Betrayal No. 4 Make Your Partner Your Priority

Betrayal No. 4 Make Your Partner Your Priority

Today we are talking about what it means to form a coalition against your partner. It is the fourth type of betrayal of the ten betrayals John Gottman speaks of in his book What Make Love Last (2012).

You may or may not be surprised what a common occurrence this is for me in sessions; and I am sure it is the same for every other Winnipeg therapist out there. Somehow, during the various stages of your relationship, you feel you are competing with someone else for your partner’s attention.

Allow me to provide you with the two most common occurrences that take place relating to forming a coalition against your partner.

Jason is somewhat bitter and jealous over what seems to him to be an over-empowering relationship his wife Jill has with her mom. Jill talks to her mom every single day for over an hour, either in person or by phone. Jill calls her mom ‘her best friend’. Jill constantly buys her mother ‘thoughtful gifts’ randomly and vis versa. When Jason has mentioned this in the past, he is met with Jill’s defensive comments such as, ‘What’s wrong with that? She is my mom for goodness sake.’ Through therapy, Jill finally realized the hurt and betrayal Jason has felt throughout the marriage. With the help of his therapist, Jason was able to express to Jill that when it came to Jill’s emotional energy, he felt he was left with ‘the scraps’ at the end of the day.

Then there is Mike and Tanis. Tanis feels Mike’s mom is ‘forever present’ in their lives. She is great at micro-managing Mike’s life. When Tanis first met Mike, she felt his mom was overly caring and she saw this as a positive. However, years later, Tanis now realizes that it is not healthy. It doesn’t take much for Tanis to become upset and Mike constantly feels he needs to repair the damage his mom left, which is exhausting. He tries to reassure his wife that, ‘Mom is just trying to help; she didn’t mean anything with that comment’. Through counselling, Mike was able to see that he needed to send his mother a clear message, that is, Tanis comes first. He needs to give his all towards his wife and their marriage. More importantly, he will no longer listen to his mom’s demeaning comments about the woman he loves. Learning to set up boundaries makes Tanis feel valued and loved. Mike also realizes sharing his personal life with his mom isn’t fair to Tanis or his mom. Involving immediate family in one’s romantic relationships is rarely recommended. Let’s just say, immediate family have been known to give ‘idiot advice’ because they are too wrapped up what they think they know and what they actually know.  

“Involving immediate family in one’s romantic relationships is rarely recommended.”

via @luellajonk

How to Love Yourself

How to Love Yourself

So, some of you have a really hard time conforming to the idea of loving yourself. What does that even mean? What does that even look like? Does that mean scheduling a massage once a month? Getting my nails done or looking into the mirror and saying, ‘I love you’. Sure, all of the above fit the bill. But there is more…

What really saddens me the most as a therapist is hearing what my clients tell me about the voices in their head. These messages are often very unkind. Therapists dub this voice as ‘the inner critic’, or the voice that is very unkind and often won’t shut up. It is the first to tell you how ‘stupid’, ‘bad’, or ‘ugly’ you are inside and out.

This kind of self-talk was completely foreign to me before being a therapist. Why would people tell themselves these words I thought? It was so unnatural to me. However, once they tell me a bit more about some ‘tough times’ they had growing up, it made a lot more sense to me. After all, as a kid, you are left to whatever frontal lobe compacity you have at that moment of your life. What reasoning ability does a 5-, 8- or 15-year-old really have anyway? Your adult mind really only develops to its highest potential closer to 21 years of age for women and 22 for men.

I do my best to bring this to the attention of my clients. Whatever you once thought about yourself, it not applicable to you today. Today, February 13, 2021. Why would you let the past dictate your future? Are you really the same person you were 40 years ago? 20, or even 2 years ago? Hell no! You have learned, grown, experienced, and evolved over the years to become the person you are today. That special little snowflake.

Well, unfortunately it isn’t that easy. Why? Because our precious little minds have made life ‘easy’ for us by developing a habit of thought. Afterall, if you are saying these punitive words over and over to yourself then you must mean it right? When our lizard brain takes over the dialogue between you and that primal instinct might sound something like this, “So you seem to be saying this repeatedly to yourself. Why don’t I make life simple for you and just make it automatic. Let me set this up with your subconscious, but it shouldn’t be a problem to make this a habit of thought”.

And there you have it. Just as you would set up your bank account to ‘autopay the cellphone bill’, it just all magically happens behind the scenes even without your consultation.

So, now what? (you ask) How do I get rid of this inner critic? Well, it is rather simple. You do the same thing you did to create this habit of thought, but shift it in reverse. Yes, you tell yourself (repeatedly) I am enough, amazing, a rock, confident, and so on and so forth. You fake it till you make it. And you tie it back to experiences and events in your life where you WERE all of those things and more… you keep on linking those thoughts to the positive statements about yourself and soon you will realize you have changed. You have evolved into a different person. You don’t have the bully, the teacher, the parent, the ex-partner telling you these things anymore. You had to endure those words then – but you certainly do not need to do it now. You are not under their rule or roof any longer.

You are certain to go to bed with YOURSELF and wake up with YOURSELF every single day of your life, so whether you like it or not…you need to make this relationship, the relationship with yourself I mean, the best relationship ever!

You need to make this relationship, the relationship with yourself I mean, the best relationship ever!

via @luellajonk

One of my clients, who is 71, lives alone (widowed of 5 years this June), ordered herself a ‘dinner for two’ along with wine and treats, a bouquet of flowers, and some beautiful perfume to be delivered to her this weekend. Love it.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, treat yourself please. Don’t wait for your partner, your friend, or whoever to show love towards you. Do it for yourself because you are special – just the way you are – right now, today.

Happy Valentines!

Betrayal No. 3 Dishonesty

Betrayal No. 3 Dishonesty

This is quite straight forward. At least I thought it was straight forward until clients entered my room justifying why, ‘in that situation or in that moment’ lying seemed like the right thing to do. The justification usually sounds something like, “I didn’t want to hurt you” or “I knew you were going through a rough patch at work and I didn’t want to stack on another stress in your life”. Wow, that sounds so beautiful…doesn’t it? So caring and lovely.

Umm…NO. Sorry. That ain’t going to cut it with me. Dishonesty is actually an extremely selfish act because rather than feel hurt in the moment, it is much easier to ignore the truth, so as to avoid displeasure. That person may then justify it within delusional thought processes viewing the mistruth as an act of kindness towards their partner. When has dishonesty become an act of kindness?

Let me lead by example, all of which are breaches of trust.

  1. Investing a considerable sum of money without notifying your partner of the ‘new investment’. If the word considerable is too vague, establish a cap on that amount.
  2. Enrolling your child in therapy, special classes, activities without first discussing it.
  3. Lending a family member money without first notifying your partner.
  4. Considering taking on a large project at work (which will suck up a lot of time and energy from you), which means less time for the family.
  5. Pretending you are attending meetings, classes, etc. to please a spouse when you are not.

Obviously, these are only a few, and to some they may sound ‘obvious’, but as a therapist, nothing surprises me anymore.

When looking at patterns of behaviour, chronic fibbing or lying can be a real concern. Afterall, we are human, and we all have weak moments when we feel too overwhelmed and tell a lie.

“The lies worth taking note of are those that are done when there is no threat to the relationship. “

via @luellajonk

The lies worth taking note of are those that are done when there is no threat to the relationship. Lying can be deeply ingrained in a person’s psyche. It may have been established when very young, for a reason that seemed logical to a 5-year-old, but as a grown adult it no longer has a purpose. Unless there is frontal lobe is damage, you have the potential to change your thoughts. Parents that raise chronic liars are typically authoritarian, dismissive and punitive in nature.

As a therapist and marriage counsellor, I try to help a client rid the habit by taking them back to the source of the problem. Sometimes, it takes only that. Finding out the ‘why’ is enough for that pattern to stop. The client realizes they are safe to come from a place of honesty. A place of love and connection. Better yet, they see intimate conversations are possible only with raw, unadulterated conversations. Showing your partner your weaknesses and fears is the key to a lasting relationship and a happy life.