This was first published on KSL.com
I have received numerous questions lately that involve stepfamilies or blended families, and I understand why. All family relationships can be hard, but these families face many more challenges than a biological family. Additionally, people who haven’t been in a blended family before are often unprepared to handle them.
Many couples marry thinking their love will be enough to make the family work, but they soon find out that’s not true. To create a successful blended family you will need to learn about the challenges and gain some new skills.
I share the following statistics from Pew Research and the Stepfamily Foundation not to discourage you, but to motivate you to get some help, education, skills and tools so your blended family can beat these odds.
Fortunately, that last statistic is changing, as there are more resources today than ever before. I highly recommend that couples who are in a blended family or are thinking about getting married, find a coach or counselor who is familiar with the challenges. You should also find every book, conference or seminar you can on the topic and read them together. These steps can considerably up your chances of making it. Knowledge and awareness of the challenges make all the difference.
Tips for blended families
Jeannette Lofas, an author and stepfamily expert, says the No. 1 factor in the success or failure of a blended family comes down to getting outside education, help and resources to deal with the inevitable challenges. Here are some important facts about blended families, from her book “Step Parenting,” which I highly recommend.
1. A blended family is very different from a biological family.
The issues that arise in a blended family will be some you haven’t ever had to deal with before. In a birth family, there are natural roles everyone falls into; but in a blended family, these roles can look very different.
No stepmother can fully replace the child’s actual mother (even if she is deceased). The stepmother role is a unique one that most people have never had before. The rules are completely different, and the same goes for the father, mother, stepfather, and even the oldest child, who now might not be the oldest anymore.
It takes time for everyone to understand and master their new roles. This cannot happen overnight and the road will be bumpy. All parties must be patient, easy-going, and slow to get offended or defensive. Everyone has to give everyone else some slack to learn and get comfortable with their new roles.
2. Love is not required, but respect is.
You cannot force your child to love a stepparent, but you will need a firm rule about respect, consideration and kindness. These are required from all parties all the time, even from the adults toward the children.
Everyone has the right to be honored, respected, heard and thanked for what they do. If a child or adult is struggling with giving respect, that is a sign that a conversation needs to happen where they can express their frustrations, pain or fears around the situation. As the adult, you must be able to listen to the child’s feelings and honor their right to have them, even if they are attacks at some level.
Everyone has the right to their feelings, but being disrespectful is not an option. If the adults are behaving emotionally or defensively, they need to seek some professional help with processing their own fears and feelings so they will be able to show up mature and stable and earn the family’s respect.
3. Your individual emotional intelligence is vitality important.
If you struggle with strong emotions, losing your temper, feeling mistreated or offended, you may want to seek some professional help to work on your triggers. Do not wait to see if things improve. Get professional help at the first sign of trouble. Every expert I talk to says this is the No. 1 thing they recommend. It is so much easier to fix relationships and families at the onset than to wait until things get really bad.
4. Blame the stepfamily situation, not the people involved.
Lofas says "One of the greatest mistakes is blaming yourself for the feelings and difficulties of the stepfamily situation. Such blame only makes you feel helpless, and it often keeps you from taking steps to deal with the problems."
It is not easy for anyone to be a stepparent. It is not easy for any child to have a stepparent. The entire experience is complicated and, at some level, can be scary or threatening. Everyone needs someone to talk to and resources to help them sort through the emotions involved.
5. Remember that transfer moments can be painful.
Every time children go from one home to the other (these transfer moments), all the pain around the divorce is brought to the surface again. Expect children to struggle and have emotions that can lead to behavior issues at these times. Overlook most of this and give them some room to feel bothered and even act out to some degree, because this type of behavior is natural as they process loss.
6. Everyone will have feelings of guilt.
Parents feel guilty for breaking up the family and loving someone their kids don’t like. Stepparents feel guilty that they can’t feel loving feelings toward these children that don’t belong to them. Children feel guilty for liking the stepparent or for disappointing the parent they aren’t with.
All this guilt leads to feelings of failure, which creates all kinds of bad behavior. A trained professional can help you process the guilt and, again, blame it on the situation, not on yourself.
7. Stepcouples should set rules together — alone.
Stepcouples must spend a great deal of time having validating conversations about rules, consequences, boundaries and who will do the disciplining and how. Do not have these conversations in front of the children. These things need to be worked out in private and then facilitated the right way (usually, this means having the biological parent do the discipline when possible).
Everyone must have a voice and feel heard and validated about their feelings. Even if you disagree, it will go over better if the other party at least feels heard. If you don’t have the skills to have these conversations in a validating and productive way, seek some professional help to learn how.
These are just a few tips and tricks to shine the light on some of the challenges stepfamilies face. In upcoming LifeAdvice articles, I am going to share advice and tips for fathers, mothers and stepparents in their unique roles. There is also a conference on blended families coming to Utah on Jan. 21 that I highly recommend you attend if you have, or are considering having, a blended family.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.COM
I was asked recently what changes in your people skills that would most improve your relationships. This is a great question, because your ability to create healthy relationships is the key to happiness in life. You can’t feel happy, fulfilled, and good about life, if your relationships are stressed, unsafe, or confrontational.
This is especially true with your significant other. If that special relationship is strained or in trouble, it can suck the joy from every other part of your life.
Below are my top five people skills tips that would improve your relationships fast:
I realize this may be a new and even mind blowing perspective for some of you, which might even take a while and some work to understand, but it is the path to amazing relationships and greater happiness.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
What should I do when my spouse gets mad at one of our kids, but becomes irrationally angry with yelling, arguing, and generally makes a "mountain out of a mole hill”. Should I support my spouse and whatever punishment and behavior they use with the kids, even though I don’t agree? Or should I tell my spouse to please walk away because they are losing it, and let me handle it (which will make them mad at me)? How can we have different parenting styles and not have conflict over them? I also worry that my kids like me more because I am more in control, and it’s made my spouse the bad guy. How are they not the bad guy, when they behave this badly?
So, what you are really asking is, “Is it more important to put up a united front in front of the kids or is it more important to stop my partner from parenting badly (with out of control emotion or anger) directed at our child?”
Obviously, both are important and doing both, at the same time, should be your goal, but if you have to choose one (in a tense moment), you should choose to protect your child, while never making your spouse feel small or bad. Below are some suggestions for handling these intervention moments with love and support.
Defuse the Situation:
You must learn how to defuse the situation in a respectful, loving, way towards your spouse, who is already upset and triggered. If you step into this situation from a position of anger, holier than though self-righteousness, or ego, you are going to create conflict and resentment. You must learn speak to your spouse as an equal, who is as equally flawed, because both of you are imperfect, struggling, scared, students in the classroom of life, who make mistakes. You cannot cast the first stone. You must speak to your spouse with love and compassion for their fears and pain in this moment. You must make them safe with you, while also making your child safe.
Create a time-out rule in your home:
Defusing the situation with love, means having careful, mutually validating, conversations (which I have outlined in previous articles) to pick a safe word or agree on a time out rule. This means both of you, will agree ahead of time, if either of you says that word or calls time out (which you will do if you feel the situation is being driven by fear not love), you both agree to stop talking and step away from the situation to cool down.
You both must agree to take some time and get your fear own triggers under control (your number one job as a human). You must learn how to choose trust in your infinite value and trust in the universe as your perfect classroom, to pull yourself together. Then, talk to each other about this situation and get on the same page before you talk to the child. Make sure both of you feel validated, heard, understood, honored, and respected for your feelings. Never talk down to your spouse or make them feel like the bad guy (you are equally as bad in other areas).
There will be times when you must act quickly though, and you don’t have time for all this communicating, so, in those situations, just use the safe word, as a clue to your spouse that they sound scared. You will use that safe word to love and support them, not to shame them.
Remember, their “out of control” parenting behavior is happening, because they are scared of failure or loss, not because they are a bad person or a bad parent. That is why you need a safe word. You need a word to remind each other that unsafe feelings and behavior are showing up and the real loving you may not come through. You both need to make sure it’s love, not fear, that is doing the parenting.
I highly recommend getting some coaching or counseling if reactive fear responses happen regularly. A good coach can help you figure out what your fear triggers are and teach you how to quiet them so you can parent at your best.
Dos and Don’ts in parenting:
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
What should I do when my spouse gets mad at one of our kids but becomes irrationally angry with yelling, arguing and generally makes a "mountain out of a molehill?" Should I support my spouse and whatever punishment and behavior they use with the kids, even though I don’t agree? Or should I tell my spouse to please walk away, because they are losing it, and let me handle it (which will make them mad at me)? How can we have different parenting styles and not have conflict over them? I also worry that my kids like me more because I am more in control, and it’s made my spouse the bad guy. How are they not the bad guy, when they behave this badly?
So, what you are really asking is: “Is it more important to put up a united front in front of the kids, or is it more important to stop my partner from parenting badly (with out-of-control emotion or anger) directed at our child?”
Obviously, both are important, and doing both at the same time should be your goal. But if you have to choose one (in a tense moment), you should choose to protect your child while never making your spouse feel small or bad. Below are some suggestions for handling these intervention moments with love and support.
Defuse the situation
You must learn how to defuse the situation in a respectful, loving way toward your spouse, who is already upset and triggered. If you step into this situation from a position of anger, holier-than-thou self-righteousness or ego, you are going to create conflict and resentment.
You must learn to speak to your spouse as an equal who is as equally flawed as you are — because both of you are imperfect, struggling, scared, students in the classroom of life, who make mistakes. You cannot cast the first stone. You must speak to your spouse with love and compassion for the fears and pain they are feeling in this moment. You must make them feel safe with you, while also making your child safe.
Create a time-out rule in your home
Defusing the situation with love means having careful, mutually validating conversations (which I have outlined in previous articles) to pick a safe word or agree on a time-out rule. This means both of you will agree, ahead of time, if either of you says that word or calls time-out (which you will do if you feel the situation is being driven by fear not love) you will stop talking and step away from the situation to cool down.
You both must agree to take some time and get your own fear triggers under control (your No. 1 job as a human). You must learn how to choose trust in your infinite value and trust in the universe as your perfect classroom to pull yourself together. Then, talk to each other about this situation and get on the same page before you talk to the child. Make sure both of you feel validated, heard, understood, honored, and respected for your feelings. Never talk down to your spouse or make them feel like the bad guy.
There will be times when you must act quickly, though, and you don’t have time for all this communicating. In those situations, just use the safe word as a clue to your spouse that they sound scared. You will use that safe word to love and support them, not to shame them.
Remember, their out-of-control parenting behavior is happening because they are scared of failure or loss, not because they are a bad person or a bad parent. That is why you need a safe word. You need a word to remind each other that unsafe feelings and behavior are showing up, and the real loving parent is not coming through. You both need to make sure it’s love, not fear, that is doing the parenting.
I highly recommend getting some coaching or counseling if reactive fear responses happen regularly. A good coach can help you figure out what your fear triggers are and teach you how to quiet them so you can parent at your best.
Do's and don'ts in parenting:
1. Don’t respond when you are out of control or angry. Take the time to step away and remind yourself you are not failing or losing your child. This experience is just part of your classroom to help you grow. Raising your voice on occasion is inevitable, but swearing, yelling, acting with hateful anger and violence are not acceptable, ever. If this behavior shows up often, you need to get some professional help to work on this.
2. Don't react in fear. When you react in fear, your response is always something that makes you feel safe. If you parent from love, it is not about you; instead, you are focused on what your child needs. You have to learn to quiet your fears of failure and loss so you can parent unselfishly.
3. Do work to earn your child's respect. Children respect parents who are emotionally intelligent. If you are out of control, overly emotional, inconsistent or immature in your reactions, your child will not respect you. You will feel this and it might make you even angrier, and this can become a vicious cycle. You must fix this by getting some help, apologizing for poor past behavior, and making changes.
4. Don't lecture. Lecturing a child for long periods of time, saying the same things over and over, creates resentment and disrespect more than it changes behavior. If you want influence with your child, you'll get it through connection and safety — not lecturing, yelling or punishing. Respectful conversations where you honor their thoughts and feelings create the connection you seek.
5. Do ask questions. A productive parenting conversation involves more listening (by you) than talking. Asking questions will help you truly understand your child and what drove his or her behavior. But you have to create a safe space for them or they won’t let you in and you will have little influence.
6. Don't try to control the situation. You can have control or connection, but rarely both. Control means your child will do what you say in front of you. Connection means you have influence in how they behave away from you.
7. Don’t ever compare your child with siblings or friends.
8. Don’t relish in being "the good parent" while casting your spouse as "the bad parent" (especially if you are divorced). Be a united front that has good communication so your child can love and respect both of you.
9. Don’t criticize your spouse in front of the kids. If you want to talk about bad behavior that bothers you, do it in private and be prepared to own your bad behavior too. Give your spouse room to ask you for behavioral changes — even ask for the feedback as often as you give some.
10. Do parent as a team. Every problem should be addressed as the two of you against the problem, not each of you against the other. Take time to listen, ask questions, validate, honor and respect your spouse’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, fears and concerns before you share yours. Apologize, sincerely, for your past bad behavior and own that you have work to do and things to learn. Make your marriage or partnership a place of personal growth and provide a safe place where you can both own your weaknesses without feeling judged.
11. Don’t be so soft on the kids that you force your spouse to be the bad guy. If you tend toward being too nice or lenient, that is just as bad as being too angry or strict. Own that you may need to do some work on the fear issues that drive your leniency.
I highly recommend the "Parenting with Love and Logic" books and "The Conscious Parent" by Shefali Tsbary. They are my go-to books for parenting ideas and help.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
I am often asked: “What can I do to make my relationship better?” In this article, I want to share some of the basic tendencies of human behavior, which will help you understand the dynamics involved in your relationships and how to improve them.
In other articles, I have written about the two core fears and the four basic value systems, that drive human behavior, and I use them with my clients. The two core fears are fear of failure (I am not good enough) and fear of loss (I am not safe). We all experience both of them every day, to some degree, but each of us has one fear that is more dominant than the other. Thus, we are fear of failure dominant or fear of loss dominant.
It will be a game-changer in your relationships if you understand your own dominant fear as well as the other person’s. When you know their core fear, you will understand their most sensitive trigger — the one that brings out their worst behavior — and what they need to feel safe with you.
Safety is the most important factor in the success of a relationship. If you don’t feel safe with the other person, you cannot show up authentically and you cannot fully love them or yourself. If you don’t feel safe, the other person will always feel like an enemy, at some level, and you will often be at odds. When someone feels safe, they need nothing and have more to give.
2 core fears
Here are the two core fears, and how to make a person who is dominant in each fear feel safe:
Fear of failure dominant
If a person is fear of failure dominant, their worst behavior is triggered when they feel criticized, judged, insulted, unwanted or abandoned. These experiences make them feel they aren’t good enough and put them out of balance.
When you have some feedback for these people, you should deliver it gently. You should also make sure they feel secure about how you see them. To make them feel safe with you, you must give them lots of validation and reassurance. If you can do this — and they see you as a cure to their fear, not a cause of their fear — they will thrive in the relationship.
Fear of loss dominant
If a person is fear of loss dominant, their worst behavior is triggered when they feel taken from, mistreated, disregarded, or that people aren’t showing up for them the way they should be. These people need a certain amount of control over their environment to feel safe.
You must make sure they feel heard, respected and appreciated, and let them be in charge as much as you can. To make them feel safe with you, you should let them be the boss as much as possible, reassure them things will be OK, and take their advice without feeling criticized by it. Understand when they give suggestions or advice, they are only trying to help.
4 value systems
Understanding the other person’s core fear is only half the equation, though, so let me explain the four value systems and what people from each group value most.
Values people and connection: These people fill up by socializing with others, and they get most of their self-esteem and safety in the world from connection and relationships. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their great need to communicate and spend time with you. They need more of your time and affection than you would, and they need you to listen to them, be affectionate and let them have lots of socializing with other humans to keep their bucket full. If they get these things they will feel good and have more to give you.
Values tasks: These people fill up and get self-esteem from getting things done. They need to accomplish and finish tasks, and have good performance in those tasks, to feel safe in the world. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their great need to work and get projects finished. They treasure time alone to get their work done, and they need you to notice and validate what amazing workers they are. If they get tasks done and feel accomplished they will feel better and have more to give you.
Values things: These people get their sense of self-esteem from what they create, build or own. They are artists, inventors, business builders and beauties, and they highly value appearance and how things look. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you must understand their need to look good or create amazing things. This may require time away from you, but if they get the time to create things or make themselves look amazing they will have more to give you.
Values ideas: These people get their sense of self-esteem from knowledge, principles, morals, doing things right and knowing answers to problems. If you are in a relationship with someone like this, you need to validate their knowledge and expertise in the subjects they are passionate about. This will mean listening to them a lot (even if you aren’t interested in that topic) and giving them the control to make sure things are right. If they have the chance to share, teach or learn more about what they care about, they will be happy and they will have more to give you.
Working with fears and values
The magic happens when you put these ideas together and figure out your partner’s core fear and value system.
For example: If they are fear of failure dominant and value tasks most, they are someone who needs validation about the work they do. Don’t compliment this person on their appearance; tell them how productive, brilliant and hard-working they are. Allow them to be task-focused, have time alone to work, and don’t ever make them the bad guy for being wired this way. Honor the fact that this is who they are and see them as amazing, and it will pay off big.
If a person is fear of loss dominant and task-focused, they need control much more than they need validation. Let this person have some things they can control. Understand that if you don’t get tasks done or if you do them wrong, they could feel mistreated or taken from.
If a person is fear of loss dominant and ideas focused, they need control and to be right as much as possible. They need you to listen to their ideas or knowledge and validate that they know their stuff. Make sure if you think they are wrong, you handle that gently and validate how smart they are.
Are you starting to see how the fears and values go together? When you understand the other person at this level, you will understand their wiring and it will be much easier to make them feel safe.
By the way, having the same fears and values doesn't necessarily make a relationship more successful. The success of a relationship really comes from how mindful, emotionally intelligent and in control of their own fears the parties are. If both people are working on their personal fear triggers and learning how to make themselves feel safe, they won’t expect their partner to do that for them.
No one can cure your fear issues but you, and you have to stay responsible for your inner state and happiness. If you are both learning how to stay balanced, happy, and out of fear, you can work through most issues maturely and will get along great.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
Many couples who are having problems in their relationship get stuck because they are both holding onto resentment over past wrongs. This resentment can build up for years around a long list of slights, offenses or mistreatment. Even if you both learn new relationship or communication skills and start behaving better, the long-held resentment can still trigger your ego to keep some distance.
Your ego rises up to protect and promote you; that is its job. It thinks it’s helping you by holding onto anger or past hurts. It thinks this resentment protects you from further mistreatment, but it’s actually making things worse. When you get stuck in resentment, you are creating a relationship that is distant, passive-aggressive, divided, lonely and cold. This is not the relationship you want.
Take a minute and think about the kind of relationship you do want. If you got to design it and create any dynamics, feelings and behaviors you wanted, what would it look like? Would it be safe, full of trust and love, unselfish, giving, kind and understanding? Would it include both parties forgiving quickly and letting the other be a work in progress? How would you handle disagreements and conflict? Take the time to write down on paper what your dream relationship would look like.
Now, remember you are creating a fantasy and real-life can’t ever live up to that, but you also can’t create something better if you can’t see. So, figuring it out is the first step to creating it.
Next, what kind of behaviors would you need to adopt if you wanted to create this? How would you need to show up differently? You don’t have control over the other person, so you have to start by changing your own behavior. You may want to ask a friend, coach, or counselor to help you figure this out if you can’t see it.
Here are some suggestions for making that happen:
1. Remember life is a classroom and your romantic partner is your greatest teacher
You have attracted this person into your life to help you grow and become smarter, wiser and more loving. Their job is to push your buttons and trigger your fear issues, giving you opportunities to see them and work on them. That is why every relationship is a perfect storm of fear. Your fears create behaviors that trigger their fears, and their fears trigger behavior that triggers you even more. Around and around you can go, getting more distant, unsafe and divided.
When you see your relationship as your perfect classroom, you will see “perfect lessons for you” in every past mistreatment. Those weren’t slights; they were triggers to give you a chance to improve yourself. How did you do? Did you react badly and further damage the relationship? What could you have done differently to turn their fear-driven bad behavior around and stopped the cycle? If you focus more on your own past bad behavior and work on fixing that, you will get a lot farther than you would by holding resentment about theirs.
2. See every moment as your chance to forgive and grow
When you see your spouse’s bad behavior as your own school class, you harbor less resentment and handle situations better. You will also feel more motivated to rise to the occasion and take the high road — because the issue isn’t really about mistreatment; it’s about your growth.
I have written many articles on forgiveness for KSL.com. You should look some of them up because every really good relationship is made of two people who are good forgivers. If your relationship is full of resentment, you aren’t forgiving. You might hold onto past hurts because you think it punishes the other person or protects you from future pain, but this isn’t true. It actually creates less love and more mistreatment. Your partner feels the wall you have up, and this makes them afraid for themselves, so they put their wall up.
You will always create exactly what you fear. In focusing on protecting yourself, you are giving no love and you won’t get any back. When you set aside resentment and forgive, and start giving love (even if it’s undeserved), your partner will genuinely want to love you back.
3. Take responsibility for your fear issues
You must take responsibility for your bad behavior in the relationship. Your insecurities and fears (and the bad behavior they create) are your jobs to fix. Try to name your fear triggers when they happen. Are you feeling fear of failure and not feeling good enough? Do you feel taken from or mistreated (which is fear of loss)? Can you tell which fear your spouse is battling? When you can name them, you will also know what you and they need (validation and reassurance).
When you get triggered, instead of either shutting down or exploding, you can say, “I need you to reassure me and love me through the insecurities this has triggered in me. Could you do that?” Or ask, “What do you need right now to make you feel safer with me?” If you can learn to quiet each other’s fears, the relationship will improve fast.
Your partner probably needs you to listen, 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 and it is your job to fix it. You only get angry or offended when you fear failure or your fear of loss and feel either insulted, taken from or mistreated. If anger is an issue for you, identify the fear trigger that gets you most of the time and start practicing getting a handle on it, all by yourself. Choose 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 that you are safe all the time and can’t fail or lose anything unless it serves you to lose it as part of your perfect classroom. If you choose a perspective of fearlessness and safety, your spouse will no longer be a threat, and you won’t get angry or offended as often.
Resentment is by far one of the most dangerous emotion in your relationships. It can build walls and create disconnection that can even become permanent. Instead of worrying about the past, focus today on showing up with love and kindness, quiet your spouse’s fears with lots of validation and reassurance, show them you see their goodness more than their faults, and be quick to own and apologize when you do wrong. Nothing erases resentment faster than a sincere apology.
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is a human behavior, people skills expert. She is the CEO and founder of 12 Shapes Inc and provides Team Building and People Skills Training for companies and individuals.
This was first published on KSL.com
SALT LAKE CITY — Last week’s article explained why most problems are fear related and how two core fears can be responsible for most bad behavior. This article explains how those two fears can create three different dynamics in your relationships.
Before I explain the three dynamics, the two core fears and the problems they cause at their worst are:
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A fear of failure dominant person with another fear of failure dominant person
In this kind of relationship both parties might be insecure and needy for reassurance that they are loved, respected and wanted. If both parties are functioning in a fear state this could mean they are focused on getting validation and no one is giving any. When I meet with these kinds of couples they are both saying the exact same thing — they both fear being unloved and unwanted. There usually isn't much conflict in these relationships, though, because both parties hate it. Instead, they both pull away and could start living around each other like roommates. To make this kind of relationship work, both parties need to work on their own self-esteem and stop making their partner responsible for their happiness.
In a balanced trust and love state, these relationships can be wonderful, safe and reassuring, where both parties are givers and able to show up emotionally for the other.
A fear of loss dominant person with another fear of loss dominant person
In this kind of relationship, both parties need control to feel safe in the world which can cause quite a bit of conflict. They are both on the lookout for offenses and mistreatment and may think it’s there when it really isn’t. When I meet with these couples I hear them say the same thing — they feel the other party is mean, controlling or irritating. Both parties need to work on letting go of their need for control and being right to make this relationship work. They need to watch how they speak to each other and be as understanding and as flexible as possible.
In a balanced trust and love state, these relationships can reach maximum productivity. These two people can get things done and have everything working like a well-oiled machine while having mutual respect and admiration for each other. The good work that one does can make the other person feel more secure and safe in the world, curing the other's core fear.
A fear of failure dominant person with a fear of loss dominant person
This is the most common of the three — perhaps because opposites attract. In these relationships, there can be a lot of misunderstanding, resentment and disappointment because you just don’t get the other person and can’t understand why they aren't more like you.
We all subconsciously might think of our way as being the right way. It is important that you remember we all have the same value and no way of being is better or worse than the other, they are just different.
In these relationships, the fear of failure dominant person can often feel criticized and judged as the fear of loss dominant person may be prone to correcting and pointing out what isn’t right. The latter may not mean to be critical and could just be trying to help or make things better, but their comments could trigger the person with the fear of failure, causing them to detach or even feel unsafe with the other person. This could start to drive a wedge between them.
The fear of loss dominant person might feel the other pulling back and this could make them feel mistreated, which will actually bring out more criticism. This vicious cycle plays out until there is a giant wedge and deep resentment on both sides.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
In a balanced trust and love state, the fear of loss dominant person has the ability to recognize the insecurity in the other and give them reassurance that they are admired, respected and wanted.
You shouldn't, however, be responsible for your partner's self-esteem — that is their job. But you can be a safe place and that can help improve the relationship.
In a balanced trust and love state, the fear of failure dominant person also has the ability to recognize their partner's need for control and where that stems from and can offer support when needed.
The trick to getting both parties into a balanced trust and love state is working on the following beliefs, which may eliminate the two core fears:
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a life coach, speaker and author, and has a free quiz online where you can figure your dominant core fear and your Relationship Behavior Shape. Check it out at www.12shapes.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com
My husband and I disagree on parenting. He is very strict and hard on our kids and I’m more understanding and nurturing. I think the way he parents our sensitive son is just not right, but he refuses to do it my way because he sees it as wrong. I know we should be a united front with our kids and have each other’s backs, but we both think we are right. Most of the time I give in because he’s so adamant but I resent him for always having his way and my voice doesn’t count or matter. I think his way is hurting our son, but he is so stubborn he won’t even consider that he’s wrong. Any suggestions?
What you are really asking is, "How do you deal with a spouse (or anyone) who is not open to the possibility they are wrong and refuses to compromise?"
I’m so glad you asked this because there are stubborn, opinionated, fear-driven people all around us and they can be a challenge to live or work with. First, I want you to understand why they are this way.
As a human behavior expert for the last 16 years, I believe that all bad behavior is driven by fear — and there are two core fears that drive most of it. They are the fear of failure and the fear of loss. We all have both of them in play to some degree every day, but our reactions to them can be very different.
For example, fear of failure can make some people shrink and say nothing, because it feels safer, while it makes others super-opinionated because they need the validation that comes from being right and heard. It’s the same fear, but two very different reactions.
I believe your spouse seems to be the later. He needs the validation that comes from being right to feel safe in the world. So he cannot ever admit he is wrong or he would subconsciously feel he had no value at all.
People who respond to fear of failure this way can have trouble in relationships because they find it hard to compromise, listen to others opinions, apologize or tolerate people with whom they disagree. They can also be afraid of looking bad, and a son who behaves badly could do that. People who respond to failure this way can also let ego and pride drive their behavior. They might think ego protects them, but it doesn’t create much connection in relationships.
I tell you all this because I want you to see beneath the ego to the scared person inside. If you see your spouse as scared of failure or looking bad, you will have more compassion for him.
Your spouse could also be having a fear of loss issue and might need a certain amount of control to feel safe. But people have to be ready and willing to do some personal development work before they are open to seeing their subconscious fear issues.
I want you to understand the behavior though, so you will know how to best handle the situation. Here are six suggestions for dealing with stubborn people:
1. Give them validation about whatever good behavior you see in them. Tell them often how much you appreciate their willingness to listen without fixing or consider both sides of an argument. Praise the behavior you want to see more of. People often want to live up to your highest opinion of them.
2. Ask lots of questions about an issue and see if they come up with similar solutions. They like to talk, so asking questions and listening gets them to open up. Ask them if they have any other ideas? Keep asking them to think it through and come up with other ideas. Do this until they reach one you both agree on.
3. When you need to discuss an issue and you really want to be heard, ask questions and listen to their opinions first. Then ask permission to share your ideas. Specifically ask them if they would be willing to be quiet, not interrupt or say anything for five minutes and let you fully explain your opinion before they respond. Ask them if they would be willing to consider your thoughts and not be too quick to shoot them down, because they are strongly held ideas and their rejection would be painful for you. Get their commitment before you say a word.
4. Then, phrase your opinion or ideas using lots of "I" statements. "I feel…" "I have observed…" "I believe…" "I really think…". It is hard for people to argue with your right to your perspective. They may think differently, but they must honor your right to see it your way.
5. If they are deeply in fear, to the degree of being unable to listen to other suggestions, don’t take it personally. I believe it is not about you — it is about their fears about themselves. When they solve those, they can then access their love and willingness to hear others.
6. Gently remind your spouse that their value is not on the line with your son’s behavior and that you both have to keep checking yourself, to make sure you aren’t making it about you. No matter how your son turns out, you still have the exact same value as everyone else.
If you try these things and nothing works, you may want to consider some counseling or coaching together. A third-party can often help resolve stubborn behavior in relationships.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is a human behavior expert behind www.12shapes.com She hosts a weekly Relationship Radio show on Voice American and iTunes.
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coach Kim Giles explains the fear-trigger cycle that could wreak havoc in your relationship.
My marriage is strained right now due to the fact that my husband has started snoring and I can’t sleep. My husband is currently still sleeping on a blowup mattress in another room (his choice because I’ve told him I’m not sleeping with his snoring). I’m struggling to work out my part in this and my guilt around it and I don’t know what to do. I feel guilty, yet I also feel like I need to take care of myself, too. I know you aren’t an expert on snoring, but I hoped you could give us some ways to protect and improve our relationship and stop feeling bothered with each other, while we sort this out?
First, I recommend you have your husband see a doctor and check him out for sleep apnea or other physiological problems in play.
Remember snoring is a medical condition, not a personal failing. It can be easy for someone who snores to feel broken or flawed, and they might feel guilt and shame, too. The partner who can’t sleep can also feel guilty for being bothered with the snoring. These emotions can drive a wedge in your relationship.
It would also help for you to understand what I call the fear-trigger cycle. It helps you to see how you and your spouse trigger each other and getting this is the first step to changing things.
Here are a few ideas which make the fear-trigger cycle easy to understand.
1: My observation, as a life coach for the last 15 years, has been that love and fear cannot exist at the same time in the same person. If you are in fear, your focus is mostly on yourself and what you need to feel safe. In a fear state, you are more selfish and not capable of love.
2: I have found my clients have two core fears which create most of their bad human behavior. They are the fear of failure (the fear you aren’t good enough) and the fear of loss (the fear your quality of life won’t be good enough).
3. I have noticed when my clients fears get triggered, they usually react by either running away, pulling back, putting walls up or going quiet to protect themselves or they attack back, fault find, get defensive, or angry at the other person. These are the most common fear reactions we have observed, and none of them produce good results in relationships.
Now you understand these basics, this is how the fear-trigger-cycle (that we have discovered) works:
1. First, one of you does something that triggers a core fear in your spouse, and that spouse reacts with a fear-motivated action. This action is usually driven by the need to protect yourself from the other person.
In your case, your husband's snoring triggered fear of loss in you, because it is taking from your quality of life. This fear made you react to protect yourself. You might have reacted by complaining, blaming or being bothered.
2. The other person sees this fear-driven action and it triggers a fear in them. Then, they react from their fear to protect themselves.
In your case, I believe your husband's fear of failure was triggered when his snoring bothered you. Your feeling of loss about sleeping near him made him feel inadequate. He would hate feeling this way, so he might react by pulling away from you to protect himself from further feelings of failure.
His fear-reaction might have been to say, "Fine, I will sleep away from you so you can sleep." But if this was done as a protection from failure, not as an act of love toward you, it could further drive a wedge into the relationship.
3. When the first person feels the other person reacting in fear, pulling away or acting to protect themselves, they will be even more triggered by fear. They will often have more fear-driven behavior show up, to protect themselves and the wedge will become even bigger
In your case, you probably felt your husband pulling away to protect himself from failure, and it either triggered more fear of loss in you, or it might have triggered fear of failure in you because you feel guilty for not being able to sleep with him.
This wouldn’t feel good, so you might have reacted in anger at his defensiveness and acting like a martyr. This might make you behave more defensively too, and pull back even further from him.
I have seen this cycle play out in hundreds of relationships over the last 15 years. People get stuck in this fear-trigger cycle going around and around, triggering each other's fear-motivated bad behavior and in this state, no one is giving love, because you are both focused on protecting yourselves.
The good news is this problem is not hard to fix.
The first step lies in recognizing you are having a fear-trigger problem. I believe your protective, defensive behavior is happening because you and your spouse are both scared of failure and loss and you both need some reassurance and validation.
He needs to know that his snoring doesn’t change his value to you. You need to know that he cares about your quality of sleep and wants to do whatever it takes to make sure you have what you need. When you give each other this reassurance, it will quiet the fears in play.
Then make sure you approach solving this issue as a team, working together against a problem — not as two people against each other.
You can do this.
This is an article I wrote that KSL refused to publish - it is an answer to the question I have submitted by KSL readers more than any other. I get a few letters a week from people who are frustrated their spouse isn't more into sex - So, I felt it was important to get it out there anyway.
Is a lack of intimacy hurting your marriage?
My spouse is having issues with me, because I don’t want to have sex. I’m not interested in sex anymore, but I really think the reason is the negative energy around the whole thing that he created early in our marriage. He has made me feel so pressured and guilty around it, that I have lost all interest. We love each other. We don’t want to separate, but I really don’t want to have sex with him. I force myself to do it every couple months, but then it’s “hurry up and get it done”. I don’t know how to get passed this.
The answer is yes, lack of intimacy is probably having a negative effect on your marriage, but the reason you have a lack of interest could be complicated. There are so many psychological and physiological reasons a person might have low libido, we cannot possibly address them all in this article, so, we are only going to address the one you have asked about and the most simple, a spouse who has just lost interest or decided they don’t want intimacy any more.
We see a damaging dynamic in a lot of our coaching client’s relationships, where one spouse is always asking for more intimacy, and pressure to give it has made the other one (with less interest) feel obligated into it. This obligation energy around it, makes the less interested spouse, even less interested, because it feels like intimacy is only about or for the other one. The more interested partner then experiences a lot of rejection, which hurts, and makes them even more needy for validation to feel lovable and wanted, which means they want intimacy even more. If this cycle plays out for months or years, it leaves everyone feeling taken from, unloved and mistreated.
We call this a “fear trigger cycle” and if you want to have a healthy marriage, you must learn how to change this into a “love trigger cycle”. We are going to explain how to do that, but first, you must understand why intimacy is important in a marriage relationship.
Intimacy is the one thing that makes the marriage relationship different from your other relationships. Without intimacy, you are really just friends with your spouse, and if you are only interested in being friends, you should probably get divorced, and let your spouse find someone who wants to be married. Intimacy is the foundation of the special connection and bond between two married partners. It creates a special kind of connection because of the vulnerability involved. If you really do love this person and want them to stay married to you, you probably are going to need to change this and get more interested in being intimate. But, your spouse may also need to make some changes to.
Putting pressure, shame or guilt, or in any way manipulating another person to get them to be intimate with you is wrong. If you are married to a person that tries to psychologically or physically force you into intimacy you don’t want, that is not okay and you might also consider getting out. What you want is two partners that want intimacy with each other, because they both love the other person and want to feel connected to them.
If this is not the dynamic in your relationship, we strongly encourage you to get some professional help. A professional could make changing the dynamic in your marriage easier and faster, or they will help you get some clarity and decide if you need to get out. (You also want to consult a doctor if you have low libido, because there are lots of medications, psychological or physiological causes you want to rule out.)
We also have an amazing worksheet on our website that would really help - print two copies of the Understanding your Marriage Worksheet and you and your spouse both fill one out. This will help you identify the fear triggers in each of you.
We also recommend that you try the following to change your fear-trigger cycle into a love trigger cycle:
1. Learn about the core fears (failure and loss) in play in yourself and your partner:
If your spouse fears failure (that he/she isn’t good enough), which is highly likely because most of us do, this will show up as getting offended or feeling insulted easily, having a hard time with feedback, clinginess or neediness, a need for attention, touch and intimacy to validate their worth.
If your spouse fears loss they might be controlling or pushy at times and easily feel mistreated or taken from. They are often be in a lack state and focused on what they don’t have.
The truth is, we all have both fears in play to some degree and you could have both equally too. See if you can tell which are in play with you and your spouse?
2. Understand what you each do, which triggers fear in your spouse:
Maybe he feels taken from or loss around not getting a strong marriage with great intimacy. When he tries to solve this by asking for what he wants, he triggers fear of failure in her, because she then feels broken or inadequate, because she doesn’t fulfil his needs. This fear experience around intimacy might make her withdraw from it even more, because we subconsciously pull away from fear inducing situations. Her further withdrawal may trigger even more fear of loss in him, making him even more unhappy and in need of touch and validation, but when he continues to ask for that, it triggers more failure in her, and around and around they go. We find a cycle like this in play in most relationships. See if you can identify yours.
3. Become the cure to your spouse’s core fear:
You will do this because you love this human being and want them to be happy and feel loved, wanted and good enough. (If you don’t care about whether your spouse feels loved and wanted, then you don’t really love them.) If your spouse fears loss, you can be the cure to that, by giving them reassurance and attention, which makes them feel safe. Show them they are admired, respected, appreciated and wanted daily and this will quiet the fear and make them less needy (this means initiating intimacy). If they fear failure, they need lots of validation about how wonderful, loving and giving they are. They need to feel and hear they are adored, appreciated, respected and wanted daily too.
If you are the more interested spouse, you must spend as much energy on giving validation and reassurance to your spouse, as you have worrying about what you aren’t getting. If you are less interested spouse, you must flip the fear cycle in your relationship by giving physical attention as a gift freely given from love. We encourage you to be the initiator of intimacy from this point on. Then, you won’t feel obligated, taken from or pressured in to intimacy, you will be choosing to give it. This will also mean your spouse doesn’t experience rejection any more, which removes a lot of fear from the relationship.
We would encourage the more interested spouse, to not ask for intimacy for a while and allow your partner the chance to offer and give it from love. Do this from a place of trust, without any feelings of lack or deprivation. Choose to trust you have everything you need and then generously give, validate and serve your spouse, without any strings attached, as a gift freely given too. This often turns the fear cycle around quick.
Because of the complicated physical and psychological nature of intimacy, we encourage (you both) to see a doctor and engage in some professional help for this issue, along with working on the fear issues involved.
If you think you might have subconscious issues around sexuality because of trauma or learning a shame mindset around sex early on - you may also want to get out Subconscious Sexuality Reprogramming Exercise - it helps change your subconscious feelings about sex from negative to positive.
You can do this.
Nicole Cunningham and Kim Giles are human behavior experts and master coaches who specialize in family and employee dynamics and have many tools to help you change your relationships. They are also the hosts of Relationship Radio on Voice America - Check it out!
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These articles were originally published on KSL.COM
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.