Is there a money imbalance in your relationship?
Money is power. In relationships when one person makes more and the other person feels “less than”, the money dynamic can create resentment, a sense of being controlled, and for sure disconnection.
Money and time as equal resources
In a relationship, it is important that both partners feel as though each is giving equal energy to the relationship. Consider that money and time are finite resources. Both are deposited into the pool of resources for the benefit of the partnership. One of you invests time to make money while the other might invest time to manage the household – time the other cannot spare because they are making money. When one person makes more money, the other often balances that by doing more household chores, which is time invested. If discussed and agreed upon, this can work.
The danger occurs when responsibilities grow, or perhaps children arrive. Then what do you do? One of you will be home with two wild kids all day, working to keep them alive and the house in one piece. The other working all day. The obvious way to manage this is to continually discuss and agree to divide responsibilities so that it works for both of you. Then continually check in with each other to ensure the feeling of fairness continues. Communication by checking in with each other to ensure both are okay.
All this will go south, if the breadwinner arrives home and says, “No I won’t help with your housework or the kids. That’s your job. My job is to bring home the money. Gotta go, my show is on.” In a partnership, both parties continually adjust to ensure both are okay.
If you want to be a partnership share the pain and share the spoils. When it comes to how you prioritize your spending, do this together. You must make decisions together. This means being on the same raft in the same ocean heading in the same direction.
Because money is a resource that both partners need access to, it must be shared. If one of you limits or prevents access, the other will feel controlled. If this happens and one of you feels unfairly treated, the trajectory will not be good unless things change. Time for Some Action.
- Make sure each of you has equal and fair access.
- Decide how much you can each spend without checking with the other.
- Decide how much each gets as a weekly or monthly allowance. This is money they do
not need to track or justify how it is spent.
If your relationship is struggling over disagreements around money, think about ways you can collaborate and be flexible. Make offers to your partner to create more balance or fairness and see what they think and feel.
It is always important to get feedback in your relationship. You can also invite your partner into a conversation. “I want to know if you feel as though I treat you fairly with regards to money and finances?” If they agree you do, then follow up with, “What do I do that helps you feel this way?” If they share that they do not feel this way ask, “Where do I need to work harder, so you feel more fairness?” In the end, only thank them and promise you will reflect on what you have learned and figure out how to be better.Learn More
If you want to keep your relationship, you must treat it and your partner as though they can choose to be in the relationship or not.
Are relationships unconditional or a choice?
Does the word “divorce” not exist in your vocabulary? If this is true for you and your partner, awesome!
Unfortunately, when one or both partners hold the belief that the other will never leave, this invites complacency or even neglect into the marriage. Life gets busy, so if the belief is that, the motivation to respond to them will get dropped lower on your list of priorities. It seems okay because your partner won’t leave no matter what, right?
No, that’s not right.
There are plenty of couples, including many who never ever believed it would happen to them, who do split up. A funny thing happens though. Those who do break up or divorce and enter a new relationship, marriage or otherwise, now know that relationships are a choice. They must be treated as a choice. This can be a game-changer.
Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter if you believe marriage is an unbreakable commitment or not. What does matter is this:
If you want to keep your relationship, you must treat it and your partner as though they can choose to be in the relationship or not.
Figure out what creates a hurt
To help your partner keep choosing to be with you, you will need to figure out two things. Firstly, what is it that hurts them? What are the hurts they experience that force them to think about choosing not to be with you? Once you zero in on one or two things, then stop. Just stop doing the things that hurt your partner.
If you need help figuring out what hurts your partner, you can certainly go ask – by all means! They will probably welcome your curiosity as it will help your partner feel like they matter enough for you to ask. However, I have a feeling you already know what they will say.
Does it hurt when you criticize your partner? Stop criticizing! Learn to express your needs without criticism. If you need help with this, Step 4 and 5 in my book, Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less! discusses criticism and hurtful communication and how to change it.
Does it hurt your partner when you are dismissive? Stop being dismissive. Learn to validate and empathize; learn to be compassionate to how your partner feels. Whatever it is that hurts them, stop. You can’t hurt your partner and then expect them to want to be close.
What creates a connection?
The next step is to figure out what you can do that builds a connection. You have to work on cultivating the connection between you if you want it to be strong. This takes intention and effort, not just being in the same room watching television.
Remember, love is a verb, so let’s get you loving! If they value time with you, make some time. If they value being snuggled, then get snuggly. If they like it when you cook dinner or clean the bathroom, get started! If they value these things and you do them, they will feel grateful and more motivated to meet your needs, which will help you continue to make the choice too.Learn More
Have traumatic experiences in your past?
Are painful emotions overwhelming you?
Do you turn to substances to cope?
Do addictions control you?
Past experiences can cause real pain. When you can’t escape the resulting emotions from those experiences, even if it was years ago, many will turn to substances to ease that emotional pain. Trauma can lead to a reliance on and even an addiction to substances. Trauma becomes a gateway to addictions, which makes life even more difficult.
What is trauma?
Trauma is defined as an emotional response to a shocking event like a terrible car accident or a violent experience. Immediately after the event, the sufferer typically experiences a jolt to their physical and emotional system. Their brain must store and be able to recall the experience in order to protect from potentially similar experiences. Trauma can be a one-time event. It can also be “complex” when the experience happens over and over.
Unfortunately, as life continues the sufferer can be highly sensitive to reminders or have flashbacks of the event accompanied with the same intense emotions as though it’s all happening again. This “re-experience” can include physical symptoms like chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and gastrointestinal issues. The resulting experience is overwhelming and miserable.
What is addiction?
Addiction here is defined as any substance, thing or activity to which one seeks out repeatedly despite negative consequences. This can be anything from gambling, shopping, going to the gym, using alcohol, nicotine or illegal substances. Through these external substances or activities, a need is getting met. The need to escape the pain! This activates the reward and reinforcement part of the brain creating motivation to continue even though there are strong reasons to stop. If you want to read more, here is an article at Psychologytoday.com that goes further into addiction
What to do?
If you’re using substances or activities to numb or distract yourself from the pain of trauma and want to stop, it’s challenging to know where to begin. Giving up the addiction without a new skill or tool might be too difficult. How would you cope when the thoughts and emotions return? On the flip side, it’s very difficult to make progress in trauma work if you’re using a substance and maintaining the old pain/reward system. This prevents you from learning new tolerance and practicing new skills.
You need support
If you can break an addiction on your own, fantastic. However, if you can’t you might need some backup. Healing from the trauma so that it becomes only a memory and not a trigger for overwhelming emotions is the goal and possible. This is where a skilled counselor you trust, can make the difference. Having someone to guide you toward healing, being compassionate about the addiction, while working to help you break the reliance is key.
Tools like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Lifespan Integration Therapy along with gold standards like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, are techniques we use at Bellevue Family Counseling. If you’re looking to get off the slippery slope and break free, book an appointment and get started today.
If you want your child to eat their vegetables, guess what? You have to eat your vegetables first. As a parent, what you model is 10,000 times more powerful than what you say. Want respect? Give respect. Yes, it is so much faster and easier to tell your child what to do. Yet, if you expect them to “do as you say, not as you do”, what you might actually be teaching them is how to be hypocritical.
Of course, you want to raise respectful children who become respectful teens who become respectful adults. Respectful children and teens are a joy to have around! To foster this in your child, work on offering respect to them and to others (they’ll notice), this allows you to expect it in return.
Respect Raises Self-Esteem
Being respectful to your child builds a sense of self-value and raises their self-esteem. When they feel worthy of being treated fairly, when they feel worthy of being respected, they want that for you and others around them.
Model what you want to see from them
- Say “please” and “thank you” your child will
- Keep your promises, they will learn to keep their promises
- When you are upset, yet keep your voice calm, your child will learn to do the same
A child will only give you the same level of respect you give them.
If you’re trying to navigate a problem, ask yourself, “what is it that I want to model?” You’ll find this is a great way to teach them your values and to be respectful to you and others.
As a parent, if you’re finding it difficult to model your values, or are unsure about your techniques, parenting coaching might help. If your child needs some extra help, child therapy might be the ticket. If they’re an adolescent, teen counseling might get you and them on track.
For teen counseling, Erin Manhardt is a Youth & Family therapist at Bellevue Family Counseling. Erin is passionate about working with youths who are struggling in relationships and school. Contact Erin at Bellevue Counseling in Bellevue Washington.Learn More
10 Relationship Rules of Engagement to help your relationship to survive a disagreement
Why Do We Need Rules?
The military, the police, professional boxers, and martial artists, all must adhere to rules of engagement in their respective zones of conflict. These rules define what the acceptable use of force is.
If the military used nuclear weapons every time they wanted to achieve success, ultimately no one would survive. Similarly, you can’t “go nuclear” on your partner during a fight if you want the relationship to survive.
Rules of engagement are important in your relationship to create a sense of safety. When you know that no matter how heated your argument gets, your partner will not throw the meanest words or nearest object at you, you can engage with trust.
What Are the Rules?
In my book, Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less, I explain why we fight, how it happens and what to do about it. Right here and now my objective is to give you a specific set of rules that you and your partner can agree on, as a goal for your relationship.
It is true that how you and your partner treat and respond to each other will dictate much of how it feels to be in the relationship. It is equally true that how you treat and respond to each other during an argument will have a lot to do with your relationship’s long term success.
The following rules will help create the trust that is the foundation of a safe environment in which to disagree. They are written as promises you can make to each other.
The 10 Relationship Rules of Engagement
1. I will not raise my voice
2. I will not interrupt or talk over you
3. I will not criticize or call you a mean name
4. I will not issue an ultimatum in the heat of a fight
5. I will not blame you for my own behavior or reactions
6. I will not walk away before agreeing on when I will talk again
7. I will not threaten to leave, separate or divorce when I am upset
8. I will take ownership for the hurt I contribute to and apologize
9. I will work to avoid being defensive or justify my actions
10. I agree to keep the discussion focused on the topic issue
When your tween or teen directly expresses the thought or desire to harm them self or commit suicide, of course, it is alarming. It may seem to come out of the blue or be part of growing distress they are experiencing. Either way, when you become aware that your child or teen talks about self-harm or suicide, it is important to take some steps to ensure their safety.
If your child is a tween or a teen take it seriously. If they are younger, certainly don’t dismiss these big feelings however I’ll cover some different steps in another blog post.
How to approach talking
Understandably you may want to minimize their distressing words and help them gain perspective by telling them the situation isn’t so bad. However, instead, manage your own feelings at that moment so you don’t take over the conversation. Press “pause” on your judgment. Your job is to be present, curious and compassionate.
Do they have a plan?
Once your child has shared what they can of their distress. Ask them if they have a plan to act on their suicidal thoughts. Listen very carefully here. A child who is planning on acting will often have quite a detailed story with potential time and place. They will have most likely been running through the scenario in their head for a while so will have worked out the details. For others, they may not have let their thoughts drift over to the action piece but are still caught up in just wanting to be gone.
Can they keep themselves safe?
Ask your child if they feel they can keep themselves safe in the moment? Start to investigate what they need from themselves and from you to help keep themselves safe. Perhaps even make a list of things that will help remind them of what they need to feel safe. Help them minimize triggers to their emotional upset for at least the moment.
Based on the conversation, let them know what you are going to do to help them stay safe. Again, manage your emotions as you may feel punitive towards them as they are causing you so much distress. You are definitively the parent taking the lead in this moment however this must be a non-shaming, collaborative conversation. Let them know that you are going to make sure they are not alone for the next while and brainstorm the options. Remove objects from their easy access that may trigger them to harm themselves.
Talk about self-care. This is a moment to be a strong parent. Get the basics back in line with proper sleep, eating and physically active routines in place. Brainstorm relaxation activities. This could include some distractions like music or screens but make sure there is a broader variety such as journaling, a meditation app, drawing, snuggling the family pet and engaging with safe friends.
When to visit the hospital
If during this conversation it becomes apparent your child won’t work to keep themselves safe, it is time to decide if a visit to the hospital is prudent. You can also suggest a crisis line or even another safe adult to your child if they aren’t feeling very comfortable sharing all of this with you.
It is very easy for teens to be overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions. The struggle to fit in socially, succeed academically, please peers, parents and other adults is quite difficult. The added pressure of fitting in the world with the watchful eye of social media has amplified these pressures.
Teen counseling can support their ability to manage the big emotions and learn skills for navigating all the social, academic and family pressures. Suggesting the idea of getting a counselor they can talk to and trust is also an important support strategy.
by Leah Koenig MA, LMHC. Leah is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Family Therapist, and PCI Certified Parent Coach®. Leah specializes in working with children, teens, and parents on creating their best self and best family relationships.Learn More
It might be stereotypical to suggest that women push for intimacy and men push for sex. Yet, there is some truth behind this. In romantic relationships, there is a pull and push dance that happens between intimacy and sex. To understand how this plays out in a relationship, let’s first let’s define what intimacy is.
Intimacy is . . .
- Emotional – sharing thoughts and feelings (aka vulnerability) and receiving empathy
- Physical – reaching for the other for closeness and reassurance, not to initiate sex
- Sexual – Yes, that means actual sex (as defined by each partner)
Men and Women Define Intimacy Differently
While I’m referring to the stereotypical male/female roles here, note that any gender could play either role. However, for the most part, women want and need an emotional connection with their partner to feel loved and secure. When they feel emotionally connected and safe enough, they will want physical closeness. When all that’s flowing, sex is a natural progression because of a desire for an even deeper closeness.
Men? Well, most men struggle to talk about their feelings. Hugs, hand holding, snuggles, and cuddles aren’t always easy to ask for or comfortable to do. Yet, men know how to ask for sex! When a man receives sex from their partner, they get a huge whopping dose of acceptance. Ah, good. This means everything is okay! Right? No. Herein lies the problem.
The Cycle of Neglect and Rejection
If she doesn’t feel emotionally connected, she will rebuff the man’s attempts to initiate sex. Why? She does not want to communicate that everything is okay! She’ll reject the kiss, avoid closeness, and be emotionally prickly – all attempting to communicate that everything is not okay. Most men do not cultivate the emotional safety and connection that women need in order to either want sex or want to give sex to them.
What happens next? The man feels rejected, pulls away and doesn’t cultivate emotional connection (and thus emotional safety). She feels ignored or abandoned and therefore hurt. Then when his libido builds and he attempts to initiate sex again, because he has been distant instead of focusing on connection, guess what happens? He’ll get rejected again! She’ll then trust his efforts to connect less and less.
This neglect and reject pattern quickly creates resentment in each partner and needs addressing.
How to Solve the Sex vs. Intimacy Puzzle
If sex is a problem in your relationship, start working to ensure the emotional connection is secure. Learn to share your thoughts and feelings. Learn to be an empathetic listener – empathy is the ‘magic lube’ of relationships! Be a kind and attentive partner. Be a devoted partner. This may not fix everything and it won’t be a fast fix. However, I’m sure if you do this, you’ll be in a far better place to work on the physical closeness and sex in your relationship.
Marlon Familton, MA LMHC is a relationship counselor working to help couples navigate the choppy waters of love and romance. Author of the book, “Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less!”
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Learn More
Resentment is a highly toxic poison that will kill your relationship if you don’t find a way to release it. When you feel unfairly treated, you’ll become angry. When anger is mixed with a sense of betrayal, you’ll feel resentment.
How Resentment Builds
It’s easy to understand how resentment can occur in a relationship after an event like infidelity. Resentment can also grow over time when your partner is unresponsive to you. Being rejected over and over, ignored over and over, or criticized over and over – these actions break the trust you thought you had. They key trust in any relationship is: you won’t hurt me on purpose. You’ll have my back.
If you’re feeling resentful, you’re also hurt, angry and don’t trust your partner. Your brain will start working to solve the problem because it doesn’t want you to be alone. Unfortunately, no choice seems to lead to happiness. A part of you may want to leave the relationship because I don’t deserve to be treated this way and I can do better. Another part probably wants to kick them out so they will feel the hurt too. There’s likely a part of you probably doesn’t want to leave because of the commitment you made. Still, yet another part of you doesn’t want to act in a way that is retaliatory because that’s not who you are. You’re hurt and you’re stuck!
The Best Way to Release Resentment
The best way through resentment is to be able to express your hurt and upset-ness with your partner. This means they must be able to listen, be empathetic, own their part, feel bad for that part and hurt they contributed to (or caused) and make a commitment to change that will put the rules of love and security back in place. If they can do this, you’ll start to believe they care about how you feel. When you feel understood, when they can own their part, you can start to believe they won’t hurt you again.
This is a tricky part because if when you express your true thoughts and feelings they become defensive, dismissive, blaming or move into their own guilt and shame, you won’t leave the conversation feeling understood and therefore better. The ability to put one’s own feelings aside to be compassionate with the other and take ownership for one’s contribution are key attributes of a strong relationship. You’ll think, if they don’t understand, they might hurt me again. You won’t be able to let the resentment go.
If Your Partner Won’t Understand, What Can You Do?
If you must deal with it alone because your partner can’t or won’t be compassionate, one way to work on resentment is by setting boundaries. You may need to make changes to the rules of your relationship or even make structural changes to your routine. You’ll need to figure out what you need to feel better and then go to your partner and let them know what you need to be okay again. Perhaps you need to take over all the finances, or perhaps you need a night out for “me” time. Whatever it is, what do you need to put trust and fairness back in place? Then with follow through comes trust, one bite at a time.
You Can Choose
Another way to work through resentment on your own is through brute force. Choose to take your power back by choosing to own your choice. When you accept a situation because you choose to in some way, you can feel better about the situation because you’re not powerless.
Make a decision by finishing the sentence, “I choose to _______________. “ “I choose to stay in this relationship because I love my partner and want to make it work.” Now you are making an empowered choice. Own that choice and don’t blame your partner for your own choices.
Resentment has the toxic potential to unwind your relationship because it blocks partners from moving toward each other to repair deep hurts. Many couples who come into counseling find they waited too long. Don’t let this be you! If you or your partner is resentful and can’t work through it together or alone, find a good counselor to help.
Working through this can be hard, and it is critical to your relationship’s long-term health, happiness and security.
Marlon Familton, MA LMHC is a relationship counselor working to help couples navigate the choppy waters of love and romance.
Author of the book, “Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less!”
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Learn More