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.
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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.