4 Warning Signs That Your Relationship Is in Trouble

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4 Warning Signs That Your Relationship Is in Trouble

Most of the time people enter relationships with a feeling that everything has excellent potential.  They’re not anticipating an end to their love.  The truth is, that’s often the case.  Relationships do end.  Often, warning signs are missed, but they do exist.  John Gottman, Ph.D., is a leading psychologist in the area of marriage and relationships.  He has four warning signs and adjustments that can be made:

  1. Criticism - It’s not the same as complaining, when you’re attacking one particular problem or the behavior of your partner.  You’re actually attacking their character.  A criticism might include, “You are such a slob”.  A complaint, on the other hand, would sound more like, “I’m tired of picking up after you”.   You can’t say anything constructive when a person is criticizing, or, it would be more difficult.  If someone complains, it’s easier to address the concern.  To fix this, make it a point to complain and not criticize.  And, if your partner is guilty of the latter, have a discussion about it and see if they’ll commit to not criticizing.
  2. Contempt - This is really criticism, magnified.  When you’re attacking your partner as a person, it’s demeaning and insulting.  You’re looking down on them, possibly calling them names, mocking them and being sarcastic.  To fix this, increase your tolerance.  Learn to communicate with your partner and appreciate each other.  Couples therapy is often necessary for relationships involving contempt.
  3. Defensiveness - This is when you’re attacked and then attack in defense.  This typically involves playing the victim, ignoring your partner, making excuses and disagreeing.  To fix this, listen to the complaint and try to empathize.  Then, take responsibility, or some of it.  After truly listening and showing compassion, tell your side of the story.
  4. Stonewalling - Checking out of a conversation to protect oneself from being hurt is stonewalling.  A person will stop following the conversation or actually leave.  They may seem apathetic, but are actually overwhelmed.  To fix this, try to discuss the issue together and find out when the person stonewalling is becoming overwhelmed. Make plans to give space if needed and eventually come back to discussing the problem.  Identify these issues early on.  The longer they last, the more it hurts your relationship.  If you’re trying your best to fix things and there’s no cooperation, and situations are repeated, you might try counseling together. Also try reading the book, The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman, Ph.D.

See a Couple’s Counselor Sooner Rather than Later

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See a Couple’s Counselor Sooner Rather than Later

A lot of couples get defensive when confronted with the idea of seeing a therapist. They say they are fine. There is nothing wrong with them. They don’t think their problems are all that bad. Seeing a counselor is thought of as a defeat, or that the couple or relationship is defective. Though not as strong as it was in the past, people still have a negative association with therapy. The truth is people see a therapist for all different kinds of reasons. There is absolutely no shame in it. In fact, admitting you could use professional guidance is a show of great inner strength. Just as we all have our own physical health problems, so too do we have our own mental health aberrations. No one is perfect. We are all human and so intrinsically flawed. But that doesn’t make us any less brilliant, capable, mesmerizing or worthwhile. No one can fault you for seeing a doctor, even if the health condition is minor. You don’t want it to get worse. A small injury if left untreated can get infected, even become life threatening. The same is true with your mental health, and the health of your relationship. Seeing a couple’s counselor doesn’t mean that the relationship is on its last leg.  It could just mean you need some direction on certain issues that you haven’t been able to make headway on, some professional guidance.

Divorce counselor and post-divorce advisor, Ian Oliver says he sees one couple even though they have a seemingly perfect marriage. “She says she always learns something that nurtures their relationship,” he wrote in the Huffington Post. “She considers it maintenance.” So couple’s counseling is not only for fixing problems. We can learn how we love and how our partner loves. This will allow us to see ways to develop the relationship we hadn’t seen before, and make it more fulfilling. All it takes is a little insight. It may also help you to notice when things are right versus when they aren’t. Sometimes one or both members of a relationship live in denial of a problem that gets bigger and bigger, until it tears the relationship apart. But understanding what your dynamic looks like when it’s humming along, and when things started to go wrong, can help diagnose problems quickly and work in a more effective strategy to deal with them. Most of the time however, the couple seeks out a counselor when there are major issues. They have tried but are at an impasse. Seeking out a therapist when things first go bad can help stave off the further complications that come from a problem that has grown beyond control.

There are times when we grow accustomed to unwanted behavior, live in denial or fail to see it for what it actually is, damaging to us and our relationship. You may not know why they act like this, or why you do. It can be hard to trace back certain behaviors, reactions or emotions to their origins. A good counselor or couple’s therapist can help you see these patterns and trace them back to their origins. Once you see where things stem from, you can develop strategies to deal with them. Sometimes couples seek out therapy after lots of things have been said that can’t be taken back. The counselor, in addition to being a professional, is also impartial. They are trained to pick up on unhealthy habits and behaviors. They won’t get caught on one person’s side. You can trust their impartiality and their professional training to help guide you. We all need to see the things from a new angle on occasion to get some perspective. The most important thing is to keep communicating with your partner. Be honest with one another. Try to work through your problems yourselves. But if you can’t, see a couple’s therapist before things start spinning out of control. Don’t wait until things have gotten way out of hand. For more help, read the book, Counseling and Therapy for Couples by Lynn L. Long and Mark E. Young.

Convincing a Relative to Leave an Abusive Spouse

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Convincing a Relative to Leave an Abusive Spouse

It’s horrible when you find out a relative of yours is in an abusive marriage or relationship. You can feel so helpless. On the one hand, you want to say something so badly. On the other, you are afraid that they will resent you for trying to break them up, or merely swear nothing is wrong and distance themselves from you. This is a delicate matter which must be approached correctly, and with finesse. One way to handle it is to get them alone. Talk to them about your own relationship. If you are single, talk about your parents, a sibling, anyone else’s relationship. Talk about positive things that their spouse or significant other did for that person, or how they handle fights by communicating so well.

Get them to open up about their relationship. With enough details they should start to compare and come to the conclusion that something isn’t right. Don’t push and don’t expect that they will come to this conclusion the first time. Instead, keep trying to drop subtle hints without coming right out and saying it. If this doesn’t work, you may have to have an intervention. The problem with this kind of relationship is that the spouse is so manipulative they make them think that the spouse needs them and eventually that they cannot live without the spouse.

Be careful as his or her behavior may not be counted on. They may lash out at you at times, get depressed, even miss the spouse who is abusing them. Be patient with your relative. Remind them why this is happening. Get them away from it all to a place where they can relax and have fun. Give them chances to show what they know and help them to build self-esteem. In many abusive relationships, one spouse beats down the other for so long, that they can feel worthless. Give them little goals and celebrate it when they reach them. Give them space if they need it. But let them know that you will be there for them, no matter what.

In terms of safety, get your relative to a safe place like a battered woman’s shelter, or to live with you or another relative without contact with the abusive spouse. If need be, have them contact the authorities. Make sure that they get the help that they need. Your relative should start therapy if and when they are ready. The town or city can direct you to free services in your area.  Take heart, your relative will get through this. They will thank you and will be so grateful that they had you and other good people to get them through this difficult time. And someday they will meet someone who treats them right. If you’re trapped in an abusive relationship read, The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing by Beverly Engel.

Do you have a hard time Accepting Love?

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Do you have a hard time Accepting Love?

Do you have someone in your life who is tired of you blocking them out? Have you come across real love which felt so unreal to you that you just can’t accept it? Do you have a hard time accepting love? Here are some clues that will let you know whether you are just suffering from a general anxiety or you have a specific issue dealing with accepting love. Once you identify the specific root of the issue, you can best cope with or solve it.

First, do you pursue romantic partners who are unavailable? If you have a trend of dating married people, those who clearly aren’t ready for a relationship or those who for some reason or another cannot commit in a normal relationship, you could have a specific problem accepting real love. Relationships are just surface relationships without any strings. Are you the type that believes that you yourself aren’t worthy of love? Do you believe you have to change yourself, or go through some sort of battle or difficulty in order to be worthy of love? If you feel uneasy because you are in a relationship where someone wants to love you, but you feel as though you haven’t earned that love, you may be having trouble accepting real love.

Do you hide from people when you have problems? If you hide problems, particularly from the person you’re dating, canceling plans in order to be alone and sulk, but say that you are fine you may have trouble having a healthy, loving relationship. You believe that you can’t lean on someone else and need to keep your coping skills sharp, than you aren’t looking forward to a future with this person. And if you aren’t seeing them in your life, it means you have a hard time seeing yourself with someone long term, ergo you have a hard time accepting love and your identity becoming part of a larger, long term relationship. Have you ever shared something with the person you’re dating, something personal, and then regretted it? Worse is when you’re frustrated by it. This shows that you have a hard time letting people in. You’ve thrown up walls in order to protect yourself, only to find yourself alone within. It’s lonely in there. But to let someone in, you have to let your guard down and be vulnerable. But if you can’t, or it hurts to or if you have an internal conflict about it than you have a hard time accepting love.

What do you do about it? Start taking little steps with someone you can trust, and love and who loves you in a committed relationship, and congratulate yourself when you succeed. Do trust exercises. Try couple’s counseling, or even a couple’s retreat. Or perhaps only personal counseling is needed. Heal your problems with accepting love and you will find a happiness you never knew you could have. For more advice read, Receiving Love: Transform your Relationship by Letting Yourself Be Loved by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D.

Helping your Spouse Cope with Bipolar Disorder

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Helping your Spouse Cope with Bipolar Disorder

If your spouse or long term partner has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, helping them cope may seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. They are the same person you fell in love with. They merely have a disorder. We all have our health issues and this is there’s. Some people’s first reaction is to distance themselves from their partner. Instead, get closer to them. Show them how much you care for them. Be supportive. Make them feel good about themselves. Nothing helps lift someone’s mood like a little love. It should improve both of your lives.

Don’t hold your tongue. Ask your partner to take their pills or ask if they did take them. They might forget from time to time. Consider too being in on a session with their psychiatrist or counselor. Write down any questions you might have and get them addressed. It’s good to be conscientious. It will really pay off in the end. Recognize that there are some banal, everyday tasks that compound, enrage and frustrate someone with bipolar. Paying bills and filling out forms are some examples. Handle these things for them.

People with bipolar disorder go through manic and depressive episodes. Go with your partner when they are in a certain mood. If they are manic and excited go on adventures with them. If they want to have a sex marathon, or lock yourselves away and adore one another all weekend, why not go with it? Realize too that some medications decrease sex drive, and make accommodations if necessary. When they enter the depressed stage, be there for them. Support them as best you can. If they are irritable and lash out at you, understand that it is the condition talking and not your spouse. Don’t distance yourself from them at these times, be there to talk, to embrace them and to do what you need to do to make sure everything else runs smoothly.

Understand that they may not get better, though medication can control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Love and accept them for who they are, condition and all. Understand that they may embarrass you publicly here and there. It’s just the disorder coming out. They aren’t doing it on purpose.  It is not a simple relationship when married to someone with bipolar disorder. It is quite complex and can be difficult at times. But if they are your spouse, love them and accept them for who they are. They’ll do the same for you in return. For more advice read, Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding & Helping Your Partner by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, Psy.D.