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Relationship Issues

Below are the articles in the Relationship Issues category. Each article title is followed by a brief summary introduction to the content. Click "Read Excerpt" for a more comprehensive review. Click "Add to Package" to buy or redeem the article.

Relationship Issues

Accepting the “Gift” of Criticism

Most of us can accept compliments. Some of us can accept suggestions. But most of us draw the line at criticism. Yet, criticism can be one of the most constructive and profound tools to change ourselves and improve our relationships with others.

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Bernie Siegel, author and physician writes that criticism is an opportunity to become a better person. "When you feel inadequate or imperfect, criticism is threatening and makes you feel that you have to defend yourself. When you are secure—not perfect, but secure—you can listen to the criticism and consider its value."

Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is, calls criticism “a powerful tool for self-realization and growth.” She suggests that when we are criticized for being wrong, unkind, uncaring, etc., we should ask ourselves if the criticism is true. If we can accept the truth without stress or pain, we free ourselves from trying to hide who we are from others. We know our faults and we accept them and, therefore, criticism from others cannot hurt us. “When you are genuinely humble, there is no place for criticism to stick,” she writes.

Are You Being Bullied?

Bullying comes in many forms, including within relationships. Take this quiz to see if you—or someone you know—might be the victim of bullying.

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These days, bullying in schools and even in cyberspace is a hot topic. However, adult bullying is more widespread than you might think. It takes place in the home, the community and the workplace. According to Beth Rosenthal's book Bullying, a 2007 poll found that one-third of workers, or 54 million Americans, reported workplace bullying. Even when bullying is not physical, as in the case of domestic violence, it is usually verbal and psychological, leaving no physical scars, but nevertheless creating long-lasting effects such as stress, depression, shame and low self-esteem. Harmful health effects can include insomnia, high blood pressure and digestive problems. Take this quiz to determine if you—or someone you know—might be the victim of bullying:

1. My spouse repeatedly insults me in front of our friends and then tells me, laughing, that I'm too "thin-skinned."

2. My partner is jealous and hostile when I spend time with my friends.

3. My spouse controls all our finances; I have to ask every time I need money for even our most basic expenses.

Are You Taking Care or Caretaking?

As the quiz reveals, “taking care” and “caretaking” are vastly different in practice.

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Taking care is healthy caregiving—whether for children, spouses, friends or parents—that includes drawing appropriate boundaries, taking your own needs into consideration and knowing when to say no. Caretaking, on the other hand, is about rescuing, constantly placing others’ needs before your own and taking inappropriate responsibility for others’ emotions and actions.

The difference is in the intention: Are you in service (taking care) or is there a payoff (caretaking)? Payoffs are usually subtle. Caretaking may help you relieve guilt, feel better about yourself, or get attention or validation. But there is a cost to caretaking, as well: Caretaking can result in resentments, emotional and physical depletion, and/or feeling disconnected from your inner self. Complete this questionnaire to discover how much caretaking you do.

1. I feel safer when giving rather than receiving.

2. I am “on call” to friends with problems at any hour of the day or night.

3. I’m great at being nurturing and compassionate with others, but not so great at giving it to myself.

Codependence: What’s My Responsibility?

Codependency is a learned condition, which means it can also be unlearned. This article offers ways to begin.

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Do you find yourself consistently feeling unfulfilled in relationships, not asserting yourself enough, or perhaps you have difficulty figuring out where your responsibility for someone else ends? Issues like these and others, such as perfectionism, low self-esteem, distrust, and even physical illness related to stress can indicate that you have some codependent behavior.

Codependency commonly occurs when a loved one needs support because of an addiction or an illness and we take care of that person at the expense of ourselves. Codependents can also attempt to control everything within a relationship, again, without addressing their own needs, thus setting themselves up for unfulfilling interactions and even sometimes unintentionally discouraging the loved one from seeking outside help.

We learn codependency by watching and imitating people in our family and in society who display the behavior; thus, it is often passed down from generation to generation.

Changing Relationships: Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents

Finding time for self-care is even more challenging and necessary for the growing “sandwich” generation.

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With people living longer than ever before, more and more individuals find themselves sandwiched between caring for their children and caring for their aging parents.

Coping with our fast-paced, always-connected world is stressful enough, but when you add double or triple the family responsibilities, well, it quickly gets overwhelming.

You’re probably losing time and energy worrying about things that aren’t getting done or things you have to do next. You may not realize just how much physical and mental stress you are under, or how much that has been sapping your effectiveness at work and at home. Guilt may be a constant companion. While you take care of your parents, you may feel that you’re not doing enough for your children, and vice versa.

Coping with a Loved One's Mental Illness

Guidance in managing the challenge of coping with another’s mental illness and to make your own life less stressful.

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Witnessing the suffering of a loved one can be one of the most difficult situations we face. Among other things, we may feel powerless, frustrated and frightened. That’s true whether the suffering originates from a physical illness or injury, addiction or self-destructive activity.

When a loved one suffers a debilitating, persistent and chronic mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, those feelings can be compounded. Strange, unpredictable behaviors can be terrifying and confusing. Your loved one may suddenly rage at you with blame or be utterly dependent upon you for basic needs and emotional stability.

You may experience many confusing emotions yourself, including anger, grief, guilt, fear and sadness. As you struggle with each episode of illness and worry about the future, you may feel anxious and overwhelmed.

Design the Alliance—Empower All of Your Relationships

To create a mutually successful experience in any relationship, apply the coaching concept designed alliance.

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The concept of designed alliance is often used in coaching to set the stage for a relationship that empowers clients to be the most successful as they make changes in their work and personal lives. For example, a client might suggest the most effective ways for his coach to support him when he’s feeling scared, resistant or stuck. Once the alliance has been designed, it’s important to update it as individual needs and desires change.

This concept is highly applicable to all kinds of relationships—romantic or business partnerships, friends, parent-child, and more. Imagine a world, in fact, where all relationships begin with a consciously designed alliance, the purpose of which is to create a mutually successful experience!

How Controlling Are You?

We all know them…the folks who MUST CONTROL EVERYTHING. This quiz will help identify if that controlling person is you.

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Perhaps it’s the mother-in-law whom you secretly call “Controller of the Universe,” or the boss at work who has to have a hand in every little detail of your work, or the parent who directs every aspect of their child’s life. However well-meaning controlling people might be, their actions often result in alienation, resentment and a lack of intimacy with loved ones. When they have a choice, people don’t usually like to be around controlling individuals. Take this quiz to see how controlling you might be.

Set 1

1. I discourage the people around me from expressing anger, fear or sadness.

2. It aggravates me when others don’t want to do something the way I suggest; I’m only trying to help them.

3. I hate to admit to others that I am wrong or make mistakes; in fact, I rarely do.

4. I’d rather do most things myself.

How Well Constructed Are Your Boundaries?

The poet said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” He was right. Good boundaries make life easier, reduce conflict and improve relationships. This quiz will help a person determine where his or her boundaries are healthy and where they might need shoring up.

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Boundaries are those invisible lines of protection you draw around yourself. They let people know your limits on what they can say or do around you. Healthy boundaries give you freedom in relating to others. Make them too solid and you build walls, too weak and you allow other’s actions to harm you. How well-constructed are your boundaries? Take a few minutes to find out.

1. I start statements with “I” rather than “you” or “we.” This lets me own what I say and is less defensive than “you” and more clean than “we.”

2. My boundaries are specific and clear.“I don’t accept phone calls after 10 p.m.” Rather than vague and mushy. “Don’t call me too late.”

3. I’m consistent when I create boundaries. If I say “no phone calls after 10 p.m.,” I don’t make exceptions unless the situation is truly exceptional.

Learning to Pay Attention to “Red Flags”

Too often we ignore the early warning signs that something is wrong, and by the time we sit up and take notice, the problems have multiplied.

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Susan’s partner is everything she’s ever wanted in a relationship. He’s funny, warm, a good listener and puts her first. Sure, he also has a problem with his temper—but nobody’s perfect, right? At least he’s taking his anger out on the furniture and other objects and not on her, she reassures herself....

We have all experienced those red flags or warning signs that something is not quite right in our lives. A growing number of psychologists and others in the human potential field believe these warning signs are emergency “flares” set off by something deep and rich found in all of us—our intuition. They believe if we learn to pay attention and act on this inner wisdom, we can gain extraordinary guidance, especially when it comes to our relationships.

“No matter how many facts we gather, if we cling to logic, we’re using only a small percentage of our capacity to know,” writes Penney Peirce in her book, The Intuitive Way: The Definitive Guide to Increasing Your Awareness. “Intuition, I’m convinced, is where the other 90 percent of our brainpower lies. Through intuition we get the big picture.”

Repairing a Relationship After an Affair

Article explores the impact of an affair on both parties, offers ways to assess whether the relationship can be repaired and, if so, how to begin.

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Alison and Frank have been married for 12 years and have three children. One day, after taking their son to school, Alison spotted Frank in a coffee shop holding hands with another woman and whispering intimately. She felt as though the ground was slipping away beneath her. How could this be happening? How would they ever recover?

Exact numbers are hard to come by, but some studies reveal that about half of married people in the U.S. will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage. What do you do when it happens in your relationship? How do you know if your relationship is worth saving? And how can you repair such a catastrophic betrayal?

The Trauma of Discovery

When infidelity invades a relationship, it often permeates the atmosphere long before the affair is discovered. While one partner may cope with suspicion, low self-esteem and resentment, the other partner may wrestle with guilt and the fear of being caught.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What It Means to You

Respect isn’t getting much respect these days. A person may demand respect from his or her family, social circle, and co-workers, then “dis” others with abandon. Why does that matter?

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Every time Lloyd walks past her desk in his smart business suit, Tracy thinks to herself, Prima donna CEO. She ignores him, doesn’t even acknowledge his presence.

Gerald looks with derision at a videotape of his wife’s recent theatrical performance. Ridiculous to be doing this at her age, he thinks.

Their common ground? A lack of respect.

Yet, respect for and from others—and ourselves—is essential to our ability to interact with people in healthy and productive ways. Truly satisfying relationships require that we acknowledge, accept and value others and ourselves, respecting who we are as men and women and as individuals.

Without respect, we lapse into power struggles within relationships. We lose morale, productivity and the ability to positively influence people in the workplace. We contribute to conflict in the world.

Rewriting the Myth of Perfect Togetherness

Two people fall in love, and then forever more go everywhere and do everything together. That’s the ideal, isn’t it?

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The myth of togetherness is a story fraught with perils, for it most often leads to exactly the opposite of togetherness: one partner feels smothered and withdraws. The other feels rejected and abandoned. This push-pull dance of too much closeness or too much distance sets up a high level of anxiety for both partners and too often ends in heartache and separation.

It’s possible, however, to rewrite this story of togetherness in a way that makes a better ending possible. Instead of togetherness being a merging of two people in which two halves make a whole, what if togetherness meant a deep commitment to supporting each other’s fulfillment as an individual and as a member of the couple?

“A co-creative relationship is one in which two people access more of their creativity as a result of their loving interaction,” write Drs. Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks in Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment. “Out of the harmony of a co-committed relationship springs an enhanced energy that enables both partners to make a greater contribution than either one could have made alone.”

Stopping Verbal Abuse in Its Tracks

Sarah’s husband yells at her for muting a commercial then greets her apology with more yelling and bizarre accusations. What’s going on there?

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Like many people in verbally abusive relationships, Sarah thinks that if only she changed, she communicated more clearly, she explained things better, her husband wouldn’t get so mad at her.

But as Patricia Evans, author of The Verbally Abusive Relationship, explains, abuse victims don’t realize that the problem isn’t theirs: it’s in the abuser’s need to dominate and control. When Sarah’s husband yells at her for no reason, she thinks he’s misunderstood her. She doesn’t realize that he’s not looking for understanding, he’s establishing his power over her.

Sarah’s story exhibits several of the hallmarks of verbal abuse:

• It’s hostile.

• It’s unpredictable and even bizarre; the attack comes out of the blue.

• The victim feels confused and surprised.

Take Healthy Control

Healthy control is a means of empowerment; a fourfold strategy.

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We all know people who need control and put all their energies into asserting and maintaining it—often with unfortunate results. That kind of control can lead to rigidity, stifled relationships and, ironically, elevated stress, as life in all its messiness continues on its own course despite all attempts to make it mind.

Taking healthy control of your life is another matter. When you do that, you feel empowered and confident. The trick is recognizing when and where to grab the reins and when to surrender.

Here, then, is a four-fold strategy for taking control in ways that enrich your life.

1. Limit the Area You Seek To Control

A big part of healthy control is focus, knowing what to pursue and what to let go. Overly general and ambitious goals can increase feelings of helplessness or anxiety. Narrow your focus to what’s most important.

Tending the Fences: Setting Healthy Boundaries

Article teaches boundary setting by showing how a person might compensate for not having them set adequately.

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Good personal boundaries make for good relationships. Boundaries are those invisible lines of protection you draw around yourself. They let people know your limits on what they can say or do around you. Healthy boundaries give you freedom in relating to others. Make them too solid and you build walls, too weak and you allow other’s actions to harm you.

It’s not always clear where our boundaries are or need to be. Recognizing and studying the signs of ignored or ineffective boundaries is a good place to start, as these “symptoms” give clues to the needed boundary. See if any of the following ring true for you.

Aloofness and distance. When you are unwilling or fearful of opening your space to others, or when you build walls to insure that others don’t invade your emotional or physical space, this may be a defense against cruel behavior, abuse or neglect that you allowed to happen. A person with healthy boundaries draws a line over which they will not allow anyone to cross. They recognize their right to say, “No!”

Chip on the shoulder. This kind of attitude declares, “I dare you to come too close!” and is often the result of anger over a past violation or ignoring of your physical or emotional space by others. Healthy boundaries mean you are able to speak up when your space has been violated, leaving you free to trust that you can assertively protect yourself to ensure you are not hurt.

The Danger of Comparisons

Tips to help you stop comparing yourself and your loved ones to others and live with more freedom as a result.

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Comparing ourselves and our loved ones to others seems to be ingrained into us. We notice similarities and differences. It’s one way we learn to navigate our world.

The trouble comes when we notice differences and then use that information to feel “less than.” For instance, rather than noticing someone’s success and letting that inspire us to take the risk we’ve been wanting to take, instead we may despair, believing that we could never have that kind of success ourselves.

The Impact of Unresolved Trauma on Relationships

This article addresses the origin of unresolved emotional trauma, how it affects current relationships, and how to resolve the trauma.

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Physicians use the word “trauma” to describe a serious injury to the physical body resulting from a sudden impact, such as an accident or a violent act. But you can also suffer emotional trauma, which can cause an equally painful wound to your sense of self as a whole, coherent being. Just like a wound to your physical body, emotional injuries also require care and attention so that you may heal.

When this trauma is left unresolved and your experience of yourself is one of not being whole—of somehow being broken—you are likely to bring the footprints of this to your relationships. To have healthy relationships, you must first have a healthy sense of your own being and place in the world.

To Do or Not to Do? That Is the Commitment Question

Marie longed for a permanent relationship, but kept gravitating toward men with “a commitment problem.” They were married, from another state, getting over an old girlfriend…. But perhaps the problem was actually Marie’s.

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What Marie didn’t recognize was that she was exhibiting the same conflict over commitment as the men she was criticizing. True, she wasn’t running away from permanent relationships. In fact, she appeared overwhelmingly focused on love and loving, and completely willing to commit. It was Marie who always wanted more out of the relationship, and the men who wanted space.

“Then it dawned on me one day that if I keep finding myself with men who are running away from commitment, then I’m running away, too,” she said. By choosing men with one foot permanently out the door, Marie kept her own options always open.

Marie’s “passive” avoidance, as compared with the “active” avoidance of running away, is perhaps less recognized, say Steven Carver and Julia Sokol, in their book He’s Scared, She’s Scared. But it is no less common.

Commitment and Life

Like Marie, many of us fail to understand the ways we avoid commitment and the ways in which this hidden conflict may be creating chaos or pain in our personal lives. And if we don’t understand how these feelings affect our behavior, we run the risk of sabotaging not only our relationships, but other areas of our life, as well.

Top 10 Barriers to Connection

Avoiding these ten behaviors can greatly improve relationships.

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When people come to us with a problem, it’s easy to lapse into behaviors that—although usually well-meaning—serve to block us from hearing the other person’s experience. We’d be better off following the words of this inside-out saying: “Don’t just do something; stand there”…and try not to:

1. Counsel. Seek not to advise solutions (until asked) but listen and reflect back the person’s experience.

2. Defend. When you explain, justify or rationalize, you invalidate the other’s experience. You can create a time to offer your experience, but for now, just listen.

3. Shut down. This happens in parenting when we say things like: “Stop crying. It’s not that bad.” Children are more likely to stop crying when they feel they’ve been heard.

Top 10 Fears That Ruin Relationships

Fear is often present in relationships, but it doesn’t have to sabotage the relationship. This article helps one recognize fears and be more able to work with them.

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Loving someone is risky business, so it’s natural that fear is present in relationships. But when fear operates in our life in a way that hurts us or hurts others—through aggression or withdrawal—it becomes a problem. Recognizing these fears and how they affect our life can help us make the necessary changes to get the love we want.

1. Fear of losing freedom. Tied down, trapped, cornered, stuck—this "claustrophobia" points to mistaken beliefs about what relationships are supposed to be. The ability to say No in a loving and respectful way, and to set clear and fair boundaries, is an essential ingredient of a healthy relationship.

2. Fear of conflict. Let's face it—love can be messy. But it doesn't have to be destructive. Constructive communication skills can be learned. When handled with caring and respectful communication, conflicts can become vital building blocks of deeper trust and intimacy.

Top 10 Ways to Cool Your Anger

A list of 10 simple ways to cool down before anger gets out of control and damages relationships, careers, even lives.

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Left unchecked, anger can damage relationships, careers, even lives. Here are 10 simple ways to cool your anger before it gets out of control:

1. Take several deep breaths. Breathe in calmness and then release anger as you breathe out.

2. Do something physical. Take a walk, go to the gym or walk some stairs. Not only is exercise healthy for your body, it'll do wonders for your mood.

3. Take a break. Before you blow up, walk away from the situation to regroup and gather your thoughts.

What To Do When Your Partner “Checks Out”

Ways to bring back connection to your relationship when your partner has disconnected.

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In the honeymoon phase of a relationship, a typical evening might look like this: you prepare dinner together or sit in a restaurant, discussing everything that happened during your day. You’re not exactly joined at the hip, but you’re equally fascinated to hear about each other’s hobbies and pursuits. At the end of the date, you can’t wait to see each other again....

There could be many reasons why your partner has “checked out” of your relationship, including boredom, a major life event, heavy workload, exhaustion, illness, or even substance abuse, Internet or sex addiction.

Keep in mind that besides the effect those issues are having on you and your relationship, your partner is suffering as well. So before you jump to blame, accuse and demand, remember to understand, question and work together.

Working on Your Relationship—Alone

As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. It takes two to make a relationship and, it follows, two to work on that relationship. But what if one person doesn’t want to do the work—especially if that work involves going to couples counseling?

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First, it’s important to make sure your mate really doesn’t want to go. Lorna Hecker, Clinic Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Center of Purdue University, lists these tips for asking your partner to join you in marital/relationship therapy:

❏Ask your partner to join you in therapy. Most people are just afraid to ask. Express your concern about your relationship in a non-blaming way. Don’t let the myth that “he/she will never go to counseling” dissuade you. As a therapist, I hear this all the time, and 90 percent of the time, it just isn’t true that someone will never go to therapy.

❏Don’t let your partner pull you into an argument. Try a broken record technique such as: “We disagree; and we disagree a lot. That’s why I would like for us to go to marital therapy.” Say it over and over (like a broken record), rather than get pulled into an argument. Also, ask for what you do want from your partner, rather than what you don’t want.

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