How to predict the end of your relationship: Four harmful communication styles that can precede the end.

1522876745228_typoramaCommunication issues happen to be one of the top reasons couples find themselves in counseling. Having healthy communication is extremely significant in order to feel heard and intimately connected. Having healthy communication allows you to solve issues successfully and assert your desires without conflict. When you are able to communicate in a healthy manner perpetual problems are able to be solved more readily.  However, many couples struggle to communicate productively and find themselves communicating with one some, or all of the four harmful communication styles that can forecast a relationship ending.

  1. Contempt. This transpires when you are intentionally interacting with your partner in a mean and cruel way. This can include taunting, treating with disdain, name calling, invalidation, and nonverbal communication such as a dismaying posture. Due to the intent of content is to demean the other this is the number one predictor of divorce and a relationship’s demise. In a verbally abusive situation, each partner commences being verbally abusive and hard to not optically discern your partner as an enemy.

Example: “How could you make such a stupid decision? How did you even think that would be a good idea? (Scoffs) It amazes me how dumb you can be.”

2.Defensiveness. This is a stance that happens when one perceived they are being attacked. In order to ward off ones perceived as of responsibility or failure that they do not feel comfortable with admitting or accepting. Additionally, this can be perceived as blaming the other person or deflecting to not take responsibility.

 

Example:

 

Person 1: Did you get a chance to grab the diapers from the store?

 

Person 2: No. I have not had time at all today. I have to pick up the kids every day and you know that. Why can’t you just give me a break? It was one simple mistake!

 

  1. Criticism. This occurs when one or both partners’ attacks the other based on perceived imperfections. This can emerge when one uses, “always” or “never” as qualifiers. Utilizing these terms makes it appear that the other party cannot change. When there is criticism the other person feels nagged at or picked apart. There is no constructive aspect to what is being said.

 

Example:” You always forget to wash the dishes. You only do them after they are falling down and I point it out to you. Why do you have to be so self-absorbed?”

  1. Stonewalling. Stonewalling transpires whenever you feel like you are putting up a wall between you and your partner. This could be a physical, mental, or emotional wall. This could look similar to leaving the room, tuning the person out, and becoming unresponsive. This may happen because you felt insulted, overlooked, or believe that there is “no point in continuing the conversation”. When these thoughts begin to pile up you can become so over-stimulated that your body literally shuts down. This can be a form of protecting yourself from further perceived harm. Furthermore, this could be your body going in to fight or flight because you have remained overstimulated for an extended period of time. Consequently, if you find yourself disengaging from the conversation check to see if you are doing that as a form of punishment.

The four unhealthy communication styles can be precursors to a divorce or cessation of a dating relationship. However, of all the four communication patterns contempt is the highest predictor of relationship dissolution. The heart behind contempt is to attack the character of the other to make the person feel less than. If you have found yourself frustrated with perpetual issues with no solution this may be due to one of the unhealthy styles blocking a resolution. In my next blog, I will discuss ways in which to eliminate these four patterns by giving you the solution to these styles. If you feel that your relationship has some of the unhealthy communication styles feel free to reach out for help. You can schedule an appointment with me online at https://www.schedulicity.com/scheduling/SMAHMC/services

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Can I find work/life balance?

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My life changed for the better when I became a mother in 2016. One thing that I had to learn quickly was the concept of work/life balance and the gravity of excelling at it. Without proper balance between your life and your work you will frequently feel exhausted, overwhelmed, restless, and indignant. These emotions can only build for so long before you find yourself burnt out and lethargic. When you are imbalanced you can feel like you are burning the candle on both ends. Consequently, you are unable to fully put your best foot forward in any aspect because you are running on a fraction of your capabilities. Below are four ways that you can establish more balance in your work and personal life:

1.Self-care. Self-care is one of the major ways to increase your work/life balance. It is easy to get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle and forget about yourself. You will be able to better tend to the needs of others after you have properly cared for yourself. Find time to recharge yourself and do something that you enjoy. You can make time every day to care for yourself. This can be as simple as taking time out of your day to be thankful, or slow down your pace so you do not feel like you are barely floating above water.

2.Time management. Along the lines of self-care is having balance in the way you delineate your time. This is key to creating balance especially if children and/or a partner is involved. There needs to be time set aside for yourself, family time, and time exclusively with your partner. Problems will start to arise if you find yourself putting work over your family or your children over your spouse because you are operating in an unbalanced manner.

  • Monitor your inputs. Sometimes we find ourselves so glued to the screen that we end up misusing our free time. Make it a rule to unplug and have more time without the bombarding of social media, television, and outside distractions. If you make a rule that you will not engage in work related tasks after 7pm make that a point to keep that boundary. Many times we feel that there is “not enough time in the day”. However, if you were to take into account the time you are idling using you would be surprised to see how much more effectively you could be utilizing your time. Make a 24 hour log of what you do in a day and see what is a priority and what is not. In doing this you will better be able to see what can be eliminated and how time can be used more to your advantage.
  1. Be okay leaving work at work. Being able to compartmentalize your work stress will help eliminate carrying that home with you. If you have had a stressful day make it a point to discuss that with your significant other or roommate first ting when you get home. Take the car ride home as time to destress and process. Before you leave work tie up any loose ends, tidy up your work space, and make a to-do list for the next day. If you leave scattered and unorganized it can leave you stress about what all is left to do. Take preventative action and make a routine in wrapping up your work day so you can leave feeling more accomplished and having closure.
  2. Flex your “No” muscle. Sometimes it can be hard to say no because you feel guilty. However, it is a healthy coping skill to be able to say “No” more often. Muscles do not grow overnight you have to be intentional and train them. Saying no may not come naturally, but through practice it will become easier to say “No”. If you find yourself being overextended take a step back and found out if you have overinvolved yourself. Are you consistently say yes when you feel it is best to say no? If you find people pleasing behaviors or the ability to say no a personal challenge it is okay to get assertiveness training to assist you in finding your voice.

Your mental health will greatly improve when you are better able to establish a separate line between your work and your personal life. If you find yourself frazzled and restless then it is time to check in on what you could be doing differently. Tell-tale signs of imbalance are when you feel restless, apathetic, and burnt out. You do not have to feel like your life is the proverbial “hamster wheel”. If you feel you are simply waking up, tackling the day, and going to bed to do it all over again than something is out of order. God calls us to live a fruitful life and one more abundantly. If you feel that you are not flowing in abundance ask God what you need to do to tackle the daily stresses more effectively.

You no longer have to feel stretched thin. Make a game plan to curb these feelings by implementing the above to create more balance. The definition of work life balance is as follows “the proper prioritization between work and your life”. This definition has powerful implications. Keeping every aspect of your life in proper order is of paramount importance. Give yourself grace in this time. If you feel guilty that you have not spent more time with your children or spouse you can make the change to put everything in proper order today!

5 reasons it is hard to leave an unhealthy relationship.

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I wrote a blog last month that pinpointed 50 reasons why people remain in unhealthy relationships. Research shows that it is hard to end an unhealthy relationship. Furthermore, it shows that being in an unhealthy relationship is detrimental to your mental health. There is a push and pull that goes along with being in an unhealthy relationship that leaves you feeling that you are on a roller coaster. Many times you may realize that you are in an unhealthy relationship, but you stay anyhow. Here are some reasons why:

1) Thinking your partner will change. Sometimes you see the potential and ignore the red flags right in front of you.  You may say to yourself, “I know I can save them”, “I believe they can change”, and “I cannot leave them when they are going through such a hard time already.” All of these reasons will keep you staying around. Consequently, no matter what you do you cannot make someone change. Change comes from inside and your partner needs to make the conscious effort to implement change. Similarly, for the change to stick they have to want to change for themselves and not solely to please you. Lasting change can only come from within.

If you take an inventory of your past and current relationship you may find yourself in an endless loop of the same quality relationship just with different people. You may believe you can “save them” or make them change.  Unfortunately, believing this can lead to an unhealthy relationship balance. You will find yourself being the “rescuer” and your partner the “victim.” Hope is a major factor in wanting to stick it out. However, unrealistic expectations can leave you feeling burnt out, overwhelmed and angry. Take time to seriously rationalize if your partner has made active steps to change or if it has been empty words with no actions or follow through?

2) Time invested. You may feel that you have been with the person since high school or that, “they knew the old me”. It is commonplace for you to feel that you have given so much time and effort and have been through so much together that separating would be hard. Being in an unhealthy relationship takes a lot of time and effort to stay afloat. Therefore, it may appear harder to let a relationship go that has taken so much work and effort to maintain. Do not let time invested be a deterrent to leaving an unhealthy relationship. Measure the quality of the relationship instead of the quantity of time that has been spent. How has the quality of your relationship been over its duration? If your relationship has been characterized by chaos, break ups, and instability being together for 3 years does not fully justify staying.

3) Fear of being alone and other socially based pressures. Our society places high emphasis on being in a relationship or married. You may feel like it is better to be with someone and unhappy than by yourself. Finding that you are okay by yourself means that you are able to handle a relationship. You cannot fill a whole that you feel with another person. Our social media crazed generation may leave you feeling empty and that if you don’t have a significant other that there is something wrong with you.  Furthermore, you may feel “stuck” in the relationship due to outside factors: kids, shared assets, and social circles. You may have taken a risk-reward approach and have estimated exiting the relationship as more hectic/risky than staying and having the added rewards such as financial gain.

4) Low self-esteem. You may be in an unhealthy relationship and not know how to get out of it or feel like it is “all I deserve”. Whenever you do not think highly of yourself you will allow more things to happen due to a possible fear of not being able to find another mate. Moreover, you may have been emotionally abused so much that you feel and have come to believe “this is the best I can get.” If someone has degraded you and made you feel like you are less than that is a telltale sign of being in an unhealthy relationship.

 

5) Modeling in the family of origin. We seek out relationships that were modeled to us as we were growing up. If you have seen your parents in an unhealthy relationship you will have a greater tendency to repeat the same pattern and except unhealthy interactions. This tends to happen because what you have seen has become your social “norm”. Furthermore, if you have grown up in a family where you have been invalidated you will find yourself with a mate that repeats the same pattern in your relationship. Unfortunately, you will end up with the same result grasping for the validation you need, but feeling disappointed because that need is not met. It is typical to find yourself dating a person with similar qualities as your opposite gender parent. If there was a void that is in that relationship it can be repeated in the people you are attracted to if you have not resolved those issues.

If you find yourself facing one, some, or all of the roadblocks in your relationship feel free to reach out to a professional to help you establish ways to break out of unhealthy relationships and patterns. You may feel like you want to leave, but you just do not know how. A mental health professional can help you break generational patterns, increase your self-esteem, and normalize being single. Do not allow the five roadblocks to keep you stuck in the same pattern. If you have looked into your relationships and have date the same personality with a different face it is time to find out what is beneath the pattern. Keep in mind that simply because something you are experiencing has been your normal that does not always mean that is healthy. It is okay to get out!

Am I in an unhealthy relationship? 50 signs that your relationship is unhealthy.

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Many people are in unhealthy relationships today, but stay because the relationship feels “normal”. There is a fundamental difference in what is normal and what is healthy. You may have seen unhealthy relationships when you were growing up and therefore it seems normal. Therefore, you may have found yourself repeatedly in negative relationships. It may almost feel like you keep dating the same person (personality characteristics) just with a different face. However, you can break the cycle and be in a healthy relationship! Some of the signs of an unhealthy relationship are when either you or your significant other:

1. Feel like you are constantly “walking on eggshells”.

2. Want to change your significant other.

3. Have cycles of breaking up and making up. (Breaking up when things get hard and getting back together when things “cool off”.)

4. Continually criticize one another.

5. Are contemptuous (call each other names.)

6. Are defensive or blame other party during arguments.

7. Are codependent.

8. Do not have separate identities. 

9. Abuse one another sexually, verbally, or physically.

10. Try to control each another. 

11. Have a lack of trust.

12. Have a lack of influence.

13. Have a lack of intimacy.

14. Have a lack of affection.

15. Going for a big reaction (blow up) rather than walking away when your significant other does not give a reaction.

16. Talking to other people about the relationship and your problems instead of your significant other.

17. Trying to “win” an argument rather than compromise. 

18. Feels there is inequality in the relationship which leads to feeling unworthy.

19. Significant other cuts you off from your support system/family.

20. Points out defects.

21. Has empty threats or says they are leaving the relationship when in an argument.

22. Manipulate each another.

23. Feel like an object. 

24. Have influenced each other more negatively than positively. 

25. Do not want to leave the relationship due to convenience, feelings of guilt, or thinking there are no other options.

26. Are jealous.

27. Fight unfairly.

28. Cheat.

29. Are dishonest. 

30. Retaliate.

31. Have a lack of empathy.

32. Invalidate each other’s feelings.

33. Guilt each other.

34. Shame each other.

35. Feel trapped in the relationship.

36. Look into your significant other’s personal belongings, cell phone, or computer, or place a tracker to find “dirt”. 

37. Feeling that your significant other completes you or that you can’t live without them. 

38. Frequently putting significant other needs above your own.

39. Use intimidation.

40. Have poor conflict resolution skills.

41. Use the past as ammunition. (unforgiveness).

42. Have poor boundaries

43. One or both have withdrawn from the relationship, 

44. Even when you are together you feel alone. 

45. Have a “plan b” significant other in mind or thinking about other people.

46. Have resentment walls built up.

47. Have more damaging interactions than positive.

48. Feel the relationship is hectic/unbalanced.

49. Have quickly attached.

50. Shutdown when significant other shares emotions.

If you find yourself feeling hopeless or trapped in your relationship it is okay to get out. If you feel that you are in an unhealthy relationship it is okay to seek out the help of a professional. A therapist can help you sort out what attracts you to unhealthy relationships and what keeps you stuck in them. You can have a healthy relationship! My next blog will address reasons people stay in unhealthy relationships. 

Goals for 2018. New Years resolution.

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This year decide to do something different with your goals for the new year. Many times we have goals for the new year just for them to go by the wayside. I am sure you had all the intentions in the world to follow through with your goals for the year. Unfortunately, the next year end comes and you think to yourself, “I did not see my goal through last year why do this again?” Some researchers have stated that 80% of new years resolutions fail by February. That statistic is startling! Come January everyone is hitting the gym, it is completely packed, and you have to fight for a space to get a workout in. Come the end of January the usual crowd is back and the hype has died down.  So you may be asking, “How do I stay the course?”

  1. SET REALISTIC GOALS. Unrealistic expectations are the catalyst to failure in many areas. Unrealistic expectations lead to feelings of resentment, anger, isolation, and hopelessness. If you break your goals down into smaller and more obtainable goals it will be easier to gain more momentum.
  2. WRITE OUT YOUR GOALS. Have your goal visible so you can see it daily. You can use your goal as a type of affirmation.
  3. MAKE YOUR GOALS SPECIFIC. Sometime we overwhelm ourselves with the big picture. Having more clear cut goals will make them easier to attain.If it helps break your goals into categories for example: mental. emotional, physical, spiritual, financial/business.
  4. WRITE YOUR GOALS IN A POSITIVE TONE. Instead of saying stop being late for work (negative view) change your goal to a positive. For example, be on time for work or be 5 minutes early to work everyday. Reframing is a helpful tool to help you see things in a different way.
  5. HAVE AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER. Share your goals with other people who can help support you and keep you accountable.

This is an exciting time of year when you can have a fresh start. Take charge of your mental health today! Seek out the help of a counselor or professional if need be. Set attainable goals to achieve for yourself and have an amazing New Year!

How do I navigate the Holidays?

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“I do not know how I am supposed to make it through the Holidays”, “I have four family functions that I have to fake it through”, “This is the first Christmas without her being around”, “I am not going to be able to face my family”. The Holidays can be a joyous time, but can also bring up the heartache that you are currently facing. The Holidays are a time of year when everyone in the family comes together. There is a lot of pressure during the holidays to be happy and fun-loving. However, you may have lost loved ones, have to face the person who abused you at a young age, have nowhere to go for the holidays or have unresolved conflict with members of the family. You may feel your family will ask questions about your marriage that you are not ready to answer. You may not be ready to see everyone with their family intact because you are missing your loved one who has passed or your children are with their dad’s side of the family this time around.  The Holidays can bring on stress, depression, anxiety, and isolation. Following these tips can help alleviate the holiday blues:

  1. Give yourself grace. You do not have to push your emotions to the side just becausse it is the holidays. If you have lossed a loved one, are feeling lonely after a breakup, or are experiencing guilt from a seperation/divorce it is okay to experience emotions. Having the holidays without a loved one can be very difficult. Knowing the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance may be helpful in navigating your feelings.
  2. Express your feelings. Do not be afraid to express the emotions that you are feeling inside. Having a support system is a key factor in alleviating anxiety and depression. Many times you may feel like talking about what you are feeling may be burdensome to others so you choose to withhold your feelings. However, letting unexpressed feelings build up can lead to anxiety, isolation, and depression. Others in the family may feel the same as you and may be able to help you talk your feelings through or help you have a sense of comradery and normalcy.
  3. Set firm boundaries. It is okay to say no and outline what is and is not acceptable for you. You may have mutiple functions that you are invited to and feel obligated to attend. If you feel stretched thin over the holiday it is okay to not attend or to attend for a specific amount of time that you feel is acceptable. It is okay to have an exit strategy. If you feel overwhelmed you can excuse yourself and go for a walk or take some time to regather yourself. You do not have to feel that you have to “keep it together”. Wearing a mask only makes you feel more isolated and depressed.
  4. Keep up your self-care routine. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in the busyness of the holidays that you forget about prioritizing yourself. Maintaining adequate self-care and coping skills will be the main ways to decrease anxiety and depression.  You can try deep breathing, yoga/excercise, mindfulness,  getting creative, and journaling/affirmations.
  5. Notice your triggers. Know what makes you upset during family gatherings or specific thoughts that you have going into the holidays. Change your thoughts to become more positive to break out of negative thought patterns and feedback loops that heighten stress. Try a thankfulness journal to help breed more positivity.
  6. Seek out the help of a professional if you feel unable to manage. If you feel overly anxious and stressed about the holidays or having to interact a counselor can help you navigate these feelings. Coundelors you are unable to process what is going on it is okay to seek out the help from a counselor. Counselors can help you process through your triggers and give you coping skills to alleviate the stresses you are currently facing.

Is premarital counseling helpful?

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Statistically speaking couples who receive premarital counseling had a 30% higher marital success rate than those who did not. Premarital counseling is more educational in nature and last about 8 sessions on average. The top 5 sources of conflict once married are finances, chores, work, sex, and communication. Premarital counseling is helpful in educating couples about these sources of possible conflict and being proactive in solving the problem. In my premarital counseling sessions we will take a look into your mindset regarding marriage, individual mental health couple compatibility.

I use an assesment to guide the process of premarital counseling. Each partner takes the assessment separately and it will create a 14 page couples report.  The assessment is a test that 1) flags and lowers your risk factors, and 2) optimizes your combined strengths as a couple. The report will cover a wide range of topics:

Sex: This can become a source of frustration later in marriage. In premarital counseling desire, who is expected to initiate, and frequency will be discussed.

Finances: In relationships there tends to be a spender and a saver. Debt can be problematic and should be discussed before entering into marriage. Discussing inancial fears and the way one interacts with money is important. Being able to set a budget as a coupe and stick to it is critical.

Communication: We will look at how your partner perceives you when you are partner under stress. Fuethermore, we will discuss ways in which your partner would like to be communicated with.  Improving communication skills is of utmost importance. Intimate connections happen when each partner is able to communicate affectively, get their needs met, and feel heard. We also will talk about perpetual issues and conflict topics.

Individual wellbeing: Everyone brings scars into a relationship. In dealing with past issues you will be able to better relate with your spouse. We will also go over individual “red flags” that need to be discussed.

Social support: How do your friends, family, and faith community view your relationship? In laws and peers being on board helps to smooth the transition into marriage.

Spiritual life:  We will talk about the way each person feels close to god and how that can make the coupe grow together. Do you have a shared faith and how does that play a role in your relationship? Being in sync spiritually is helpful.

Marriage momentum: An overview of the momentum you bring towards marriage.

Dynamics: Personality differences can be a source of attraction in the beginning of the relationship and a source of contention later on in marriage. Each person brings strengths into relationships and can help sharpen the other. Being able to know the intricate details of your partner’s personality will help you understand the inner workings, and thoughts of your partner.

Expectations: Unmet expectations are called a “relationship killer.” Knowing what is expected of each spouse in regard to house work, and roles will alleviate anger and resentment that comes from unmet expectations.

Mindset: We will also take a look into your attitude towards marriage. Do you think marriage is “just a piece of paper” or do you believe it’s “for a lifetime”? The way you view marriage has a great influence on your relationship.

In the excitement of being engaged some people get caught up in planning the wedding and forget about the ever after. Premarital counseling helps you to see strength and growth areas you have as a couple and ways in which to work towards having a successful marriage. On average, couples don’t receive marriage counseling until 7 years after the presenting problem has appeared. Being aware of the red flags before coming together in marriage will make it easier to have tools to resolve issues later down the road.