Tag Archives: codependency

Finding Your Marital North Star

premarital counseling charleston scOften times when I work with premarital couples I ask them what characteristics they would like to see in their marriage. I encourage these couples to take time to think about what is important to them in a relationship, write it down and look back on in frequently.  I then talked to couples about using this list as their North Star that will guide their behavior in their marriage.

 

During the good times we don’t need this list as a guide. We can easily see the good in our partner and are open and loving. But when things become difficult we quickly lose sight of what is important to us and we get pulled off course.

 

In difficult times many people will begin to use their partner’s behavior as a guide for their own behavior (i.e. you hurt me so I will hurt you back, you are disrespectful to me so I will be disrespectful back, you withhold from me so I will withhold from you). One can see how this would become a vicious cycle for disaster.

 

We get pulled away from what we really want in our relationship if we base our behavior on someone else’s behavior.  This is because behavior is not a constant in any relationship. Additionally, our perception of behavior is not constant so all it would take is our perception being off for us to be pulled off course.

 

 

I was having brunch with an unmarried pregnant friend recently. During the course of brunch she was telling me that she was in a difficult position about what last name to give her baby who was soon to be born. She was no longer with the baby’s father in the romantic sense and she was not happy with all of his life choices.

 

On the one hand she was not particularly attached to her last name and she did not feel compelled to give the baby her name for any personal reason.  But, on the other hand she was not sure if she wanted to give her baby the father’s last name because she felt as if she was rewarding him with that honor.

 

We talked about it a little and I asked her if she wanted a friend answer or a therapist answer. She said she would like to hear both. As her friend I told her, “F- him” we laughed and than I told her about what I talked about above.

 

I asked her to think about what kind of relationship she would ideally like to have. What characteristics would it have? I encouraged her to use these as a guide during these difficult times so she did not get pulled away from what she really wanted in her relationship.

 

There is one mistake that people commonly make with this exercise. They make their list and then expect their partner to do it. Or, they give these things only if they feel their partner is doing the same thing.

 

What ever you want in your relationship give it to your partner, but give it freely with no expectation of getting it back or needing it back. When we need to get the behavior back in order to give it we fall into the trap of using our partner’s behavior as our guide. This will lead us off course.

 

 

There is one phrase that helps me when making difficult decisions in my life and I use this as my guide in all my relationships, whether personal or professional. My go-to phrase that helps me is “Is it loving?”

 

This phrase helps me when I get off course and even though I am not behaviorally perfect and forget this phrase, it is always there to help when I am ready and open to accept its strength and wisdom.

 

The phrase, “Is it loving?” does not mean I become a doormat in every situation. It might be more loving to leave a situation then it would be to stay. If I am married to someone who hits me and my children the most loving thing might be to leave. This person hitting me cannot see that there is a better way to live. As long as I stay I may be holding them back from seeing another way to manage their anger.

 

It might be more loving to stop giving financial support to my child so they can learn how strong they really are. It might be more loving to let my child struggle with the consequences of poor decisions. Being expelled from school and grounded for drinking at school helps the child learn appropriate behavior. It may also keep them from progressing their behavior of drinking that later develops into driving under the influence and killing someone else.

 

 

“Is it loving” can also be applied to the thoughts I think about other people. Thinking unloving thoughts about any one has a direct effect on me. I don’t like the way I feel when I think of someone else being the “bad guy”. When we can see the innocence in another it has a different effect. When I can see the person as doing the best they can in that circumstance the emotional pressure is released.

 

 

Examples of Characteristics People Report Using as Their North Star in Their Marriage:

 

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  • Respect
  • Listen to understand not to dispute
  • Kindness
  • Forgiveness
  • Understanding
  • Not nitpicking faults
  • Open to suggestions
  • Giving partner space to be exactly the way they are
  • Taking responsibility for behavior
  • Willing to admit when they make a mistake

Look For Loving In All The Wrong Places: Rekindling love in your marriage

Your task is not to seek for love, but to seek and find all the barriers that you have built against it. Love is your natural state. Your only problem lies in covering it up with cheap substitutes. Our need to be right, expectations of how we think something should be, judgments we project upon others all block our loving nature.

 

During the first stage of falling in love we get a glimpse of our loving nature. Take a minute to think of a time when you first fell in love. If one sits and puts themselves back at this time they will begin to experience a taste of love welling up.

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When you first fall in love you experience this unspeakable feeling of joy, peace, life all tumbled together into one unit. This feeling permeates us and we begin to feel it in all aspects of our life. We aren’t just in love with the person we found but we are in love with squirrels, and plants and spoons, and coffee and anything else we come in contact with. We are in love with life itself.

 

Falling in love is wonderful and it feels so natural to us that we want to hang on to it desperately. What we fail to realize is that it is not coming from the other person. You will discover this when you take a good look at the situation.

 

When you are in love and have this amazing feeling do you only feel it when that person is present in the same room with you? Of course not. You could still feel it if they were in Timbuktu. The feeling is present when they are there and still present when they are not. This is the case for one simple reason. The feeling of love you feel is coming directly from you.

 

When you are open you shine and experience your own natural light. We experience this light in the form of what we call love. But when we think that what we are feeling is coming from the other person we become frightened and want to hang on to this feeling of love. We try to hang on to it by trying to control the other person in various ways.

 

We set up expectations in an attempt to get in touch with this feeling once again. You listen to me so I feel love. You desire me so that I feel this love. You notice me so I feel this love. You show me respect so I feel this love. Listening, desire, attention and respect are all great elements to have in a relationship but you do not need them to experience that love you are looking for.

 

No one can take their love away from you.  When you close off, hold resentments, judge others, have expectations of how a someone or a situation should be you end up cutting yourself off from your natural light.

 

When you look outside yourself for love it will fail and end up hurting you.  It will end up hurting you not because it has the power to hurt you but because you have given it the power to hurt you. You have made the proclamation to yourself that you need ____________(fill in the blank with your perceived need or desire) and that is what follows. “I need your attention to be happy”. “I need you to desire me to feel love”. “I need you to be calm for me to be at peace”.

 

What you are looking for in your partner you already have.  You have just, for a brief moment in time, forgotten. Welcome what is and your light will shine on all you see.

 

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

– Rumi

 

Working On Internal Peace to Experience External Peace.

AYP1224744In this entry I will not be telling anything you don’t already know.  Think of this entry not as something novel but as a reminder of the obviousness that is all around us. We can witness evidence of the following commentary in our every experience.

 

It is your direct experience that you must listen to, not the writing. Wait for the message to ring true for you. If it does not resonate with you, move away without judging the encounter.

 

 

I do not respond to anything directly, but rather to my interpretation of the event. Many people tend to understand this statement on a general surface level but where most stop is the application of it.  We tend to forget the meaning of this statement when we encounter something that triggers an emotional charge for us. When we are experiencing the event, it appears that what is causing us trouble is outside of us.  In truth, it is our own filter that effects how we see something.

 

We then use our interpretation of the event to justify our response to the event. When one truly understands that they do not respond to anything directly but to their interpretation of it, they will understand that what is causing them trouble is not outside of them.  This can be liberating for many people because at this point they stop trying to control other people to find peace.

 

 

The interpretation of an event is always coming from me, therefore the grievance I perceive is coming from me.

 

The next step involves looking at where I am hoping to influence change. Most of us get caught up in the old pattern of trying to change another’s behavior so that you feel better.

 

Listen to me more so I feel different.

Desire me so I feel different.

Stand up for me more so I feel different.

Start helping with the housework more so I feel different.

Dress sexier so I feel different.

Don’t yell at me so I feel different.

 

There is a pattern here. The only reason we ever want people to be different is so that we feel different. There is a problem in this thinking. 1) I have no control over another person. 2) Refer back to the statement “I do not respond to anything directly but to my interpretation of it”. The problem is not in the other person it is in your perception of that other person.

 

For some this way of thinking is very frustrating. “Are you telling me that my partner does not have to listen to me or show me respect?!?!?”,  is a comment some will retaliate with. When I hear this retort I know that they have not yet comprehended what I am attempting to communicate.

 

We often will not interpret a situation correctly because we are looking through an old filter. Instead of seeing what is in front of us we look for evidence that supports a belief we already have.

 

If I have a belief that I am unlovable I will be seeing the world through this filter and look for evidence to support this belief. A lot of time we will be completely unaware of our internal beliefs. If someone were to say to you, “You have the belief that you are unlovable”, you’d might say, “You’re nuts”.

 

We have a difficult time seeing what beliefs are influencing us because they are so engrained. It’s like noticing the air, or a fish noticing water.

 

We see our unconscious belief by the way we interpret our external world. You can always tell how a person feels about themselves by how they talk/feel about others. 

 

We color our world by our internal beliefs. Everything in this world that happens is a fact, it does turn good, bad, happy, sad until it goes through my own filter of interpretation. Here is an example of what I mean:

 

Fact: You tell your husband about an event that is important to you. Your husband does not look up from his newspaper or respond to what you just said.

 

Event seen through one filter: He never listens. He is rude for not listening to something that is important to me.  I don’t understand why I bother to share important things with him.

 

Same event seen through a different filter:  He does not appear to be listening to me.  He might need this time to decompress. Him not listening to me is not a personal attack.

 

The way we interpret an event has everything to do with what is going on in our internal world. I am not saying that it isn’t great to have a partner who listens, is supportive, and helps. What I am saying is that we often will base our emotional stability on something that we have no control over, another’s behavior. Additionally, what I am saying is that your happiness is not dependent on the other person being different.

 

 

Cleaning off our emotional filters is key. We begin to do this when we begin to see what is happening and how we are pulling into our old belief system time and time again.

 

You can begin to clean out old emotional baggage when you start to see that you are not responding to the event, but your interpretation of the event. Then, when you forgive the person for what they are not actually doing. What I mean by this is, what is causing you difficulty is not their behavior but your own filter.

 

They might tell you they just cheated on you with your best friend, but even in this situation what is giving you trouble is your interpretation of the event. This does not necessarily mean that you stay in any situation. What it does mean is that your emotional wellbeing can stay intact regardless of what appears to be going on outside of you.

 

 

When you see the innocence in another you are reminded of your own innocence.  When you are reminded of your own innocence you will remind yourself of your true nature, which is whole, complete and infinitely lovable. When you remember your true nature you will not fear what you perceive going on outside of you.

 

Can Someone Really Make You Feel Bad?: How responsible are you for your own feelings?

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

 

The above quote is one I refer to often when working with people. The problem is never coming from the other person, but we continuously give away our power by putting the responsibility on someone else.

 

It is difficult to believe that the pain we can feel when interacting with another person is actually coming from us, but it is. It doesn’t matter what the action, if you feel an emotional reaction to it, know that it comes from you.  Let’s do a short exercise just for the sake of clearing up this point.

 

For a minute, imagine the last person you became upset with. Got them in your head? Now, imagine that you are in an altercation with this person and they call you a “purple unicorn”.

 

They keep calling you a “purple unicorn” over and over again. Would it upset you being called a “purple unicorn”? My guess would be no. I have yet to run into a person who says being called a ‘purple unicorn’ feels damaging in some way.

 

Most people admit they would think that the other person was crazy because they know they are not a purple unicorn. I imagine you would say something close to that.  In this example of another person calling you a “purple unicorn” you can see that the behavior is clearly about them.

 

Their actions are coming from them and it has no effect on you because you know you are not a “purple unicorn”.

 

But let’s change things around a bit. Let us change the name “purple unicorn” to something else. What if we changed it to “jerk”, “bitch”, “incompetent”, “selfish”, or any other name that gives us a little sting? Now we might be looking at a different story. We all have names we react to, but have you ever thought about why you react to them?

 

We react to “negative” things people say or do because it triggers a belief we already have about ourselves. “P.U. ” doesn’t affect you because you know you are not one, but other names do affect you because it is an idea we secretly harbor about ourselves.  People can only supply a stimulus; how we react to this stimulus reflects a lot about our belief system. 

 

Many people will respond by saying, “Well my partner doesn’t call me names. I am angry because he doesn’t do ______________(fill in the blank with what upsets you).

 

Some say they are upset because of the cheating, or lack of sex, or lack of attention.  One often times looks at their partner and quickly evaluates them on how well they are doing as a partner by whether or not they give that person want they think they want.  Very rarely does an individual take a second look and ask the important questions. Questions like: “Why do I believe I need my husband to listen to me (tell me I’m beautiful, tell me what a good job I’m doing, etc)?”, “Do I really need him to talk to me?”, “What would my day be like if I didn’t have the expectation that he should talk to me?”, Would I be happier without this thought?”.

 

 

When we refuse to take a deeper look we are left powerless and unhappy. We are letting our happiness ride on a factor we have no control over, someone else’s behavior.

 

If we begin to question, really question, why we think we need that other’s attention we can return to our only place of power- ourselves. Why do I need my partner to give me attention? If we truly look at this and want a real answer, we will get it.

 

Often times we don’t want a real answer. Often times we just want to be right. Many people answer angrily and says something like “because she’s my wife and she should be having sex with me 3 times a week”, or “I’m not crazy for wanting my husband to show me love” or fill in your choice answer that makes you look right.  Ask yourself, “Would I rather be right or would I rather be happy?”

 

When we truly want an answer to questions like “Why do I really need my partner’s attention?” we’ll start to get answers like: “Because I believe if someone doesn’t recognize my worth it’s not there”, or “I don’t feel lovable if someone does not show me attention”, or “I am putting my own desire for something over my partner’s desire to not do something. I am acting out of fear of not having enough and not from a place of love”.

 

It can seem impossible at times when we are hurt to start asking these questions with the hopes to get real answers. It is tempting to make ourselves “right”. When we are upset we feel like this is our only option if we want to heal. But being “right” rarely helps anyone. After the short-lived high wears off we are usually left with an uneasy feeling of isolation.