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.

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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.

Making Mistakes

The Problem

It’s really hard to tell my partner I’ve made a mistake, even when I realize I did.

The Solution

One of the most powerful ways to get closer is through a sincere apology. At the same time, most of us hate to admit when we make a mistake. We’d like to blame something or someone else — “Well, it wasn’t nice for me to say that, but I wouldn’t have done it except that you…….” etc.  

Instead, try to practice being non-defensive. When you recognize you weren’t acting the way you know is right, just say it without defense. “I wanted to tell you I’m really sorry that I was sarcastic a few minutes ago.”   That’s it.  No “but’s” added on. Even if your partner agrees… “Yes, you were! I didn’t like it.” — It’s tempting to give some verbal shot, or to say why, and give a defense. But, it will be a whole different experience and outcome if you once again avoid being defensive, saying instead: “You’re right. I’m sorry.”    There are always “reasons” – everyone has their reasons.

If your goal is to show that you take responsibility for your actions, and you don’t want to hurt your partner – resist the old defensive habits. You’ll be surprised by the results.

_____________________________

“I have experienced a major shift in my intimate relationship. We are no longer against each other – we are working together against the problems.” – David J., FL

 

PAIRS workshops are offered throughout the year.

See www.PAIRSVirginia.com for details.

The skill of hearing

The Problem

My partner says I don’t know how to listen. I think I do a good job, but we seem to misunderstand each other a lot.

The Solution

Even when we know the other person isn’t trying to hurt us on purpose, sometimes their responses make us feel like they aren’t really listening. Like every other skill you have, there is probably a better way to listen than we do naturally. 

Here are a few key pointers:  1) When you hear something that you don’t understand, or that seems negative, respond with a question in as positive a tone as you can. Questions that start with “Can you clarify …” or “How do…” or even “Why…”  can often let the other person clarify what they mean to say more fully and avoid jumping to conclusions. 2) When you do hear something you disagree with, try saying something like “That’s different than I see it, but I’d really like to hear more about your thoughts… maybe I’m missing some information.” And then let them clarify without jumping in with comments right away.  The more we open the door for respectful listening, the more others will be comfortable really sharing their feelings and ideas.

“PAIRS skills are so simple, and yet so powerful. I just wish I’d known about them years earlier!”  – Jason C.

The Problem:

If I were what I should be in our relationship, I would never be tired, forgetful, afraid, weak… but I am. Therefore, I feel inadequate. I must hide my feelings so you won’t find out how inadequate I really am … I live a lie, and I resent it.

The Solution:

All of us have times when we feel bad. Hiding our feelings from each other keeps us strangers and actually creates distance between us. The distance then makes us feel unloved and unlovable, which builds feelings of being inadequate.

Sharing feelings brings us closer. Sharing your feelings with your partner helps your partner to be able to confide their own feelings, too. Discover and learn ways of sharing those feelings in a non-blaming way – neither blaming your partner or yourself. Sitting quietly together and using “I” sentences, speak from your heart. For instance, you might say, “I notice recently that I don’t feel as productive at work as I’d like. It’s frustrating, and I don’t think things will change until the new person comes on board next month in my division. But I think you’re probably sensing I’m a bit stressed, and I just wanted to let you know what’s going on.”

Sharing doubts, frustrations, even if you are feeling a little unsure or weak, can be very connecting – IF the listening partner just listens with empathy and doesn’t jump in with lots of “fixes” and suggestions and comments. When we open up and share a vulnerability, hearing a “fix it” from our partner only heightens our feelings of inadequacy, even though that isn’t their intent. An empathetic hug or asking – “Anything I can do?” is much more connecting and will make you both feel better.  

[This month’s PAIRS Quick Tips concept is drawn from the book, Love Knots, written by PAIRS creator, Dr. Lori Gordon.]

“Before I just wanted out…PAIRS definitely helped save our marriage.” Jo K., NC

The Challenge of Connection

The Problem:

When I’m being very attentive and focusing on my partner, they pull into a shell — what do I do?

The Solution:

Often couples can get into a seeker-sought pattern, where one person takes the role of pursuing the other for attention, communication and activities together.

Typically, when that happens, the other person can react by distancing and seeming to not be interested or very enthused about whatever’s been suggested.  This can be about simple things like suggesting what to have for dinner, and include such diverse things as deciding about vacation plans or times for physical closeness. 

Take some time to think about whether this pattern is happening between you two.  Which are you most often — the seeker or the sought?  One way to change things is to recognize and talk about how it seems you’ve both fallen into one or the other way of reacting, and then making a concerted effort to “take turns” being in charge.  Alternate who initiates activities, or who decides on plans for the weekend.  Remind each other ….  it’s your turn to plan and my turn to follow along.  When doing this, remember to keep it light, and enjoy fun times together.

 

“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.