about you is like
trying to describe
how water tastes…
it’s just not possible.
You can make your relationship better by apologizing the right way. An 18-year-old blogger already gets it and laments that her Boyfriend doesn’t.
The distress inspiring that young woman’s post mirrors what I find doing therapy with older-than-18 couples — neither knows what the other wants, needs, or is saying. The resulting misunderstanding, frustration, and hurt are the main reasons arguments — fights — happen.
1. First of all, demonstrate good will. Starting to apologize means not being defensive, not arguing back or denying your partner’s reality, not attacking, not disappearing.
2. It’s not (always) about what happened. Personal experience shows me that my reactions have less to do with what actually happens than with what gets triggered in me when that something happens. When David drives fast and tailgates it triggers a long-ago feeling of disregard for my (emotional) safety. True apology happens by understanding the “back story”.
3. Refocus attention away from yourself. After all, apology is about your partner’s hurt, not yours. “You’re not the only one who’s hurting” or “You think that’s bad . . .” or “What about me?” may have merit later, but in the moment are fighting words, not caring ones.
4. Be sincere. There’s nothing worse than making amends as a way of pacifying your partner, or when you really don’t believe you should have to. The upshot is that you’ll continue to behave in a way that makes your partner crazy, proving your initial apology was insincere. Before long, no amends you make are believed.
5. Put action to an apology only when you understand what’s meaningful to your partner. Don’t know? Both of you can benefit from Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. For example, a woman might disdain getting flowers as an apology because she sees it as impersonal, and thus meaningless. Meantime, her partner moans that she doesn’t get that it took effort, time, and money to get those flowers.
Your partner isn’t you; apologizing your way is likely to fuel more hurt; we’ve all been stuck in that vicious cycle. Apologizing by putting yourself aside for the moment benefits your partner, thus the relationship. Knowing what that looks like shows good will, kindness, thoughtfulness, and love. Funny, you’ll find your partner doing the same for you.
Find Kathe Skinner in Colorado Springs where she specializes working with couples. With husband David, Kathe also teaches a Secular Couple Communication Workshop. Find out more!
copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC
Ever feel like the love is gone?
Since you’re reading this article, it’s likely you still care enough about your partner and your relationship to want to help it — if you only knew how.
Most marriages should be given a chance to succeed.
Marriage counseling can help you restore the trust and intimacy your relationship once enjoyed so that you’ll both have a secure place to learn techniques and tools that can actually make a difference.
Behavioral research is often focused on the clinical effectiveness of couples therapy but the subject of couples therapy is in the out-loud American mainstream, too. Attention runs the gamut from on-line and print articles, to films like Couples Retreat, to playing supportive roles in television dramas like The Sopranos.
Most marriage counselors would agree that a couple’s motivation to make their relationship work is the single most important factor in determining the success of couples counseling. Beware the seduction of obtaining a promise from your partner to “work on the relationship” if one of their feet is out the door. Breaking up is hard to do, there’s enough hurt to go around, so sometimes one partner “buys time” by agreeing to couples counseling. Therapy also seems to be less successful for couples who wait too long before seeking help. Unfortunately, the average number of years a distressed couple waits before seeking help is 6 years.
If you and your partner are serious about creating the best relationship possible, marriage counseling is an excellent way to explore your relationship and help each of you uncover and overcome destructive relational patterns. Hopefully, before 6 years go by.
Kathe Skinner has been a Marriage & Family Therapist for 20 years. She specializes in couples work, especially with relationships where invisible disability is part of the mix. She and her husband David have been married for 29 years and together provide a Secular Couple Communication Workshop throughout the year. They live with their 2 hooligan cats in Colorado Springs.
It’s not that I don’t love you, Gengy. I do. But things just aren’t the same.
Used to be we’d talk ’til the yaks came home. We don’t talk like that anymore. Actually, we don’t talk at all. You’re distant and quiet, even with the kids. You’re never home at dinnertime and I can’t remember the last time we had a date night.
Other gals say it’s the same with them. You and your horde come home after conquering and slaughtering and a year’s gone by and you act like some bigshot who’s gonna take over where you left off, but guess what? everybody’s been used to fending without you. Know what else? we’ve done pretty good, too.
Whoa, Gengy; don’t get your temper up! You’re such a control freak, but you’re not gonna bully me anymore. I love you, I do. But I can’t — no, I won’t — keep taking it. You come off as so studly but I’m tired of sleeping by myself while you get wasted on that fermented crap. I’m really sick of all those concubines hanging off you. And I’m tired of entertaining all those brutes you call generals. Gengy, I’m just. plain. tired.
I’m done. I mean it this time.
Your moods don’t bother me anymore. I don’t give an ox’s ass about all that blood on your hands and those nightmares you have. Man up, Genghis! It’s a brutal world out there for all of us; but the Great Khan wants us to feel sorry for him like nobody else matters.
The saying is “love conquers all”, not “Genghis Khan conquers all.” Try thinking about somebody else besides yourself for a change!
It’s beyond me how you can get one end of your empire to communicate with the other but you’re in the dark when it comes to communicating with me. What do I want? I’ll tell you: I want you to tell me dinner was good. That I look nice. Tell me about your day; you know, like how’d it go out on the steppes. Some funny story about one of your generals. Like that.
Yeah, yeah, I know all about all the great stuff you do. You keep telling me, don’t you? You don’t listen, not to anybody. You do what you want, you get what you want, and thousands of people get hurt. If you put half as much effort into us as you do into work, we wouldn’t be so far apart.
Look, Gengy, we’ve been together a long time, since we were 12. Pretty good for an arranged marriage, huh? Remember our first night — all those stars! the music of shuffling ponies. And you couldn’t . . . well, that’s ancient history. After all, you were only twelve.
You once said you’d give me the known world but I didn’t think it meant you’d be gone all the time. It’s like you’re trying to prove something with all this conquering. And being so fearsome; what’s that about? Sometimes you even scare me. You don’t have to be a therapist to see what having a tyrant for a father did to you. And the way you treat me? Just like your father treated your mother. She took it for all those years, but I don’t have to.
I’m sorry; bringing your mother into it, that was a low blow.
Listen. Mongolia doesn’t feel like home anymore. You’re never around and when you are you’re all inside your head about who you and the boys are going to pillage next. The kids don’t need me; they’re all grown and scattered to the winds. You don’t need me, and I’m tired of doing this marriage by myself. I’ve got to think about me for a change. I’ve always wanted to travel — maybe China; I hear their silks are to die for.
Don’t act surprised, Gengy. We’ve both known this was coming. As brutal as you are, you never laid a hand on me. This is gonna sound strange, but you know what? I almost wish you had. At least that way you would’ve touched me.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in couples work, especially with those couples whose relationship is impacted by visible or invisible disability. She lives in Colorado with her husband David (whose latest conquered territory is the garage) and their two pampered yak-ity cats, Petey and Lucy. She and David hold a Couples Communication Workshop throughout the year. Check it out all the Workshops offered @ www.coupleswhotalk.com
Copyright, 2015 Being Heard, LLC
Or when your guy grabs your shirt, slams you up against the wall, and says you don’t wanna make him angry.
And the whole theater’s screaming at that dumb young thing not to open up when the doorbell rings at midnight and nobody’s expected.
I’m not generally an alarmist although my husband David would disagree. I do worry about fire starting in a trash barrel where he’s dumped grass clippings. Or being afraid things are gonna blow up. Or when I feel eyes on me when I’m working late by the open window in my first floor office and I can’t help myself I just have to look.
One summer my panties started disappearing off the clothesline, hang-up calls began right after my soon-to-be-ex left the house, and the guy across the street would make a racket so I’d look up to see him standing naked in his doorway. When the phone rang at 2 one morning and the soon-to-be hustled me into the dark backyard I thought yeah, sure, I’m gonna get whacked — he had lots of, uh, connections; I didn’t for a second believe the police were evacuating the neighborhood. But they were. That spooky ass guy shot a neighbor who was coming home from shift work.
A bit after I rented out my condo, the woman whose doorway was a few feet away from mine was strangled at home then dumped in the woods. The daughter’s boyfriend went to prison for murder in a sordid story worthy of a bestseller.
Like people in an abusive marriage or those who return from war, I can talk about what’s happened to me as if it had happened to someone else. Traumatic stress is often numbing and, whether the stress is long- or short-term, the need for self-protection can make us look (and be) detached and dispassionate.
Danger exists in trusting others even as protection is so desperately needed. Laying down the guise, being vulnerable and exposed, is almost literally a deadly challenge that many won’t choose.
Traumatic stress is so often unexpected — who would set themselves up to be traumatized? — we cannot prepare or protect our psyches from it. A system-wide shock indicates that everything in our world — most especially those to whom we are vulnerable like spouses, parents, children, friends as well as surroundings that once felt safe — is now suspect. Add to that the invisibility of chronic, traumatic stress and the difficulty of recognizing or relating to it adds to misunderstanding and further isolation and loneliness.
Traumatic stress can be vigilance run amok.
The experiencing, fearing, seeing, remembering of violence and harm can derail our thoughts and emotions, often forever. Like someone who puts and keeps themselves in line for abuse, or those who think themselves immune to repeated horror, all of us need to realize that horror commands a price. Similarly, we need to know that sometimes, not always, we can predict nasty experiences and seek to avoid them. Problem is, the invisibility of stress disorders can mean that some people are less in control than it seems. The creed of healthcare workers, protectors of public safety, combatants, and others who serve reinforces our expectations — and their own — about invulnerability.
Sometimes, vigilance is underrated.
Putting ourselves in charge, like not hanging out with somebody who slams you against a wall, is a proactive step to avoiding traumatic stress in the first place. And when you can’t avoid getting bummed out, talking with a professional helper can expiate what may be stuck in your head. That’s necessary if you want to be able to live your life without looking over your shoulder for clowns.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice who specializes working with couples, especially those for whom invisible disability — like PTSD — is part of their relationship’s mix. She and her husband David hold Couples Communication Workshops that help inoculate couples from the stress that a poor relationship can bring. Register now for the lateswt workshop at www.BeingHeardNow.com
© 2015, Being Heard, LLC
Loving someone calls out parts of us untouched by anything else. Loving and being loved is the genesis of trust, fearlessness, safety, vulnerability. Linking to another calls for courage, and hones our concept of “forever”. Falling under love’s spell is the only time we’re wholly, nakedly, ourselves.
It’s so scary that most partners would rather fight, go silent, resentfully acquiesce, or run away rather than connect. We think that connecting with the one we love calls for us to “give ourselves over”, “lose” ourselves. And that that person will, with malice aforethought, mistreat us.
Being by yourself and being in a relationship isn’t always unhealthy, though. In fact, the bulk of who we are is lived individually, as it should be. The relationship itself stays healthy when there is a communicated, mutual understanding of, and confidence in, the “us-ness” that bridges one to the other.
Successful relationships are overlapping, not pancaking. A well-designed spell allows each partner to breathe.
Take John and Mary, for instance. To him, being alone means time to decompress after work, diddling on the computer or watching the news. For Mary it’s a long, hot, bubbly soak spent with a trashy novel, candles . . . and no kids.
Are we now too busy to spend time re-casting love’s spell? Too dour to be delighted in loving and being loved? So impersonal that we let our thumbs wirelessly communicate our needs?
Is casting a spell a lost art?A passionate lover of the season of beauty and decay, Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in teaching couples how to be safe and vulnerable at the same time. She lives in Colorado with her husband of 28 years, David, and their 2 hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy. Black spirit cats Squeak and Winston Bean never felt safe on Halloween. © 2014, Being Heard, LLC Image courtesy of 9comeback at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
That’s the name I give to those reams of paper already printed on one side, fit only for recycling. The remains of old binders of stuff from grad school account for this week’s batch of junk paper for my printer. Like a paper I’d written almost 20 years ago: Assumptions, Approaches and Issues in Marital Therapy: A Personal Definition.
Amazingly, what I believed then, minus the naïveté and lack of experience, is largely the passion and promise of what I believe today:
1. Ease the pain. Right off the bat, a therapist’s job is to give a couple hope about the future, no matter if it’s separately or together. A therapist’s first role is to soothe heart hurt, restore faith, and normalize anger. The hard work can wait for later.
2. Children’s and pets’ behavior is about you. Overstated, but you get the point: Misbehavior, theirs or yours, is a symptom and not necessarily the cause. When you want things better at your house, start by working on the big boys and leave the small fry alone.
3. You’re driving the bus. Where we go is yours to decide; my job is to help you get there. A good travel agent doesn’t tell you where you want to go; you tell the agent. Think of me in that way, gathering information then putting a package together that gets you on your way, lending a hand when problems along the way.
4. I’m not immune to the issues you have. Part of my skill is being able to tune in to your problems. Although I’ve often been there, done that, I may see in your struggles things I have yet to resolve in my own life and relationship. In the that’s called counter-transference, and all therapists are touched by it.
5. For each step back take 2 steps forward. The family system we grew up in, and how relationships worked within it, predict behavior in our relationship now. Think of it as an individual version of “driving the bus.” Called individuation or differentiation, couples therapy looks hard at each partner’s ability to separate from those automatic behaviors we learned about ourselves and relationships so long ago. Remember that it takes two strong individuals to make a relationship work.
6. Without Action, Knowledge is wasted. Put another way, “So what’re you gonna do about it?” The whole aim of coming to therapy is “behavior change” and not just “changing your mind.” Those are things for me to know and you to learn.
7. Crisis = Opportunity. Going into marital therapy, or any kind of personal work, is an adventure whose outcome is largely unknown. What I do know is that when things come to a head tremendous opportunity for growth exists when things burst. Relationship is dynamic and as individual as each of you and the two of you together.
Hardest for me to learn has been that I can never want change more than my clients do. You will be (and ought to be) the trump card, driving force, bus driver, agent for change, mover and shaker.
What I know is that all of my skill, compassion, and knowledge will never be enough to right a boat when the passengers have jumped ship.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist, Coach, and Relationship Specialist who, for almost 20 years, has been in private practice along Colorado’s Front Range. She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis longer than most relationships she sees and specializes in working with couples where invisible disability is part of the relationship mix. Kathe and her husband, David, teach Couple Communication Workshops where participants get a peek at how this team manages a marriage where 2 very different personalities see things from 3 perspectives – and where class-goers learn to do the same. Workshops are offered throughout the year. Get the schedule and learn more at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.
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©2014, BeingHeard, LLC
Doin’ the do-si-do’s impossible to do by yourself.
I spent lots of years hanging out with girlfriends or not hanging out at all, which was more likely to be true. Most times, none of us even had someone who filled in for love. I’m not ashamed to say there are times I would’ve settled – my need for affiliation was that great – at least for awhile. Although I did draw the line at that Mafia guy.
Being un-paired suggested to me that who I was was unacceptable; someone whose standards, suggested Mom, were sometimes too high. This time she was right.
The upshot was a 10-year marriage I never wanted and that didn’t work, anyway.
And when, post-divorce, I found someone to love, conundrums followed double-behavioral-messages and I was as heartbroken and needy as if I were one of those women who stand uncomfortably on the periphery of social situations. How humiliating that, when I bought myself a dozen roses to make him jealous, he knew no one else had done that but me.
If you haven’t been there, done that, and are newly-bummed by Valentine’s Day, here are some thoughts:
1. Scoundrels are plentiful. Scoundrels will always be scoundrels. Scoundrels become scoundrel-ier the more you like them.
2. Singles gatherings are very sad. While such encounters are billed as “fun”, they never are. They’re too often a forum for people to tell their bad/sad story. While good forums for social science researchers, mixers like this can suck the breath out you for weeks.
3. Visit the zoo. Animals who live in enclosures have other fish to fry so they’re not upset when your dump truck of emotions backs onto their turf. Just don’t dump on their food.
4. Develop a mental solidarity with women who become collectors of cats. Every cat-loving woman I’ve ever met understands how this happens, and is comforted by knowing that homeless felines are plentiful if all else fails.
5. Diet only if you want to. A hungry person is a grouchy person, not at all lovable. By the same token, if you’re ashamed of evidence of those ice cream orgies, remember that a shamed person often lies.
6. Going to a bar is noisy, phony, expensive, sometimes dangerous but often depressing, especially when your friend gets hit on and you don’t. People sucking up the bar scene are generally alcoholic, shopping for a good cut of meat, or both.
7. At the first sign of abuse run. Fast and far. Never look back.
8. Everything you’ve ever heard about kissing frogs is true. These days you really can get warts.
9. While the world feels like Noah’s Arc. fact is that with the divorce rate at 50%, out there’s a pretty big pool of people rejected by someone else. And they’re yours for the taking.
10. A clean bill of health is as important as it was to have a passport in Nazi Germany. The consequences are about the same, too.
Pairing up is about lots of things, many of which we have no control over, like the biological imperative to reproduce our species, and to protect what we create. Humans are meant to affiliate; we’re social animals who rely on, and need, each other. The herd is enormous – 7 billion and growing.
The odds are in your favor.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach who’s been in private practice for the last 17 years. She works especially with the invisibly disabled. Kathe finds real-life adventures in Front Range Colorado, where she lives with husband David and their hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy. Neither of them has square danced since they were in 6th grade. Learn more about Kathe & David Skinner and the Couples Communication Workshops they teach at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com and be sure to keep visiting Kathe’s blog at ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com. P.S. Pass it along!
©2014, Being Heard, LLC
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