Posts by: "gina"

When looking for “The One” remember that they should encourage you to be your best and still love and accept you when you are at your worst.

All of us have our good and bad times, we are a package. We have to decide if there is enough of the stuff we like to be able to grieve what we don’t get, or the bad things, to stay in a relationship…and we should expect this in return.

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If you are feeling like you can’t move forward, it might be a good idea to lighten your load.

Do you find yourself skipping happily along and then jerk against the tethers that are attached to you from other people’s lack of motivation, unhappiness and anxiety?

Do people back their dump trucks of unhappiness and misery up to you and push the “Release” button?

It might be time to let go of the relationships that weigh you down either by cutting them off or by setting healthy boundaries about what you will or won’t do or listen to.

You do deserve to surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and bring love, honesty, generosity, respect and kindness into the relationship.  Don’t settle for less.

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If you want people you care about to understand you and what you are feeling and what you need, it’s always best to say it directly and ask specifically for what you want. Therefore, for my relationship tip #22 let me share some useful tips to help you assure people around you that they are hearing specifically what you want and want them to hear:

1. Don’t assume that people can read your mind.  Sometimes we think everyone thinks and feels like we do and we ASSUME that they know what we are thinking and feeling and wanting or that their behaviors mean what they would mean if we did or said the same thing.  A typical example of this is that most girls grow up learning to show support by doing things for the other person and asking questions.  If she’s upset she thinks that if people really care they will ask questions and try to do nice things for her and if they don’t they must not care.

2. Don’t play games with people’s heads and hearts.  Sometimes this is intentional meanness and sometimes it is passive dependent “testing” of another person.  Some people like to “play” with people and do and say things that keep others feeling “less than” or insecure and doubting themselves.  Some people set up “tests” for others to see if they really care without letting them know what the test is or what’s at stake.

3. Don’t tell people half-truths and expect them to trust you.  If you are too scared or embarrassed to tell the whole truth you risk losing the trust of those you half-lie to.  If people can’t say no, how do you trust their yes?

4. Don’t ignore people you care about.  Sometimes perceiving a lack of concern and being ignored can be as painful as harsh words.

5.  Ask the hard questions and keep on asking them.  If you want an honest and open relationship it’s always best to start there with the expectation of sharing.  Don’t wait for someone to share their difficult stories.  By asking with compassion you can show an openness to people having had bad experiences or behaviors and believing they can change.  Listen to what they say and how they say it and see if it fits for what you see them doing.

6.  Model the kind of communication you want to have in a long term relationship.  This will help attract people who share your values and deter the others.

7.  Be open to finding out who they really are.  It isn’t fair or respectful to make up a fantasy about who you think someone is and then be mad at them for being different.  Keep your eyes open!

8.  Speak the truth.  Many of us learned to lie or avoid truth or rewrite it in order to avoid shame or anger.  Practice being honest even though there might be consequences.  Honesty allows us to be authentic in relationships and earn trust.

9.  Be kind. Practice living a life of full respect for yourself and others.  You can be honest and have healthy boundaries even if you’re committed to full respect living.

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We’ve all experienced shame in our lives. Sometimes we have our shame triggered and don’t even know how or why…but we can feel it…somehow we are feeling worthless, less than, fearful of being “found out.”  It can happen at work, with friends and family, in the car alone…anywhere!

Over the years I have developed a number of things I say to myself to work through these nasty and negative thoughts and feelings I have when my shame gets triggered.  I have shared these with clients over the years and most have found them helpful.  So I thought I’d share some useful ideas, strategies, and affirmations here that I employ to help me move past shame when it attacks.

Often shame is triggered when an old wound that’s being tapped.  When our emotional reaction is out of proportion for what occurred, we can assume we are in some wounded child state.

To help conquer my shame I made a decision to accept my imperfection and allow myself at least one mistake an hour and one REALLY BIG one per day.  This way whenever I made a mistake or did something that I thought others would judge I could tell myself I was within the norm.

I remind myself that I am a good person even though I’ve made a mistake or been imperfect. (Deep breathing can help here, allow all your negative and anxious self-talk to leave your body with each breath)

Years ago, when I got up my nerve to ask people close to me what they thought, I was pleased to find out others did not judge me as harshly as apparently, I did myself.  So sometimes I will still ask someone else for their opinion and ask if I seem crazy to them.  This gives me some perspective on my own intolerance of myself.  I have found that most people judge themselves far more harshly than others do and so now I remind myself that this inner voice of shame I have is often irrational.  I love having a healthy support system…life-saving!

I have really changed my world view.  I believe that we are “all born naked”, as I often say.  Meaning that no one is born better than anyone else, we all have equal value in the universe and that all “better thans” and “less thans” are made by humans trying to cope with their own shame.  How I look, how I act, how much money and things I have do not determine my worth.  What determines my worth can only come from me.  I get to decide what being the best person I want to be will mean.  I can listen to what others think of me and decide if it’s a problem or not.  If I want to I can change myself at any time.  No matter how old I am I can always change and grow.

I have decided to live a life full of respect for all.  For the Me that is inside and for all others I interact with.  Family, friends and strangers…yes, even customer service people on the phone!  If I can’t think of a nice way to speak my truth I have to stop.  I do not have the right to say things that will hurt and or damage another.  When I do this I feel good about myself.

I have had people leave my life.  People who have decided, for one reason or another, that we are not a good fit.  I used to feel horrible and allow that to define my worth.  I felt huge shame attacks and embarrassed to even talk to anyone about it.  So I gave myself permission to not be liked by everyone in the world without allowing it to determine my worth.  I asked myself, “How many people do you really need?”  I decided that 3-5 would be good enough and that allowed me to allow others to go.  It gets easier and easier over the years to talk my way through these losses.  In fact, what has also changed is that I have decided that I should also be picky about who I allow in my inner circle.  I have to respect the other person’s choice to end our relationship and wish them well.

We should have an INNER CIRCLE into which we only allow people who are kind, loving, respectful and generous.  If people are not those things I do not allow them in.  I don’t like feeling like I have to walk on eggshells around anyone anymore.  I had way too much of that in my life and did not enjoy it one bit.  When I start to see eggshells around someone I start to back off and protect myself.

In all of this, I continually develop my “Functional Adult” (from Pia Mellody). I speak these affirmations to myself in various ways:

  • I matter and have inherent worth
  • I set healthy boundaries with others and myself in a compassionate way
  • I know the real me and am her in my daily life
  • I know how to get my needs and want’s met in moderate ways
  • I know how to be moderate in my life

I remind myself that my feelings of shame come from my childhood and do not have a place in my adult life.  I am Good Enough just as I am.  The old messages I carried from childhood do not have credence in the adult realm.

No one else has the right to define me.  Only I get to make that decision.  Old behaviors do not define me.  Only I get to make that decision and it may change from day to day.  Who I was yesterday does not define who I am today or in the future.

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If someone doesn’t like me or what I do I remind myself that it is not about me.  How they view me is based on their own filters and how they experience me, but does not define me.  I can be open to what they say, listen well, and then decide if this is something I can or am willing to change to keep the relationship.

If people don’t tell me what they are upset about or need, it is not my job to figure it out.  If they choose to not tell me “it’s not my circus, not my monkey.”  I will just have to wait until they choose to talk.

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Listen, up…we have to listen to what we hear and see what we see and stop making up fantasies when we’re handed a bunch of crap!

Anyone heard this story before?:  Leah and Fred have been dating for a little while (plug in 3 weeks or 3 months here) and Leah starts to get fed up that Fred is never available (plug in here Fred is fed up with Leah) and decides to end the relationship in a reasonable and responsible way:

“This really isn’t working out for me.  I think we have different needs for a relationship.”  No blaming, no shaming…just we are two adults who aren’t looking for the same things, right?

Commence the storm of nasty texts, ALL CAPITALIZED WITH !!!!*&^*(!!!! full of nasty comments, accusations, criticisms of everything about her/him.  Reaction?  Really, what…?  We didn’t even have a commitment of any kind and they react this harshly?

Ignore the texts, don’t answer the phone, don’t read the emails for a few days and you think it’ll blow over.  Whew!

What do you think happens next?

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He/she shows up at her/his workplace with flowers, apologies, offers of fun and expensive things to do together….you can’t believe it!

What would you do?  Do you think going back will mean a change and a better relationship?  What clues lead you to believe that?

Unfortunately many people are tempted to and do go back into this snake pit expecting a different result.  It rarely turns out well but we talk ourselves into believing it can.

Ask yourself this question:  How can this wound be healed?  How can a person make up for having said such horrible and hurtful things?  If this happened so early in a relationship, what makes you think it won’t happen again?

I want to tell you this fact:  There are plenty of nice people out there who could love you just the way you are…you don’t need to SETTLE for anyone who doesn’t have  basic human respect!

Time to move on, respect yourself and your life and let it go.

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After years of dating badly and marrying badly ( for some of us), it can be hard to break the old habits and patterns.

One pattern that many, except Jane The Virgin, fall into is jumping into sex right way.  My belief is that people do this somewhat because of lust and libido but mostly out of fear of loss and abandonment.  There’s a subconscious belief, even though we’ve been proven wrong many times, that if we have sex with someone it will mean there is love and that person will be committed and stay.

Sex means different things to different people.  Some think it means love and commitment and connections while others are just scratching the itch.  Don’t assume.

If sex is a relationship cementing act for you, do you really think YOU can know that you want to be with this person forever in a first date??  Get real!  Neither of you know each other no matter how many deep conversations you have, no matter how many things you feel you have in common.  There is no such thing as “Love At First Sight”.  Sometimes people who are attracted to each other can build on the initial plunge, but it’s not a given that the initial attraction will make a relationship work.  Really not.

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So make sure that, before you do Relationship-Cementing activities,  you really like and value and respect the person you are doing them with.  Don’t do anything if you’re not sure you want to be with them and build a relationship.  How long do you think it takes to know that?  I’m thinking it takes Four Seasons and even then people can change.

Also, if you’re having sex with someone early on, do you really know that they are not doing the same thing with someone else?  Ask yourself, how would you feel about doing this sexual stuff with them knowing they’re doing it with someone else?  If you’re OK with it, go ahead.  But if you’d be hurt, jealous, feel shame or less than…don’t do it!

Take things slow.  Slow and steady wins the race.  What’s the hurry?  Oftentimes when you wait and see,what you see you will not really like.  Wait for it……

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How many tearful, angry women come into my office in extreme pain over feeling like they have to have “sex for peace” with their husbands for fear of their anger?  What kind of life is this?

Do their husbands know these women feel this way?  Could they possibly continue to pressure their wives for sex knowing that they feel this way…that it hurts their wife and their relationship in ways that may never be able to heal?  For someone to pressure, manipulate and hold happiness hostage for sex is a huge BOUNDARY PROBLEM!  It is a sign of severe CODEPENDENCE on his part that he is that out of touch and has such damaged boundaries about sex and intimacy.  At the extreme, he becomes an abuser and possibly predator.  In a relationship, it can become abuse and an intimacy killer.  (Read Pia Mellody’s book, FACING CODEPENDENCE 2003

I find it so sad that women, smart and sophisticated women, feel this way and live this way.

Their rationale is that if they don’t have sex with him often enough, or when he wants it, he becomes sullen, pouty and mean to her and the kids.  They claim to have sex with a man, with whom they feel nothing but anger and pain, in order to have a peaceful and safe home for themselves and their kids.  How is this not prostitution or rape?  Isn’t it “forced” sex for emotional/behavioral remuneration?

Women of all classes live with this distortion on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.  They do not even see it as abusive because they see themselves as “colluding” in this “sexual” dance.  They believe it is a wife’s responsibility to “make” her husband happy.  They feel there is something wrong with them, at some level, or they wouldn’t put up with it.

When I tell women they do not have to do this, they look at me as if I am speaking Greek.  Educated, intelligent women can take months in a supportive therapy relationship before they can see another possibility.  Or even before they see they have the right to say NO!

Because there has been so little honest communication in the relationship by this time, the first step is to help women get the courage to speak their truth.  They have to tell their husband that they are not happy about this and say they do not want to have sex under these conditions.  They have to explain to their husband that they have felt forced and resentful and hurt to the point of not even liking them anymore.  They have to ask for this to change clearly, honestly, calmly and specifically.  And they have to be ready to stick with it and be firm.

“I do not want you to demand or manipulate me into having sex anymore.  If I say NO, I want you to respect my No.”

“I do not want you to be irritable with me and the children if I do not want to have sex with you.  If you are unhappy it is your responsibility to find a way to soothe yourself and not take it out on others.”

In some cases, the men are totally unaware that their wives have been feeling this way.  They may be defensive at first, in reaction, due to their own shame about their sexuality or behavior.  They may feel rejected and unloved and have a hard time hearing the feedback.  They may have their own unfinished business from childhood that’s got them feeling so miserable.

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If a respectful conversation takes place as a result of opening this up, great!  Keep talking.  Listen to each other and work out a plan for how to have mutual respect and rebuild the love.

If the response is defensive and attacking, walk away.  Take a time out and tell him you’ll came back later when he’s ready to talk about this in a respectful way.

If it doesn’t get better, seek out some professional couples counseling to help you hear each other.

While it is possible to come back from this destructive marital dance, it does take two to tango.  If either party is unwilling to talk it through and work on it respectfully, it is time to end the marriage.

Women and men need to know that they do not have to stay in a relationship in which they do not feel loved, respected and valued.  We should never have to beg to be loved and treated well.  We have the right to EXPECT this in all our relationships.

 

 

Many of us carry many misconceptions about the opposite sex that we bring into relationships. However, there are three common misconceptions about dating the opposite sex that I observe repeatedly.

After a while of dating the opposite sex without as much success as we want, we start to make up stories about them and how they are so different from us…and horribly unchangeable!  I think this an effort to understand, as if to understand would help us change or fix it.  It gives us some relief from the pain and confusion to laugh with our friends about how men are or how women are.  But when we come to believe that it is all absolutely true, we get ourselves into trouble.

Understanding some differences can help enhance our relationships, or it can help us build up resentments and walls against being able to get truly intimate with someone.

So Misconception #1 is that MEN are DIFFERENT than women.  We are all human beings who need relationship to survive.  Sometimes men are stereotypically male and sometimes not.  Sometimes women are stereotypically female and sometimes not.  No way to know for sure until you know the person you’re with, for sure.

Misconception #2 is that all WOMEN are the SAME.  REALLY??? If men get together and talk about their relationships and all say the same things:

*  all women just act like they want sex until you marry them

*  all women want is a man to take care of them

*  all women are emotional and get out of control for no reason

*  all women are needy and can never be satisfied

*  all women cheat

Does this make it all true about women?

Misconception #3 is that all men are the same.  If women sit and talk about how men and how hard it is to have relationships with them and all say the same things:

*  all men act like they’re into you until you get attached and then they start to disappear emotionally

*  all men have problems with communication: don’t call, text or write often enough

*  all men cheat

*  all men are irresponsible about work, money and household tasks

*  all men are little boys and have no idea how to be grownups

Does this make it all true about men?

The more I work with PEOPLE, men and women and those in between, the more I realize that we aren’t that much different from each other.  I really think we (men and women) are all the same…with variations.  The differences may be more due to how men and women have been socialized in our world rather than something they are born with.  You can read Lillian Rubin’s book, Intimate Strangers, for some theory on how it happens that boys are trained to be instructional and afraid of intimacy while girls are raised to be relational and afraid of disconnection.

But once you scratch the surface of any human being you will find the similarities if you open up and let them in.  We all crave connection but not everyone knows how to achieve it in a healthy way.  We all want to be happy and loved.  We all fear rejection and abandonment.  We all want to be important.

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If you approach relationships with a fear of THE OTHER and differences, you will keep up your emotional walls and never achieve true intimacy.  If you leave your heart open to love and connection and trust yourself to walk away if the relationship isn’t being respectful and healthy, then you don’t need walls.  You just have to trust yourself to take care of yourself, NO MATTER WHAT.

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Woman_cling_2If you’re scared of being alone, chances are you will allow people and relationships to pick you rather than you picking them.  You will settle for people who don’t treat you with respect, you will settle for people who don’t share your values and you will ignore all of the Red Flags.

Our wounds can come from childhood, our traumas from dysfunctional families or friendships, but they leave us feeling unloveable and as if we need another person to make us whole.

We learn that we have to be part of a family or part of a group or part of a relationship to have value.

No person and no relationship can make you whole.  No matter how many people love and value us, we will not believe it or feel safe until we can love and value our own self.  If those people are no longer around, what will you have left?

We’ve all heard this and we may even believe it….but how do we change how we feel inside when we have spent our life riddled with shame and self doubt?  When we have been taught to depend on the love and admiration of others to “feel” it for ourselves?

Of course there is no magic pill.  It takes work.  It takes time.  It takes commitment.

Therapy:  Unravel all of the negative messages and experiences that have made you into the person you are.  Heal some of those old wounds by talking them through, understanding them and let go of them.

Relationships:  Yes, finding healthy respectful people to support you on your journey will help you have the courage to depend on yourself.  People who don’t need you to be or do anything for them can support you to be and do everything for yourself.

Educate Yourself:  Have a thirst for knowledge about yourself and the world you live in.  As you learn you will find yourself:  What are your values?  What brings you joy?  What are your goals?

Books:  Fiction and self-help books as well as internet blogs and articles can help you find what makes you tick….can help you understand the things that have kept you confused and dependent on others….can help you get smarter about who you are and what you need.

Movies:  Escaping into other worlds can help you find your own values, truths, person. Absolam, the blue caterpillar in Alice In Wonderland, asks, “Whooo ArrrE YoUUU?”

Practice:  Experiment with being alone, doing things yourself.  Get used to it so it’s not so scary.  Can you go out to eat by yourself and not feel conspicuously unloveable?  Go to a movie without feeling like everyone knows you’re a loser?  The more you do it the easier it gets.  You might actually start to enjoy being about to pick your own movie without having to take everyone else’s opinion into consideration…and you get to eat ALL of the popcorn!

Start doing these things whether or not you’re in a relationship right now.  It will prepare you for being alone and can make you a better partner.

Remember this is a lifelong process.  No one is born confident and self assured and knowing themselves.  And if you’re shamed into feeling badly about yourself or discouraged from this journey early on in life, it doesn’t mean you can’t work through it all in time.  We are all evolving creatures, always learning and growing

When do you want to start your adventure?

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