Do you know why some couples don’t get help with their relationship? They are struggling, but rather than seek assistance, they give up.
Can you guess why?
Granted, a myriad of moving parts in a relationship keeps things interesting. Who is the cause of what, for instance? If my relationship isn’t working, why isn’t it working? Is it me? Is it him? Is it us? Figuring all of this out is a lot to ask of any couple, no matter how smart and savvy you are!
A relationship between two people can seem complicated because it’s a multi-blending of families, children, pets, friends, homes, and belongings. A relationship also requires juggling preferences in communication, relaxation, sex and love, eating, money, lifestyle and livelihood.
Here’s the million dollar question: With so many moving parts, what’s my power of influence? How can we make it turn out right for both of us?
And if it’s not working out, do you seek help, or do you “go it alone” crossing your fingers, hoping for the best?
WHY COUPLES DON’T GET HELP
Couples who don’t get help have their reasons. Here are five I see most often.
#1 — To have a better marriage, I’d need a new partner.
Some pairs have concluded (often secretly) that an improved marriage would require a trade-in — they’d have to find a different partner. Why? Their marriage hasn’t improved even though they’ve given it their best shot. They’ve tried and failed repeatedly, and have real-time proof that “this is the way their relationship is.” They give up, because the cost of changing partners (emotional or otherwise) is too great.
Basic Belief: I am not powerful enough to change how my relationship works.
#2 — Our problems are not my fault. I don’t need help. He does.
If you’re certain the relationship doesn’t work because of your partner, not because of you, I understand. (I believed that fully for three marriages and divorces.) After all, who wants to point the finger homeward? It’s more convenient to ask a partner to change. Many of us hold out for that.
No one asks for help and no one gets it.
Basic Belief: I’m superior to my partner.
#3 — If we went to a consultant for help, or took a class, I’d be expected to change.
Oh No! Go to therapy? Take a class? Talk to a relationship consultant?
Do things differently? Move out of my comfort zone? Learn new ideas about relating? Take a crash course in relationships at THIS age? Learn not to blame? Notice when I complain? Pay attention to my voice tone, my emotions, my communication?
Nope. I don’t think I’m up for that. I think I’ll stay the same, thanks anyway.
Basic Belief: Change is difficult and not worth it in the end.
#4 — If we got help, and things began to work out, I’d be wrong about the past.
The fear is that if you did get help, and your relationship DID work after all, then you’d be wrong about the (plethora of awful) things you said about the relationship — or him! Oops!!
If you ask for help, what if you find out that it was you who miscalculated? Or misinterpreted? Misunderstood? That you were repeating a past pattern that affected both of you? That you didn’t see the whole picture, just your side of things, and you swore (to quite a few people) that you were the innocent victim, your hands were tied, and that it was his fault completely…
Then what? How would you reel all the criticism back in, swallow your pride, tell a new story — be perfectly imperfect? Do you simply say “Sorry, I was wrong about him?” How would all of that work exactly?
It’s all too embarrassing, uncomfortable and revealing. It’s less trouble and more dignified to simply stay the same.
Basic Belief: It’s more important to be right than be happy.
#5 — It takes two to tango. (Or tangle…) And he won’t come with me to see you.
He should get help right along with me to rescue this marriage. Why should he get off free as a bird? Why should I do all the work? What about him? Give me a break — he gets to do whatever he wants, and I have to make all the adjustments?!? No, I don’t think so!
If he won’t join me, any efforts I make will fall short because we’re in this together and he should help fix it. He should realize his responsibility, take some initiative, make a move, try harder, make an effort, DO something! He needs to make an effort.
Basic Belief: I’m not a leader, I’m a follower/victim.
All of these approaches are “hole in the bucket” — they don’t hold water. They are based on false premises.
These ideas are totally backwards. They represent the opposite of what works.
These approaches keep your relationship in a (negative) repeating loop. No fun!
These beliefs are counter-productive. Not addressing an issue accurately works against you.
Focusing on changing someone else is not a sustainable practice. It makes you old and crabby and tired. Eventually, it takes a toll on your health.
It’s a lot of work to try to change others, and they resent you for it. Eventually, they walk away or spend less time with you because it’s no fun being the one who is always wrong.
The moment you blame, you have zero power. You’ve lost all of it. Blame means “I have now taken my hands off the wheel, and when we crash, I”ll point to you in the passenger seat and make sure you know that I think you’re the cause of my trouble.”
10 BETTER IDEAS
Change any part of your relationship machine, and the whole pattern between you shifts. Don’t depend on others for what is yours to do. It takes one person to change a relationship. Most people underestimate this entirely.
If things are not working in your relationship, either of you can reach out for help. It doesn’t matter who takes the initiative. If the success of the relationship is on your mind, nominate yourself. You’re the perfect candidate to find help for yourself, or for the two of you. Go ahead and get some help for yourself. You may find that all sorts of trouble clears up through your changes alone.
To make a relationship work, you might need a new. clearer partnership — with yourself. (Call me if you want to dive into that. It’s a very freeing process, one that’s easy to love.)
If things begin to work better now, who cares about the past?
You needn’t explain anything to anyone about changes in your relationship. You do not owe others an extensive update. (No, not even your mother. Talk less, smile more, she’ll get it. She just wants you to be happy.)
Talk less to others about your relationship. If others do ask, speak in short sentences. Speak generally, not specifically. You’ll find pretty quickly that if you don’t blurt details about your relationship, people rarely ask.
Self-criticism or worry about being right or wrong slows you down. Don’t bother with it. Skip right over that one.
Don’t be concerned about being off the mark, making mistakes or goofing up. Everyone is always learning. It’s a natural human condition. It’s how anyone learns and discovers — ask an inventor! Surrender to being a spirit in a human body, happily learning as fast as you can, doing your best with what you’ve got. You’re wonderful. Keep evolving. Keep experimenting!
Making changes is a voluntary activity. Nobody can make you change. You don’t need to change. Don’t succumb to pressure to be different than you are, if you’re not ready. When you’re ready, change away! Make changes to your heart’s content. Have fun creating a new you!
For most humans, change is more satisfying and fun than standing still — in fact, it’s thrilling! The power to change is always in your capable hands, right where it belongs.
“I’m an introvert who needs a lot of quiet time alone. My husband is an extrovert with an open door policy to his friends. We keep going round and round with this one. How can we both get what we need?”
First, both people are right. She knows what she needs, and he does, too. That’s a (very) good thing.
How do you figure out how to get what you need, when your partner wants the opposite?
You do not get there by:
pushing against the other person, duking it out, grabbing what quiet time you can get and being mad or disappointed when you don’t get what you need.
assuming you can’t get what you need because he wants the opposite.
assuming sacrifice is the answer, meaning “I must sacrifice what I want so you can have your needs met.” (And then, by the way, I’ll hate you and it will spill out in surprising and icky ways which neither of us will enjoy or feel good about.) Or the opposite, meaning you must sacrifice so that my needs are met, which is just as distasteful.
You do get there by:
regarding the situation as temporary
assuming there’s a good solution you haven’t thought of yet, that will not only satisfy you both, but will thrill you both, and bring you closer.
being creative problem solvers — get curious, play with ideas, brainstorm, be light-hearted, feel receptive rather than combative or in competition, be open to unusual solutions.
coming from partnership and being willing to help each other (or find someone who can help you)
coming from a place of optimistic generosity rather than scarcity (I’m sure there are ways to work this out and I’m looking forward to that vs. here we go again, this will never work, or I can’t get enough of what I need)
For sure, the more you push against the other person to get what you want (energy of blocking or preventing) the more they push back and the two of you are stuck. You’re locked in.
What is a female introvert? What does that mean?
An introvert is a person who is energized by spending time alone. Introverts use the cocoon method of recovery and re-generation. We get under the covers. We get quiet, sleep, read, and putter around the house when nobody’s around. We don’t answer the phone. We meditate, contemplate or write in our journal. We take time for a home spa day, with soft music, a hot bath, soothing scents, and soft light. If no one is around, it makes it — way! — easier to relax and go within.
If you don’t take human instinct into the equation when it comes to intimate relationships (and this is a big subject) it is my humble opinion that you’ve got no chance in a million of creating a brilliant relationship.
Here’s a tiny example of how cavewoman applies to the question at hand.
When “female” is added to the introvert equation, the importance of “no one being around” heightens. This is because the feminine aspect is very tuned in to the environment. On the level of instinct, the feminine aspect is constantly scanning regarding physical safety. Compared to the masculine, we’re smaller and weaker, and we scan for survival purposes. It’s built into our DNA. It’s totally natural. If you don’t believe me, think about how you get out of your car in a dark parking lot in an unfamiliar city. That’s a clear example, but there are many other subtle examples all day long.
In addition to safety first, there is also the instinct of nurturing. In the hunter-gatherer model, females are generally the gatherer, and also the nurturer. We take care of the young especially, but we take care of whoever is around that could use a little nurturing. If guests are in our house, we think about them. Are they hungry? Are they comfortable? Do they need extra blankets and pillows? Are they happy and content?
So to regenerate, females need a break from having others on our radar. For mothers with children, it’s heavenly when the husband leaves for work, the kids go off to school. Then, you can turn your full attention to other things. When the house clears and becomes quiet, maybe you walk to your painting studio and do your thing. Or you write, meditate or exercise before you head out for the day, because you know everybody’s OK, and your radar is clear. For women who have company for the weekend, no matter how much we enjoy having them in our midst, it’s always lovely when everyone leaves.
DO YOU KNOW…
Do you know how you work best, what you need, or what brings out the best in you?
Are you able to explain this fully to your partner/mate?
Are you curious what your mate needs, too? Have you asked him/her?
Are you willing to explore with your mate for possible answers that work for both of you?
Tell your husband what it does for you to have your quiet space. Also tell him what this means for him. What kind of person/partner does this allow you be? How does this bring out the best in you? When you get your quiet time, you feel more (what?) and what does that mean for him? What can you give him when you’ve had your down time?
“I like you (much) better when I feel rested and relaxed.”
“I like you better when I feel like a woman.”
“When I’ve had time to myself, I’m in love — with me, with life and with you. I want to be in love with you, so having my down time is important.”
So, sometimes, it’s just a matter of telling your husband what having what you need does for you — and then he’s all over it. He wants to give that to you, because he wants to enjoy the best of you, not the watered down, irritated snapping turtle version.
Give this problem to him. Ask him to help you solve it or be a part of solving it. And then give useful feedback that guides him. And be direct. “No, that doesn’t help.” Or “Yes, that helps.”
You might say, “There’s something I need, I don’t know how to get it and I’d love to hear your ideas.” The masculine enjoys solving problems, and especially likes solving problems that makes a better world for you, and therefore for him. Everybody wins.
Maybe there’s an easy adjustment that would work for both of you. Can some of his extrovert time happen outside the home? Meet at a park/soccer field/football field/golf course, or somebody’s office or wherever. Or what about the location for your quiet time? You leave for a spa day while he has buddies over to watch football? You come home all happy, he’s had time with his friends, and you’re both flying high. You like each other better when you’re flying high!
Solutions will come when you decide to be partners. Your description of your starting point is two people on opposite sides of the fence. You’re not holding hands thinking about this subject together and being curious about the solutions. It sounds like more of a tug-of-war contest, which is why it goes back and forth or “round and round” as you said.
So to find your solutions, shift gears. Look at the problem together. Call on your best creative problem solving skills, be curious, and see what shows up! You’ll find your answers!
SO many relationship-ish concepts, so little time.
But here’s one that matters. And it matters BIG.
It has to do with how you perceive your partner, child, family member.
No surprise there, you say, but what else?
Here’s the question of the day.
As my friend, my mother, my partner, my whoever — Can you see me in this moment as I am now, or are you thinking I’m the same as last time we talked or were together?
How you see me guides our relationship.
How you perceive me shapes our relationship.
How you perceive me governs what you see, therefore what you believe, therefore what you expect, therefore what you create, therefore what you have.
How you see me is what you get from me.
That’s a BIG deal.
Here are more ways to say this idea:
Are you curious? And open? Are you in this new moment with me? Or do you think you already know me?
Do you know me, see me, and hear me right now? Or are you holding me in the place I was 5 days ago, or 3 years ago, or yesterday or a minute ago?
Do you see me as my yesterday self, my last year self, or can you leave all that behind, so that I can as well?
Why bring then into now, unless you liked then?
Are you assuming I’m the same as I was or have been or are you assuming I’m an evolving being?
If you hold me to what I used to be, or see me as I used to be, can you understand how it might be more difficult to be seen — around you — for who I am now, who I’ve become?
Am I — the new and ever-evolving me — visible to you? As in this quote from a poem by e e cummings: “… now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened.”
Think about these things and have a holy cow, a-ha, wow kind of week. Let me know what happens! How did you see newly?
About Terri Crosby — I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 14 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant. I love really good food, good friends, good relationships!
“She’s just like her mother.”No, actually she’s not.She learned to be like her mother (or father) or whoever. She was taught by her mother. She paid attention to her mother.She absorbed.She learned by feeling and sensing. This kind of learning goes way, way beyond words.In order to survive in a household, in order to gain approval, get along, be loved, receive food and shelter, any child — naturally — is shaped and altered by his or her birth family.Otherwise, why would so darn many people (of any age) need therapy? Ha! Let’s be real!!!No, this precious being was not born to question herself. She learned that after she got here. She watched. She listened. She felt. She adapted.No, she wasn’t born to care so much what other people think of her. She learned that after she got here. Everyone around her did it, and she picked up the idea that it’s just what you do — you care what other people think. Of course you do.What’s the fastest way to cloud your personal journey? Factor in other people’s opinions about what’s right for you.Today happens to be the birthday of Alfred Hitchcock. Here’s an example of learning the family vibration and keeping it forever. Alfred’s father was apparently a strict man. Once, when the five-year-old Alfred misbehaved, his father sent him to the police station and they locked him in a cell for a few minutes to teach him a lesson. Hitchcock was so terrified that he was afraid of the police for the rest of his life, and he rarely drove a car so that he could not be pulled over. Not to mention the fact that he went on to produce horror and suspense films.Whew.
Free To Be Me
If you want to see how free you were when you were born, watch a baby. Watch a really young child. Watch a free-spirited young boy or girl. I have spent time (lots of time) studying very young children, and I’ve seen how far from that I am.The simple fact — as I grew up, I learned to be different than I really am at my core. Maybe you did, too. We were stellar students.So now I’m all grown up and I find that most of what I’m unlearning is a vibration, a style, a way of being that I learned in order to make life work “better” a long time ago.In my first marriage, and also in starting my own business many years ago, I noticed when I hit a wall. I noticed that my learned knowledge was inadequate. I knew it. But I couldn’t seem to change outcomes. I felt stuck.There are many examples of what goes wrong with the effectiveness of life-coping skills we learned along the way. Maybe I’m in a relationship where something surprisingly bad happens and the relationship knowledge I picked up along the way from my family, friends and teachers isn’t working. Maybe my employment experience is awful and what I know falls short. I have no idea how to fix the pickle I’m in.Maybe I’m betrayed. How do I deal with that? What’s the high road? Can I find it? Should I find it?
Maybe I have children and on a tough day, I wonder how any mother possibly survives being a mother.
What To Do?
Standing in the chaos, the disaster or the problem, I think to myself, “I got nothin’. I have no idea how to make this better.”So I decide to do something about it. Surely I can find some answers, some solutions that work. I go to a personal growth class, read a book or twenty, or go to therapy. I look for ways to improve my situation. I reach out. I observe. I learn. I begin to UNDO.As I find ways of thinking or being that are no longer useful, I wonder, “How can I shift this?That’s where I was in 2005.Lucky for me, I ran across one of the most life-changing books I have ever read called “The Astonishing Power of Emotions” by Abraham (Esther and Jerry Hicks). It set me on a whole new path of personal expansion. I am forever appreciative of the idea that my emotions can inform me whether I’m on track with who I really am. It was a whole new idea to me that my emotions are a useful guide.I remember listening to the CD that came with the book. I was driving on a street in Santa Monica, CA and I heard ideas that filled in missing pieces in my understanding. I was blown away.I had to pull over and take notes.I had to absorb.The Astonishing Power of Emotions was a game changer. The book has helped me to be more of who I want to be, and who I always was from the beginning.It takes time to UNDO, and re-learn who you’ve actually been all this time. It takes time to take baby steps. Baby steps work. I’ve been practicing for a number of years now, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. The ideas in this book put the power to change in my hands. I always wanted that.
So… back to families
How do we get molded into something we’re not?Every family has a style, a way that it operates, and if you want to be part of a family conversation, you find a way to fit in.We learn how to be a member. What’s OK and what’s not. We learn the unwritten rules. Maybe we dumb ourselves down. Adjust. Jog left when we’d really rather go right. We eat peas and hate them. It’s not OK to dislike peas. We work around it. Instead of learning to celebrate our preferences, we learn they’re not OK. It sticks.
I’ve been with families (or at parties) where there are nothin’ but super intellectual conversations — friendly debates — and in order to participate in a conversation, you’d better be up on your history, politics and current events. It’s heady. It’s book learning. It’s national news on steroids. In that family, it’s the “right way to be.” It’s the way to connect. It’s how you prove yourself, ’cause you need to prove yourself, you know. You’re not enough. You have to do something spectacular to be worthy.
Can you imagine a heart-centered, intuitive, wise, gentle child sitting there listening? Wondering how she is ever gonna make it in the world ’cause she is so different from them? And they are “her world.” And important. And influential to her spirit. And they will expect her to go to Harvard. Or be a doctor. And that’s the last thing she wants to do.Exactly.It happens.All the time.I’ve been to dinner with families who relate through criticizing others. They gather united around the table and declare what’s wrong with the neighbors. It’s how they bond. We’re right and the neighbors are wrong. We’re better and that’s what makes us OK and (somewhat) worthy. At least we’re trying to be good and that should count for something.
It’s the comparison game. It’s deadly to a kind spirited little one.
In some families, at mealtime the parents have the floor. The children can’t wait to get the meal over with so they can leave the table. It’s a time when the parents try to talk with each other and get irritated when the kids need something, or interrupt. However, I know one family (only one) where the kids were king. The parents listened and encouraged the children to talk and express center stage. The parents never left the table until the young ones were done talking. And guess what? This family produced outgoing, really expressive, outspoken, confident adults.
So we all learned our f-a-m-i-l-y v-i-b-r-a-t-i-o-n.And now — do we pass that on, or change it?The good news is that we get to decide.
I live in Hendersonville, NC in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 14 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant.I am in favor of wandering time in the morning with a steaming cup of something in my hands as birds call to each other in the woods all around me. Making fresh food is one of life’s big yummy pleasures, along with singing – especially creating heavenly, improvisational, prayerful, meditational sound. It is my experience that children are born to teach (remind) parents, not the other way around. I believe that poet Mary Oliver writes the best bedtime stories available on Earth.Written by Terri Crosby, In Care of Relationships. 714-240-4889.
Some days I think it would be nice if all of us humans could be a little more angelic, and well, more enlightened. We’d accept whatever was in front of us without blinking an eye, and do every daily task with a smile on our face as if it was truly, honestly, right down to our toes OK.
And other days I think, naaaaaah.
Because…. the stuff you do and don’t do, what you prefer, and what you downright love — this is what makes you you.
So, yes — heck yes — there are things I do and things I don’t do. Things you do and don’t do. You know what I mean?
Maybe you “don’t do mornings.” Everybody knows you’re a tad crabby, or quiet and unresponsive before noon or so. Or you are a “leave me alone until I’ve had my morning coffee” person.
On the other hand, you could be a person who wakes up ready for the day. Your most productive, happy, creative time of day is before other people get out of bed.
What’s On Your “Not” List?
So… there are things you do, and things you don’t do. There are things you prefer.
This is a good thing. It doesn’t mean you’re inflexible and awful. It means you know yourself and you know what makes life more fun for you. You could even say this is one reason we all came here, to experience the available variety, the buffet of life, and then sort it out for ourselves, and celebrate “our way” of doing life.
One thing I don’t do — I don’t mow lawns. I don’t know know why. I’ve managed to avoid mowing all of my life, and if you think about where I’m from and how I grew up — it’s a darn miracle. In my home state of Iowa where the tall corn grows, people are always mowing — miles of ditches, b-i-g farmhouse lawns, fields of hay (acres and acres), and the (huge) Quaker Meeting House lawn.
I don’t consciously try to avoid mowing. And I don’t refuse to mow — I just somehow never have to. I’ve watched a lot of other people mow. It’s really quite magical.
When I was visiting Iowa just recently, two sisters mowed a neighbor’s lawn until 10 pm and yes, the lawnmower had headlights. Their story was that the grass was so tall, they had to empty the bag about every minute. That was a lot of mowing. It took them five hours, but they got it done.
I thought to myself, ” Wow, I would never do that. You couldn’t pay me enough to do that. You’d never find me mowing, let alone until 10 pm, and be happy about it.” What I loved about their story was that the power-mower-girls felt positively victorious! They loved the challenge, they had fun, and they mentioned that they felt they were a really good team.
Growing up with 5 siblings, someone else (who liked to mow) always volunteered. I was glad.
However, I raised my hand to do other things.
My mother taught me how to bake bread for the family, seven loaves at a time. She also taught me how to make (our personal) standard family farm meals like beef liver and onions with mashed potatoes, Sunday chicken pot pie, and meatloaf with (you guessed it) more mashed potatoes. We ate a whole lot of potatoes growing up.
My volunteering to cook was a really welcomed thing in my big family! First, I was clearly busy while the question about mowing was happening. As in, gee she is busy, I guess the rest of you have to figure out who is going to mow.
Second, I was good at cooking and I liked it.
And third, being the family chef worked especially well for my mother who was doggone weary of cooking for such a growing family. She loved whenever I threw down my garden hoe and headed for the kitchen. At a certain point in high school, meals for 6 kids and my father and whoever else was around appeared on the table. I did it for her. It was natural, pretty easy, and I enjoyed finding new recipes.
So… there are things you do and things you don’t do.
Are you “being yourself” in this way? Are you doing what you want to do, and letting others step up to do the rest?
Or are you resentful about doing what you “have to” do? Do you push through it, or make yourself miserable doing a task, just because you tell yourself there is no one else to do it? Or you should do it? Or that it’s just easier if you do it?
Clean it up.
This being “true-to-yourself-about-what-you-have-to-offer-or-what-you-like-to-do” is one of the best maintenance practices I know of for nurturing your happy self and keeping a happy relationship with a partner alive and thriving.
Do what you want to do and then find a way for someone else to do the things you can’t do or don’t want to do. Delegate the things that drag you down. Attract someone to do what you dread. The very thing that causes you a heavy heart is another person’s passion.
Ahhh…now that’s WAY better!
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In Care of Relationships with Terri Crosby– Tools For Creating Positive Momentum. https://incareofrelationships.com. Terri is a relationship mentor. She helps create life-affirming, ever-evolving, happier relationships with those you love. She offers change-of-heart, change-of-mind perspectives to create great relationships. If you are ready to take your relationship to the next level, you can sign up to be on the mailing list HERE. To subscribe to her blog, go HERE.
Today, I’m sharing a story about how I accidentally accomplished something on my bucket list. I ran through an exit gate while looking the other way. The hood of my car is scratched up, and one windshield wiper is a mess, but let’s have a good laugh about how we never expect what “getting what we want” includes!
It seems to be a growing fad these days to call someone a narcissist, or declare they are toxic.
Political name-calling is similar—we assign politicians and voters to categories, and brush them off as if they are unintelligent, inferior, or even worthless.
By labeling others, we miss their humanity. We gloss over their struggle, their best effort at dealing with life. We dismiss them.
We do to them what we believe they are doing to others.
Look past a label, and in the soft light of day, there stands a person like you or like me, coping as best they can. At the end of the day, no friend, parent, or lover making conscious choices intends to be mean, or to ignore, or to embellish. There is always more to the story.
If we label others, then for sure we label ourselves. We trap ourselves into believing we are less than. Or not enough. Or we don’t give ourselves the time and forgiveness to work through our “stuff.” Maybe, if we stopped accusing others of narcissism, we could forgive ourselves for those moments when we were narrow-minded, inconsiderate, or afraid.
When it comes to labels, nobody wins.
So, my dear people, I suggest we peer a little deeper into ourselves to investigate a need to separate ourselves from others by tacking them with a label filled with disdain or scorn.
It is my wish that you view this video and take it to heart.