The Critical Tool You MUST Nail Before Moving to a New Phase in Life

Whether you are becoming an empty nester, considering retirement or even moving to a new town or new house, there is one thing that will help your marriage make the transition.  It is ACCEPTANCE! Yes, very same thing that is what I notice coaching those who consider themselves “happy” in their marriages as opposed to those who come to me wanting to solve their marriage problems.

What I mean by acceptance is “allowing” your spouse to behave however they want.  I put the word allow in quotes because in reality, it is impossible for you to control the behavior of adult human beings.  But just think about it–other people typically do what they want anyhow, and even if you try to use emotional manipulation to try to control them, they might do or say what you want them to, but they sure aren’t going to do it without a healthy dose of bitterness or resentment.

What if when you are embarking on a new phase in life, trying to navigate new waters with your spouse, you could talk and react in a way that no matter what they said or did you had no demands, you didn’t make their behaviors mean anything about YOU, and you could just LOVE them? Think about it.  Think HARD. Try it out–acceptance could be the difference between moving ahead into unknown territory as a true partnership.

The 4 Elements of Effective Communication

These are the 4 layers of communication:

1. What we mean

2. What we say

3. What the other person hears

4. What the other person makes it mean

In order to understand how this works, begin by taking a look and analyzing the conversations you have with others. Examine all parts of the exchange and notice where things may have gone wrong.

When you are evaluating conversations, it is critical to ask the question, “why would this person say this?”  If someone says to you, “I don’t like you,” you want to ask yourself, why are they saying that? This allows you to recognize that they might be saying this because they’re scared, they think you’ve hurt their feelings, they’re blaming you for what’s going on in their life, etc. Most importantly, this helps YOU break the pattern of reacting in a way that won’t help the conversation. Asking questions is such a powerful pattern-breaking tool during a conversation as well—try asking a question like, “Here’s what you just said and here’s how I interpreted that. Is that the way you wanted me to interpret that?” Or, “tell me what you’re feeling & thinking, what do you want me to know?” When you make a true effort to listen hard, consider their side, and fully hear them, you will likely be able to see areas of common ground and remain in a state of compassion.

An Exercise to Discover ’The Manual’ You Have for Your Husband

’The Manual’ is an instruction guide for people in our lives about how we’d like them to behave so that we can feel good.  Usually we don’t even share this manual with people we are close with and often we don’t realize how much pain and suffering it causes us.

We might feel justified having expectations of other people—especially our husbands, but when your emotional state is tied to him behaving a certain way, this is where we run into problems. Why? Because the belief that we would be happier if someone behaved a certain way is putting all our power in the hands of another person.  Most adults do not behave exactly as we’d like them to 100% of the time.  I’d argue that they don’t behave the way we’d like them to MOST of the time, and even though they may do things that give you positive thoughts and positive feelings at times, they won’t be able to or even want to do such things much of the time. 

You can explore the Manual you have for your husband by doing the following exercise.  Take a sheet of paper and don’t worry about writing nice things or things other people would agree with, and don’t edit what pops into your head. 

  1. Write, in detail what you would like your husband to do
  2. For each item, write down why you want him to behave in this way
  3. How do you think you would feel if he behaved this way?
  4. How would your thoughts about him change if he behaved this way?
  5. Do you want him to behave this way even if he doesn’t want to? Why or why not?
  6. What do you make it mean when he doesn’t behave this way?

So what to do with this? Just notice.  Be curious. Question whether or not having a manual for him is causing you pain.  Consider dropping some of the expectations you have of him and notice what happens.  Consider how some of the thoughts you have about him affect your actions when he doesn’t behave the way you want him to. Oh, and if you want help navigating through this, consider working with a marriage coach—I happen to have a good recommendation for you 😉

The Change Paradox and How it Can Improve Your Marriage

The more you try to get somebody to change, the harder they will fight change and the more they will resist you.  The paradox is that if you accept the fact that you CAN’T change someone and actually focus on changing yourself and your thoughts, the other person will change at the exact moment that you change. 

This is why YOU have the ability to strengthen and improve your marriage without even getting your spouse involved.  It’s true–you can change yourself and your spouse will likely follow suit.  There’s another phenomenon that is often called ‘karma’ meaning that you get back what you give.  Try it–if you want more respect and appreciation, tell your loved ones why you respect them and admire them.  When you do this without expecting anything in return truly amazing things may happen!

2 Questions to Ask Yourself When You Feel Stuck in Your Marriage

When you feel like you need to take a step forward with your relationship, you’re not sure what to do, or you just feel stuck and unable to move in another direction, asking yourself these 2 simple questions after identifying your possible courses of action can be extremely helpful in getting ‘unstuck.’

Question #1:

If I could be happy with either option, which would I choose?

It is important to recognize that there is no ‘right’ choice.  There are pros and cons with every decision and there is no single decision that will bring you complete happiness.  For example, if you are trying to decide whether or not you should divorce your spouse, ask yourself this question and of course, I HIGHLY recommend working with a marriage coach to help you navigate through what’s going on in your brain and get clarity on it.

Question #2:

Do I like my reason why?

It is equally important to ask yourself this question.  Does your reason have to do with lack or fear? Is your reason because you think that one decision is better than the other? Does your reason have anything to do with other people’s opinions? Make sure that you investigate WHY you are making this decision are completely comfortable with the reason behind it.

All the best to you with your decision making and one last bit of info: NOT making a decision and staying stuck in what I like to call the “I don’t know” stage IS in fact, making a decision. Don’t indulge in confusion and stay stuck!

Expectations & Preferences in Your Marriage

Many of you who have read my work have heard me talk about ‘The Manual.’ If not, I’ll reiterate–this is an instruction guide for people in our lives about how we’d like them to behave so that we can feel good.  Usually we don’t even share this manual with people we are close with and often we don’t realize how much pain and suffering it causes us.

We might feel justified having expectations of other people, but when your emotional state is tied to that person behaving a certain way, this is where we run into problems. Why? Because the belief that we would be happier if someone behaved a certain way is putting all our power in the hands of another person.  Most adults do not behave exactly as we’d like them to 100% of the time.  I’d argue that they don’t behave the way we’d like them to MOST of the time, and even though they may do things that give you positive thoughts and positive feelings at times, they won’t be able to or even want to do such things much of the time. 

Even clients I’ve worked with who understand this and have experienced firsthand that it is their thoughts about someone else’s behavior (not the behavior itself) that determines how they feel have asked me, “well, what about the fact that I want to be with someone who will surprise me with something special and treat me like a queen on my birthday?” Is that a manual? 

That’s when I’d ask a client to consider the following questions:

  • So what if your partner did NOT act this way on your birthday?
  • What would you make it mean?
  • Would you want him to do this even if he didn’t want to? If so, why?
  • Do you understand that you have the option to feel (happy, cherished, etc.) on your own, whether or not he behaves this way?

You will know you are learning to drop your manual and are moving toward a state of taking responsibility for your own emotions if you are able to make requests with no strings attached

This is also what I call voicing your preferences and making a clean request. This might look like telling your husband that you think it would be awesome if he surprised you with something special on your birthday and not thinking negative thoughts when he comes home with ‘only’ flowers and a card for you or comes home from work having not made plans and asks you what you’d like to do for your birthday.  You don’t feel resentment toward him and you recognize that any disappointment you feel is based on the thoughts you choose to think–and that you can choose to think thoughts that don’t make you feel disappointed! 

When it comes to preferences, I’d ask you to question whether or not having those preferences is serving you. With the client above, she had not yet met this dream man who would surprise her and treat her like a queen on her birthday.  It’s great that she has a vision in her mind of her ideal partner, but is she limiting herself to the men she could have an amazing relationship with even if they don’t act the way or possess certain qualities she would like them to? What if she meets someone who behaves this way while they are dating but things change after they get married (those of us who are married or have ever been married can attest to the fact that this is very likely to happen 😉)? 

What if she could learn to have her own back and think thoughts that generate the feelings she desires so that she could even date a man who didn’t behave this way or seem to fit her desired preferences? That could be an option that would open up so many possibilities for her.  Maybe it would be a skill that could come in handy if she ever decided to marry one of these men…

Have You Conditioned Your Husband to be a Liar?

Most of us would probably put honesty down as one of the most important characteristics in both a spouse as well as most people we choose to interact with. But I want to tell you that everybody lies and most of us condition those around us to be liars as well.

What do I mean that we teach each other to lie to us?  Well, often we don’t tell the truth because we don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings.

We also expect people to tell us the truth, but when they do and we don’t like the truth, we get upset at the person telling us the truth! When we do this enough times, our loved ones aren’t telling us the truth because they don’t want to face the wrath of our anger when we get upset at them!

We also don’t tell the truth when we do favors for people that we don’t want to do.  An example of this is agreeing to help a friend move even though you were busy and really didn’t want to.  You did it but the whole time you resented them and blamed them for how you felt.  Is this really a loving thing to do? Nope, and it’s pretty hypocritical, too. Many of us women do things for others because we think it will make them happy.  We are people-pleasers but when we do things out of obligation as people pleasers we are not being honest–we are actually trying to manipulate another person’s feelings.

3 Steps to Break the Cycle of Retaliation in Your Marriage

If you and your husband have repeating arguments or you’ve noticed that you get frustrated or ‘retaliate’ when he doesn’t do things or act the way you think he should act, you may need to break what I call the ‘cycle of retaliation’ in your relationship.  Here are some steps you can take to help break the cycle and minimize resentment toward each other.

  1. Notice the unspoken rules you have for your husband

If you get upset with your husband for playing tennis with his friends on the weekends, it may be due to thoughts such as, “We don’t get enough time together as a family on weekends–a man should put his family first.”

  • Notice the rules, or the ‘shoulds’ that you have for your husband.  These are the things that he does or doesn’t do that bother you.  Make a list and write down how you’d like him to act instead.
  • Pay particular attention to the rules that are secret.  In other words, do you think your husband should just automatically know this rule?

   2.   Examine your rules and what you are making them mean

Besides noticing whether the rule is secret or not, ask what you are making your husbands actions (or inactions) mean.  Does him spending time away from the family with his friends mean that he isn’t a committed father just like your dad who left the family when you were a toddler? Is it possible that your husband has an unspoken rule that opposes your rule? Can you see where a problem could arise when you think that your husband should jump in without asking to help with the kids but he might think that if you wanted his help, you shouldn’t expect him to read your mind and should ask for help?

   3.   Start reacting differently and make requests with no strings attached

Stop punishing your husband for not following your rules–this includes the obvious such as yelling and talking harshly but could also include withdrawing, sulking, or some other ‘get him back’ action.  Remember, he might not even know what rule he broke or what he did ‘wrong!’

Try making requests that have no strings attached.  Remember, he’s a human being and humans don’t typically react well to attempts to control their behavior.  You will know when you are making a request without strings attached because although you might be pleased that he followed your request, you won’t get upset or make it mean something about YOU when he doesn’t.  

The Question I Asked Myself That Saved My Marriage

The question that totally changed my marriage for the better is SO WHAT? If this doesn’t make sense to you, it might help you to ask yourself a slightly different question: SO WHAT AM I MAKING THAT MEAN?

Asking this question of yourself helps show you that you have the power to choose the thoughts that create the story spinning in your brain.  Do you want your brain to look for evidence of negative things or would you prefer to think thoughts that help you feel positive and empowered? How do you show up when you spin a negative story and what results do you get? You get to tell the story–do you want it to be wonderful and amazing or terrible and awful?

The Scary Part of Giving Up Victimhood

It’s such a big deal to stop blaming other people and the outside world for your problems.  It’s liberating, powerful, freeing! You’ve gotten to a place where you can take responsibility for all your emotions–both positive and negative.

But, at the same time, there is something you need to know that sucks about this.  It sucks to realize that the only thing stopping you from moving forward in your life and taking action is YOU.  You are going to have to do some REALLY hard work that will for sure involve having to experience and process challenging emotions.  No longer can you hide behind things outside of you or numb yourself by buffering.  Well, okay–you can continue to buffer and not experience your emotions but by now you know that this will only bring you increased negative results in the long term. So, what are you going to do now? What is your next step? I challenge you to take some action and try making it across the river of misery.  What’s on the other side? YOUR GOALS–and let me tell you, it’s totally worth experiencing some negative emotions and making it across the river.  It’s worth it–YOU’RE worth it!