If you have decided that your relationship is good overall but you have hit a bad patch and just need to course correct, here are some ideas to get you back on track...

When is the last time you just laughed together?

It is really easy to get mired down in the 'to do lists' and 'need to's' of life and forget that you and your partner used to have a lot of fun together. And not having fun together and actually make all the hard stuff even more difficult. The irony in making fun time a 'need to' is that it is just as critical as feeding the kids and cleaning the house but most of us are quick to cut it from the list.

Think about it... I'm guessing that on your first date you didn't sit down and complete your taxes and draw up your wills. That would be the opposite of a good time for most of us. Hopefully, your phones were put away, you looked at each other, asked questions and listened to the answers. A study that came out last summer suggested that couples with children actually speak on average about 38 minutes a week COMBINED. That's a problem.

This does not require you to move a mountain... put the kids to bed, and sit outside holding hands and talking about your day. Tell your partner about something you have been daydreaming about or a joke. It matters more that you spend the time and energy being present and being together.

Keep your circle tight

Not to take a cheap shot a politics but we all know how slow things can get when we ask a bunch of people to get together and make decisions.  The more opinions, needs, thoughts, feelings, points of view, etc. get involved, the slower a process takes.  You can’t live your life based on committee votes.  Of course, it can be useful to bounce your thoughts and ideas off of one or two peoplewho you trust, who have demonstrated good problem solving in the past and who you know care about you. But everyone around you does not need to have a say in how you live your life.  Nor do they need a say in big decisions you make.  There are likely people in your life that you care deeply for and who care deeply for you but they may not understand the life you want to build for yourself.  Their advice is likely well-intentioned but it will often do little but further confuse how you plan to handle the situation.  

The truth is no one but you and your partner really knows what has gone on between you. If you aren't happy, go to your partner (aka the source) and see if there is a fix. Other people cannot heal your relationship.

Beware of the neighbor's grass!!

Thirty years ago, we were largely confined to people in our geographical networks.  We only needed to compare ourselves to the people we saw in our communities and to an extent the people and families we saw on TV.  Now, the comparison game is so constant most of us don’t even notice it anymore.  These days with social media, ‘reality TV,’ online dating apps all pilled on top of the idea that we can and should be constantly happy… it is really easy to look around and think that the grass is greener on the other side.  

The truth is the paradox of choice forces us to make poor decisions.  What’s the paradox of choice?  Basically, when the human brain has too many options, it starts to break down.  It either freezes or it makes a choice it would not have made if the options were more narrow. AND when you have too many choices and you do make a choice, you often have less confidence in that choice.  So often what happens even when we do pick a partner, we are quick to tell ourselves that there are plenty more where he/she came from and as soon as things get difficult – we bolt thinking that we can save ourselves the discomfort of having to work things out.  

If the relationship is untenable, yes of course leave. But if you feel like the person is good and has a lot of the qualities you want in a partner. WATER YOUR OWN GRASS!!! If you sincerely try and things to come together, you can leave knowing that you did everything you could. Keep in mind, dating is no reprieve from discomfort and vulnerability.

Why do you I like you?

A lot of times when we have been hurt by our partner a few (thousand) times we start to focus on their negative traits that we want them to change. Is that a balance view of them? Or is it what is called negative sentiment override? Negative sentiment override is a trick of the brain again. It puts us in a heads space that filters everything our partner does through a negative lense. For example, if you partner took out the trash, cleaned the kitchen and made dinner without being asked and when there is no big occasions and your first thought is, "Ugh!! About damn time!" You're in negative sentiment override.

In order to try and shake that off, write down (yes with pen and paper) a list of what you like and love about them. What makes them special to you? Why did you chose them as your partner? Then once each day pull out the list and go over it. Yes, even if you are in a middle of a conflict. The truth is your partner (like you) is not all bad or all good. But reminding yourself of their good parts will help you push and work through more difficult moments in the relationship.

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

In honor of Independence Day, I thought it would be good to take a look at codependence vs independence in relationships.  

Enjoying time with your partner is great. When you only spend time doing what one partner enjoys...that's a problem.

First, I think codependence often gets a bad rap and people often get a little defensive at the idea that codependence could be showing up in their relationship. Sometimes codependence is appropriate and even necessary.  Take infants for example, they are fully dependent on the adults around them and the adults charged with their care need to work pretty hard to meet all of their needs. The trouble comes for many parents when their baby begins to grow and develop and need less or needs differently.  The same is true of adult relationships. Very few individuals or relationships remain static over time which means how we relate to each other and the roles we each play need to change and be flexible in order to accommodate that growth.  

The most succinct definition of codependence I have ever found is Beattie’s from “Codependent No More:”

“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”

While this definition is far from perfect… it is a great start.  Most people bristle at “obsessed” and immediately proclaim, “I’m not obsessed so this isn’t me!”  Well….  What about the last time you had a crush on someone or you interviewed for a job you really wanted or thought someone you are close to was mad or upset with you? Did you find that your brain often started thinking (maybe even obsessing) in detail things you said/didn’t say, did/didn’t do even when you didn’t want your brain to go there?  Anytime we feel overwhelmingly that we needa specific outcome, we are flirting with codependence.  See how easy it is?

So how do you know when your relationship has veered into danger?

  1. When you aren’t aware that you are focused on your partner’s feelings
  2. When your partner’s feelings determine the outcome of a day or a situation 
  3. When you the opinions and needs of other people who you are about and how care about you are totally disregarded for your partner’s
  4. When you feel like you have to be a certain way in order to please your partner or else you may lose their love or favor
  5. When you disregard your own needs and feelings to make your partner happy 
  6. When you feel like you are regularly/consistently walking on eggshells with your partner

Of course, your partner’s opinion and feelings should be important to you and even a factor in big decisions you make for yourself.  Your feelings and needs also be an important factor in how you make the same decisions.  

Next time we will look at how to adjust in your relationship when you find that you have strayed from a healthier dynamic.  

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!

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