learn some things about your partner you didn't know.
Then, ask permission to share something that has been creating a little fear in you. Ask if they would be willing to listen and not get defensive, reiterating that your intent here is to strengthen the relationship and understand each other better.
Remind them that you love them, then explain the behaviors that are triggering you using "I" statements. Try phrases like "I feel," "when I hear this I experience this," "in my opinion," and "from my perspective."
Try to avoid "you" statements that feel like an attack. Tell them that when they say or do these things it triggers some fear in you and explain what your fears are. Own the fact that your reactions may be more about events in your past than they are about your partner in the present. Talk it through while staying focused on mutual understanding, respect and a desire to know each other better.
The people closest to you typically don't mean to intentionally offend you or put you down on purpose, but it does happen. If they intentionally meant harm, there are a couple of places it can go from there:
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
About a year ago I found out my spouse had not only been looking at inappropriate things online, but she has also been leaving comments on posts and videos of other men. It has completely destroyed me. I feel betrayed. I feel like I'm not good enough. She, of course, says that it meant nothing to her. But when I try and tell her how much it has hurt me, she doesn't get it. We have been fighting over this for over a year, and the only way to stop fighting is for me to just act like I am over it. I AM NOT OVER IT! In fact, I'm still sick about it. But the more I think about it, the more I think that maybe I am the one overreacting over it. I'm so lost and confused. ... Can you please help me? She did delete the app she was doing it on, but I feel like the damage is done and I don't know how to move forward.
I'd like to address your question by giving you a procedure you can use whenever you get offended or have a fight or a problem with anyone in your life. This is especially helpful when trust has been broken and you don't feel emotionally safe with your partner.
In a situation like this, you only have two options in response. It is very important that you understand the consequences of each option and make a conscious decision about which is right for you. If you don't make a conscious decision, your brain will make a subconscious decision by reacting and you will probably make the situation worse, not better.
Here are your two options:
1. Respond from a place of fear
Understand that you cannot show up in love and fear at the same time. If you choose fear, your love goes out the window and your focus is on protecting yourself. This means your behavior will be selfish. You will not do or say things that show love and compassion for the other person; you will say and do things that make you feel safer.
The other person will feel the selfish energy around what you say, and they will likely not feel safe or loved by you. They will then focus on protecting themselves, too, and they won't be loving toward you. If you both show up in fear often, no one will be giving any love and it's less likely that the relationship will work.
2. Respond from a place of love
This means you choose to respond with love toward yourself and the other person. You can only access your love and respond this way if you have first chosen to trust that you are safe. You will need to trust that the universe is on your side, that your value can't change, and that you cannot be "not good enough." This will help you have the capacity to choose to show love, compassion and forgiveness to the other person.
When you respond with love, you can choose to allow the other person to make mistakes and still be worthy of your love because you want the same grace for your mistakes. You can forgive their past behavior completely, seeing it as just a lesson for both of you and not part of who they are. Choosing to forgive and love the other person is likely to make them love you more and create the best outcome.
How to respond from a place of love
Having said that, the love option isn't easy to choose; fear is a lot easier. Fear comes naturally with no effort whatsoever. Choosing love and forgiving the other person can feel much harder, but there are some things you can do to make it easier.
It's important to note there are some situations when the loving thing to do is love yourself enough to leave. If you truly believe the other person has no intention of changing or improving, you might feel leaving is the best thing for you. Only you are entitled to know if and when you have reached this point. Trust your heart and you will know. This is also a love-motivated choice, not a fear-motivated choice.
You may also want to work with a coach or counselor on your self-esteem. Work on letting all human beings have the exact same intrinsic value as you and giving up judging other people and seeing them as less than you. This is the secret to feeling more worthy and loveable yourself. If you see faults and mistakes in others as making them less, bad or unworthy, your own faults and mistakes will also make you feel less, bad and unworthy. If you let every other human make mistakes and still be worthy of love, you will start to see that you are too.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Most couples say the words "I love you" on a regular basis, but often they don't really mean it.
They might just say "I love you" out of habit or because they want to look like a loving spouse even if aren't acting like it. In the latter case, they are quick to find fault, be annoyed, or criticize the other. There is fighting and defensiveness on a regular basis, and the crux of the problem is usually that they don't feel safe and aren't sure that their partner truly loves them.
I challenge you to commit to loving your partner more fully by understanding what it really means when you say "I love you." Those three words are not a state that you are magically either "in" or "not in." They don't represent a feeling you have for someone; they represent a choice and a commitment. Loving another person is a choice you make over and over, every day.
It might be more powerful and keep us more accountable if instead of saying "I love you," we said: "I choose to actively love you." Then, we would be reminded that loving someone involves behavior way beyond having fond feelings for them. Love is something you do, not just something you feel. Feeling love toward someone is easy, actually loving them is hard work.
If you read this article or send it to your spouse, please do not make it about pointing out the areas where you think your partner is weak or lacking. Focus instead on where you can improve your own behavior and show up with real love for your partner.
Also, I am not suggesting that you must do all these things perfectly. That is not possible for any of us. However, this is a good standard to work toward, and any effort in this direction will improve your relationship.
When you say 'I love you,' it means …
I actively see you
As your partner, I see the parts of you few people get to see — both the good and the bad. No one else will know you at the level I do. You have flaws and faults, because we all do, but I choose to see the good, valuable, worthy and even amazing parts as who you are. I choose to see your intrinsic value and that it cannot change. I see the divine, true, loving parts of you and show you every day that I see you.
I choose to admire you
You don't have to be perfect to have my admiration. I choose, every day, to admire your efforts, your values, your work, your good qualities, and the way you show up and keep trying even when you're struggling. I choose to focus on the best qualities you have, not your faults, because that is what real love does.
I choose to accept you as you are
I choose to love who you really are, with your strengths, talents and habits that I admire, as well as your weaknesses, faults, mistakes and habits that drive me crazy. I accept that you don't think like me or behave like I do. You don't see the world the way I see it. You are wired differently than I am and value different things, but I accept you this way. I do not think you need to change to earn my love. You just need to be who you are.
I choose to be here for you
I choose to support you, cheer for you, listen to you and do whatever I can to make your life better and happier. I don't carry responsibility for your happiness (that is your job) but I will show up and be there to help wherever I can. I do things for you and am your biggest fan.
I choose to respect you
I respect and honor your right to be where you are in your classroom journey. I respect your right to think and feel the way you do, to experience and live the way you do. When you are upset (even if I don't get it) I honor and respect your right to have the feelings you have. I never purposefully talk down, insult or degrade you in any way. I speak kindly and never make you feel small, broken or messed up. If I get bothered with you, I talk to you in a respectful way (like I would to a peer or friend). I may not do this perfectly, but I am committed to the effort.
I choose to trust you
This means I give you the benefit of the doubt, let most of your mistakes go, and always assume the best of you. When you disregard me, I assume it was not intentional. I choose to trust that you love me. This is critical to making our relationship work. If I see unloving behavior in you, I assume it comes your fears about yourself. I talk to you about this from a place of love and compassion. I know that I only have two choices when trust is broken. I can choose distrust, which will doom the relationship and drive a wedge between us, or I can choose to trust you, which will give us a chance. I choose to trust you.
I choose to trust that if you don't love me anymore you will speak up and tell me that. I won't expect you to stay in this relationship if you no longer choose to love me. Until you say those words, I will trust that you do love me and mean what the words say.
I choose to listen to you
I may not always do this perfectly because I get caught up in my own agenda sometimes, but I choose to work at being a good listener and trying to truly understand you. I strive to give you my attention and care about what you think and feel. I know this is a critical part of a good relationship and I choose to be a partner that can set their ideas and opinions aside and listen. If you ever feel I am not listening, kindly ask me if I would be willing to listen and I will remember my commitment.
I am honest and authentic with you
I tell you the truth, even when it is hard. I am true to myself and allow you to really know the real me. If I make a mistake, I own it and get help if I need it. I do not hide things from you or lie about what I am doing. I am an open book and allow you to know the real me on every level.
I choose to forgive you
We both make mistakes and will, on occasion, hurt each other. I choose to forgive you and allow you to be an imperfect, struggling, scared, human in process, just like me. When you mistreat me, forget to think about me, or miss things, because you were focused on yourself, I choose to forgive you. I choose this in advance. We will mistreat and disregard each other; it's going to happen. When it does, I will talk about my feelings and then forgive you. I commit to letting the past go and always giving you the chance to do better.
I have written many articles on forgiving your spouse because it is so critical to the relationship. Click here to read some of them.
It's important to note here that you should never allow any kind of abuse. If abusive behavior is happening, that person doesn't love you. You don't emotionally or physically hurt someone you love. Seek some help and support immediately.
I am loyal to you
I don't need romantic attention from other people. You are my person. I think about how I can make you feel admired, respected, appreciated and wanted every single day. Showing you my loyalty is a priority in my life and I don't do things that would hurt or harm you.
I take responsibility for myself, for you
I won't make you responsible for my self-esteem or happiness. I don't blame you if I am unhappy with myself or life. Those are my responsibilities. I own the responsibility for my thoughts and actions. If I have issues or choose behaviors that hurt you, I will be responsible and seek help to fix them. I will not look for faults in you to justify my bad behavior.
You won't ever love your partner perfectly. You will both make mistakes and mistreat each other, but if you keep coming back to showing up in these ways and love each other at this level, you will create a pretty wonderful relationship.
You may want to read this article on a regular basis to keep your commitment to love fresh in your mind.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
SALT LAKE CITY — I work with many couples who experience conflict in their relationships and who want to change that. Often, these couples fight over small things that hinge on misunderstandings of intent.
Most of us don't take the time to understand "the why" behind another person's behavior or their intent before we react. We don't ask questions about why our partner did what they did. We must start doing this if we want a healthy relationship because the intent matters.
When we don't know someone's true intent, there will be many unintentional slights, misunderstandings and assumptions of wrongdoing when wrong isn't even there.
Seneca, the author of "Moral Essays" said, "A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer." The same could be said about an offense: People can do the wrong thing for the right reason, and it changes the thing.
If couples can learn to stop before getting upset or offended, and take the time to ask questions and really understand why their partner behaved the way they did, they can nip most conflicts in the bud.
But this means watching yourself for anger and stopping yourself before you say or do anything. It means deciding — in the moment — to ask kind, understanding questions to get more information before you jump to conclusions or add meaning to their behavior.
Let me give you an example. Sally had asked Tom to pick up something at the store for her on his way home from work. He forgot the item because he was in a rush and had left work deeply upset about something his boss had said. When he got home and Sally realized he had not done what she asked, she was upset and felt unimportant and unsupported. She took the offense personally and got angry at Tom for what she viewed as mistreatment.
What I want you to see in this example is Sally's reaction to the events came from intent she was assuming or applying to what happened. Tom forgot to stop at the store for her. Those are the simple facts. She added meaning and intent to the facts by telling herself forgetting meant he didn't listen, care, want to help or support her.
Those were not the real reason he forgot to stop. Tom forgot to stop at the store because he was preoccupied with fear about his own situation and he inadvertently let it slip his mind. This had nothing to do with Sally and how he feels about her.
I can understand her frustration, though; and if this was something that happened a lot, it might have other meaning attached to it. But this one time, his intent wasn't malicious or about her.
In a recent article, I suggested that when someone offends you, you should try and figure out which of four possible reasons might be behind the behavior. The four most common reasons people behave badly are:
If you still feel justified to have an angry and reactive response, you might stop and ask yourself why you want to be angry. What is the intent behind your anger? The why behind your reaction is just as important as the why behind theirs.
Asking kind questions with the purpose of understanding and getting to know this person feels very different than asking defensive, accusatory questions. Here are some examples.
"Why did you not do the one thing I asked you to do Tom?" That is an accusatory question that doesn't show a desire to understand.
A better question might be: "I noticed you forgot to stop at the store, are you OK? What's been happening today?"
The most important skill a couple can have is the ability to have mutually validating conversations that are focused on understanding each other. Unfortunately, a lot of people listen with the intent to reply, not the intent to understand.
The key to communicating in a way that validates both parties and leads to understanding and compromise (instead of conflict) lies in following a few simple rules.
Don't speak down to your partner
Never speak down to your partner from a high horse position, where you are the good one and they are the bad one. If a conversation starts this way, it will never end well. Remember that you both have the same intrinsic value and deserve to be respected. Always speak to your partner as an equal and in a respectful tone. Let them know that you are not coming from a place of judgment, just a place of wanting to understand and know them better.
Don't start with your feelings
Never start the conversation with all your thoughts and feelings. Start with asking questions about what your partner is thinking and feeling. Set your thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas aside in the beginning; you will get the chance to share them later on. If you start by listening, your partner will be less defensive and they may actually feel safe enough to share with you.
Understand your partner's core fear and core value system
I have mentioned them in previous articles, but their core fear is either fear of failure or fear of loss; their core value system is either connection, tasks, things or ideas. If you understand how your partner is wired at this level, you can usually see the intent behind their behavior.
Tom, in the example above, might have fear of failure as his core fear. His fear of failing at work may have had him so consumed that he forgot everything else. Or maybe he values connection most and was so upset about the bad conversation with his boss that a task slipped his mind. He just values people more than tasks. Understanding your partner at this level could be a game-changer.
Focus on your partner's feelings
Ask kind, supportive questions about what your partner was feeling when the offense happened. Make sure these questions aren't an attack or pointed at making them wrong but are instead focused on understanding them. Spend the time to explore their state of mind, thoughts and feelings. You might be amazing at what you learn that you didn't know.
Remember intent matters
Remember intent matters, words matter and tone matters. Choose carefully.
Ask to share your feelings
Ask if your partner would be willing to let you share where you were and what you were thinking and feeling. Don't assume your partner should listen to you; ask them if they are willing and able to really listen and understand you. Ask if they would be willing to not interrupt and let you fully explain your side before they say anything. Ask for exactly what you need from them to make you feel heard and understood.
Use 'I' statements
Use "I" statements not "you" statements. Say things like, "I believe, I think, I feel, I experience, I react to, or in my opinion. Avoid saying, "You always," "You never," "You didn't care or try." As you can see, "you" statements feel like an attack. Keep your comments all about yourself and don't talk about your spouse. Let them speak for themselves.
Practice makes perfect
Repeat these steps until you gain understanding or come to a compromise.
Try this week to ask more questions and pay more attention to intent. Show your partner that you can give them the benefit of the doubt, and that most of the time offenses are unintentional. Give them room to be distracted, self-focused because of fear, and sometimes miss things. Be willing to forgive most garden variety slights in favor of a healthier, happier relationship.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
My spouse and I keep getting in these fights where she does something like ignores me when I am trying to talk to her, and this offends me and I get angry and slam a door, which really offends her and makes her feel attacked, which starts a big fight that lasts all week. The fight morphs and quickly becomes about who treats who worse. And in this drawn out fight, no one wins. After days of being mad and miserable we will start to move past it, but only until one of us offends the other again. What can we do to break this cycle of offending each other?
The root cause of these fights is you both functioning in a fear state where you feel unsafe with each other, and this is making you wear what I call "mistreatment glasses." Mistreatment glasses means you are subconsciously looking for mistreatment and offenses that will prove that you aren't safe with your partner and that they are the "bad one." Whatever you are looking for you will find. If you are looking for mistreatment, you will find it. If you are looking for proof your partner loves you, you will find that too.
Unfortunately, almost all of us feel unsafe in the world (at the subconscious level), and this keeps us on the defensive a lot of the time. When you feel unsafe, your ego steps up to try and protect you. It does this through defensiveness and casting the other person as the bad one. That is why it feels like a win (to your ego) when you can show that your partner treated you worse and you are the victim. But this is really not a win; no one wins when you get offended by small things and always see your partner as the enemy.
Below is a process you can use when someone offends you. Following it will help you step back out of ego to see the situation more accurately and respond more maturely.
Note: In this article I am only addressing how to deal with the garden variety of arguments, not situations that involve abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has information on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how one can get help.
See the other person's bad behavior accurately
When someone behaves badly or offends you, there are four possible reasons for this behavior. Knowing them will help you accurately access what is happening in each situation. The four reasons people behave badly:
If this offense happened for any of the other three reasons, you must step back, stop taking this personally, and choose to not get offended — because it isn't about you. They don't feel safe in the world, and a person who doesn't feel safe has no choice but to focus on finding a sense of safety; they aren't capable of anything else. They may need some professional help to work on their fears around not being good enough and things not being right. So, the negative coping behaviors can be negated.
Be responsible for your response to the offense
You are responsible for your reactions and responses, and this should be your only concern. It is the only thing you have control over and the only thing that matters now. You must choose to respond with love, not fear.
If you get defensive and respond from a fear state, you are now doing the exact same thing the other person did to you. You are demonstrating fear-based bad behavior, and responding badly back is just as bad as responding badly first. It's the same bad behavior driven by the same cause.
Respond to an offense with love
Offenses and your reactions happen fast though, so you will need to practice and prepare ahead of time to be able to remember these steps in the heat of the moment. You might want to read through this procedure daily or replay past offenses that you reacted badly to, running through these steps to see what you should have done.
Procedure for reacting to offenses:
You and your partner may also need some coaching or counseling to work on the underlying fear issues that cause you to feel unsafe with each other. I find most couples who fight a lot need individual coaching to get their subconscious fears under control before they can create a healthy relationship. Always be willing to take this on and work on yourself.
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.