Giving Too Much?

The Problem:

I’ve heard that compromise and sacrifice are necessary for long term relationships, but it feels like I’m doing all the giving, and I’m starting to feel resentful.

The Solution:

It’s important to try to figure out whether most of the time you have fallen into the habit of being in a power struggle with your partner, or whether you are really trying to resolve differences.  When our partner has a different solution to handling something than we think is the best way to do it, we can either get into a power struggle – where each person tries to insist that their way is the right way.  Or, we can recognize that we have different approaches or answers to the issue at hand and decide to say nothing, and do it our partner’s way.  This would probably be fine, most of the time – IF we really let it go, and just went with the different approach.  But it is really common for us to feel like we are “giving all the time” and have resentments build up. Then, we can reach a point where we decide to take a stand and insist on doing it our way – even when the issue that’s come up is one we don’t really care about.  And we can get into a big fight over….  nothing.

Learning how to speak up on a regular basis to express your thoughts – without insisting they are the only answer – is a real skill.  Listening fully without taking the time they are speaking to mentally mount your rebuttal – is another skill worth practicing.  If you don’t speak up to express your thoughts and needs, you are giving away a freedom that your relationship needs. Practice listening with an open mind, and speaking with an open heart, asking for solutions and suggestions.  Staying quiet keeps you behind a wall, and perpetuates distance between the two of you.

In a world full of differences, it is vital to learn how to accept, understand and appreciate them. Anyone lucky enough to take a PAIRS class will be glad they did.” – PAIRS graduate

When Humor Isn’t Funny

The Problem:

I tend to have a pretty sarcastic sense of humor, but my partner doesn’t think it’s funny.

The Solution:

People do have very different ways of expressing humor, and sarcasm is certainly a technique some enjoy using.  Sarcasm is basically saying the opposite of what we think is true.  “Oh, yes, you are a great driver!”  Often couples will dish out this sarcasm to each other on a regular basis, saying that it’s fine, and they enjoy expressing themselves that way.  Since often sarcasm is basically insulting (saying someone’s behavior is positive, when the sarcasm is saying really we don’t think it is at all …), the problem can come when there is tension in the relationship, or even just tension within the person themselves because of work or other outside sources.  When we’re stressed, often our confidence is diminished.  At times like that, hearing an insulting comment (even when delivered supposedly as humor), really hurts and can cause the person to lash back or withdraw from their partner.  If you are really tuned in to your partner’s emotional strengths that day, a little sarcasm may work.  Otherwise, treat it like a very strong cooking spice – use it very sparingly for best effect.

 

Learn specific skills to stay tuned in to your partner’s emotional energy in our PAIRS workshops, which are offered throughout the year.

Different Can be Great

The Problem

I think I’m an optimist and my partner seems like a pessimist. Can that work? How?

The Solution

PAIRS’ creator, Dr. Lori Gordon, recounted a counseling session with a couple where the man, sounding somewhat annoyed, said “We’ve been together for years.  I thought I’d heard we were going to “be one!”   To which Dr. Gordon said “Well then, which one?”   It’s very tempting to see our environment, our choices, our partner — through a belief that expects and wants both of us to see things the same way.  Which is to say… the way WE do.

It really works a lot better if instead we can see what each of us brings to the relationship as a contribution to the entity called “the Us.”  Neither probably has all the wisdom or information. However, with good will, together the “Us” can find ways to navigate through the ups and downs everyone faces.  The glass is both half empty and half full.  What does each of those viewpoints have to say that needs to be considered on any given issue?  Sometimes, for instance, caution or deliberation (possibly from a pessimistic viewpoint) may be an excellent approach.  Sometimes, when appropriate, the optimist’s approach of being more spontaneous and risky can produce delightful results.  Your partner will never be you.  And vice versa.  Together, however, with respect, inquiry, willingness to negotiate and try new ways, and strong listening skills – our differences can become our best feature.

I was continually surprised by the practical nature of the skills discovered for building an even deeper, sustaining and equal partnership between my wife and me. Thank you!” – PAIRS graduate

PAIRS workshops are offered throughout the year. See Class Schedule on our website: http://www.PAIRSVirginia.com

 

Too close, too often?

The Problem

If you loved me, you would always want me with you. If you want to be alone, it means you don’t want me with you. But … If you always want me with you, I feel smothered. 

The Solution

This is one of the Love Knots written by PAIRS Founder Lori Gordon.*   A Love Knot is an unspoken expectation that we create when we are young, which we silently carry into all our adult relationships as a firm belief without question.  It’s only when our expectations are not met that these “land mines” blow up – we can get very upset and not really understand why.  The reality of this particular Love Knot is that all of us have times when we want to be separate, and times when we want to be together.  As adults no one can always want to or always be there for another. We need to be able to accept the differences in our preference for alone time, or for activities with friends, and negotiate with our partners for the changes that are important.  Negotiating for our needs is a skill that doesn’t come naturally, especially when we are stressed.  Whether in our PAIRS classes, or other resources, learning how to successfully negotiate to a win-win is vital to enjoying life. 

PAIRS has changed a 29-year marriage of confusion, hurt, silence and missed opportunities into a vibrant relationship of pleasure and trust.” – PAIRS graduate

*Love Knots by Lori H. Gordon is available through Amazon books

So, do people really ever change?

The Problem

Things between me and my partner are good, but could stand some improvement. I’ve heard from friends that people can’t and don’t change – so is it just a question of finding a partner who thinks and acts the way I do on just about everything?

The Solution

Well, first of all – good luck with that!   Secondly, and seriously, if you did find someone who did pretty much mirror your tastes, reactions, and beliefs right down the line – you would probably find yourself in a boring, flat, lifeless relationship. The key to this question of differences, I believe, has to do with values – not behaviors. Look for someone who matches your key core values in life, such as work ethic, responsibility, sense of humor, honesty, ability to be caring and nurturing and put you (or others) ahead of themselves when appropriate.   Those things tend to be more “hard-wired” in to a person, and I believe they change very little over life. But behaviors are absolutely able to be adjusted, improved, moderated.

Think of the shy introvert who learns how to give excellent presentations and function well in big group business settings. They have a core trait around which they can moderate their behavior. Or, think of someone with a biological inclination towards addictive behaviors such as drinking. AA has proved that hundreds of thousands of people like this can make the decision to behave differently. So, if your partner shares your most key values – but their behaviors are less than ideal – it means they probably need skills training like the PAIRS classes… or good conversations with wise coaches… or excellent learning from books or some other sources. New behaviors can be learned. For most of us, we can all stand to continue to learn and grow throughout our lives. PAIRS is skills training for everyone.

I’m very grateful for PAIRS. We were on our way to divorce, and thanks to PAIRS we have experienced a connection I didn’t think possible.” – Sheryl E., MD 

PAIRS workshops are offered throughout the year.

See www.PAIRSVirginia.com for details.

Noticing the little things

The Problem

My partner seems to notice all the things I do that he doesn’t like – and even worse – can’t seem to resist pointing them out to me

The Solution

A startling, and “game changing” response to our standard defensive comments when this happens is to acknowledge the truth in it.  Perhaps not the exact or total package – but the part that you can see as true.  For instance, they say “That was a rude and disrespectful way you just talked to me!”   Rather that our “natural” response … something like:  “Well I wouldn’t have talked with you that way if you just… etc.”    Instead, pause, take a deep breath, and say with as much empathy as possible, “You’re right. I’m feeling pretty tired, and I didn’t say that in a nice way. Let me try again.”    And then, rephrase what you’d said focusing on the positive, focusing on the part of you that wants to be closer to your partner.   Just this shift of response – while still addressing any real issue that’s important to you – can avoid a lot of tension and fighting.

  

“I am more at peace with myself than I’ve ever been. PAIRS has opened my awareness.” – Barbara S. NC

 

PAIRS workshops are offered throughout the year.

See www.PAIRSVirginia.com for details.

Healing Rest

The Problem

We both work really hard and often feel that having fun isn’t productive. Or, if we do take off to relax or have fun, we feel guilty.

The Solution

Burnout is a real problem. Our culture has changed so much thanks to the internet that we feel if we can be working or “doing” we should be!   At the same time, feeling overwhelmed and overtired has never been more pervasive. Our options are not in synch with thousands of years of inherited patterns for a balance of rest and work. Taking off a whole day to rest and rejuvenate ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually has been part of our history for many hundreds of years. Our bodies heal as we sleep. Find ways to build in that healing time – including making time for a bit of fun together – is a very smart investment in long term relationship happiness. 

PAIRS is the best investment that I have ever made. PAIRS will return that investment 1000%!” – Mike P., VA

PAIRS workshops are offered throughout the year.

See www.PAIRSVirginia.com for details.