Living Isolated In Your Relationship

Sometimes couples come in for counseling because they feel they have grown apart and they just aren’t sharing with each other like they used to.  They tell me of how unhappy they feel and how they don’t know if their partnership can be saved.  Then they look to me to help them fix the relationship.

Often in the counseling process a couple may become aware of how long they have been living separate lives.  They’ve been co-existing together.  Sometimes they do this really well, and some couples are really proud that they never fight.  Even so, they come in because something is missing between them.

I listen to their stories and history and I begin to wonder when they started to leave each other.  When I say leave each other I am not talking about geography. What I am curious about is when did each person stop asking the other for what they wanted or needed to stay connected and happy in the relationship?  When did this couple begin the slide into separate lives?

The separation information is important because what ever was happening marks the beginning of when each person began to rely on themselves instead of their partner? Both people start accepting their right to get their own happiness outside the relationship.  For one person it could show up as spending more time at work.  For another it could mean travel without the mate.  Maybe it’s a connection to different groups or classes.  What ever takes you away from the other is where we start.  I am less interested in what the person was doing; I am more interested in what the person was feeling because people look outside the relationship when someone feels they are not what they need.

It usually boils down to something simple, as simple as a connection with the other.  I often hear couples say, “We just don’t communicate anymore.”

Sometimes people have hurt feelings over unresolved pain from the past.  If you are in pain in your relationship and you have more or less accepted that you have to live with it without healing, sooner or later you may seek some kind of relief outside the relationship and that could drive you away from your partner.

I like to help couples look at what happened between them, before their lives began to separate.  We examine what each felt, and learn why they reacted the way they did.  This is usually helpful and allows the couple to begin understanding each other in a new way.

When we discover what has not been resolved or attended too we can revisit old wounds and begin to heal.  Once the healing has occurred couples find that turning toward their partner for relief feels better than turning away, and that’s usually what partners are after, a chance for a deeper connection.

Send your comments to linda@lindanusbaum.com

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Looking Underneath

There are many reasons why people seek counseling.  One of the most common is that they are unhappy in their lives.  They know something doesn’t feel right, and they long for a time, place, and feeling of something better.  They can’t really describe this place but they know they want it.

These clients I’m describing are all successful.  They’ve built something with their lives; careers, relationships, families.  They are rooted in what they do and their responsibilities. They may be proud of their accomplishments too. Yet sometimes they say they feel like a fraud because of a hollow place inside.

I know, having changed careers to become a therapist, I’ve gone through my own challenges trying to find that better, more peaceful place that many of my clients seek.  I know it’s hard to look underneath everything you have constructed and you know to be true and have lived for the last 20, 30, or 40 years.

But unhappiness is a terrific motivator.  When people are unhappy in their lives they will do what they do best, look for a way out of the unhappiness.  Often this search leads to counseling and that path leads to understanding the self.

What does the person want out of life?  What makes the person happy?  What would the person like to change?  These are simple questions.  Yet the answers are sometimes very hard to know, because most people are too busy with their lives to really look. 

So look now at your life.  Are you in a place that feels right?  Are you content?  Notice I’m not asking if you are happy.  I know that this feeling is fleeting.  It’s great to be happy.  Finding what makes you happy is what I am interested in and that journey takes practice.  It starts with you saying yes to you.

If you live in a place where you say to yourself “I should” before everything you do, I’ll bet you feel tired and overworked.  If your way of being consists of saying “no” a lot it’s possible you experience anxiety and stress.  In both these cases “self care” is probably on the back burner.  Self care; I talk about this a lot.  You may be saying to yourself “I don’t have time to be selfish.”

Sometimes we don’t know how to honor ourselves with self care.  We may be experts at helping others, and we may be accustomed to putting our needs last.  By the time we get around to taking care of ourselves we are exhausted, and we might even get mad. 

I like to help people learn to attend to their needs, wants and desires.  That doesn’t mean you have to ignore everything you already do in your life.  It just means you make you a priority to you.  You learn how to take care of yourself in a way that feels good to you.  This is where you grow, like developing a new muscle.  And you know that unhappiness I talked about earlier?  When people find a way to take care of themselves they feel less unhappiness. 

Feeling content, grounded and peaceful, I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t long for it.

Send your comments to linda@lindanusbaum.com

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How to Get Rid of Hurt

More than anything, most couples are looking for a happy relationship.  People want to feel good about their life and their mate.  Some couples live in relationships where they can wish they could be happy.

If you are waiting for something to happen to make you feel this way, or wondering when you will feel happy again, maybe it’s time to examine what you may be carrying that could be preventing it.  Is it possible you may be carrying around some resentment toward your mate?

Do you feel angry when you talk to him or her?  Do you prepare for an argument around the same issues?  Do you long for that time in your relationship when it was better?  Have you just resigned yourself to the situation you are in?

If you find yourself nodding your head to any of these questions, why not take a look at what’s going on inside you?  It’s possible you may be carrying around some old wounds that have never healed.  When we get our feelings hurt that hurt stays with us until it heals.  If we don’t tell someone, “Hey, I got my feelings hurt when this happened” we may still be carrying around unfinished business.

Old hurts don’t stay raw, they usually scab over and then we harden ourselves against any future pain.  On top of that scab we might pile on anger at the person who hurt us, and that anger might come out every time we have a disagreement with them.  You are not playing out the original hurt, but because the original pain was never healed it feels the same every time there is conflict.

So how do we get over old hurts?  It takes exploration and an open mind.  Sometimes we can accomplish this with our mate if they are patient and understanding.  Sometimes we can work through our discomfort with a trusted friend.  Often people choose a counselor to listen with trained ears to help people process their histories.  Whatever feels right, is the right thing for you.  And that’s how we start to heal.

The first step in a healing process is to show the light on the wound.  Look at it from all angles.  Talk about the stories that the event created and get everything out.  After everything is said and there is nothing left to say about the incident and the pain, the next step could be to think about what might make you feel better.  Maybe you need an acknowledgment that you have pain and it’s been a hard road for you.  Maybe you need an apology from the one who hurt you.  Maybe you want them to do something for you. 

We’re talking about a resolution to help you move through the difficulty.  Sometimes we just need someone to notice we are suffering.  And sometimes we need another to take some responsibility for it.  If our partner is interested in strengthening the relationship, chances are he or she will want you to feel better and not suffer.  If this is true, they may be more than willing to acknowledge or apologize.

These are the steps that help heal and solidify a relationship; allowing your partner to see you from the inside, your pain and your hopes and desires.  Also important is that the partner wants what’s best for the mate and is doing his or her part to help the mate heal.

Getting over hurts, it’s one of the best ways to strengthen your relationship.

Let me know what you think.  Send me your comments and suggestions for future articles.

linda@lindanusbaum.com

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Talking About the Fights

Couples looking for ways to improve their relationships often come to counseling by bringing in the latest fight or argument as evidence of the difficulty.  I listen to the stories of what was said and what actions people take after the arguments.  I sense the hurt feelings and the sadness that accompanies these fights.  Sometimes there are tears.  Almost all the time there is anguish and disappointment.

It’s hard to think that these feelings would be appropriate considering the circumstances, but they are.  It’s hard to talk about what doesn’t work.  It’s hard to bring up the stuff that makes both people feel bad.  But without a roadmap I can’t see what needs repair.  I have to get a three dimensional view of the communications between couples.  Often, it’s not what is being said that reveals the truth.

What I’m really looking for is what people are feeling.  The feelings are the clues that help me understand what isn’t being expressed.  It’s usually the unexpressed thoughts, feelings and desires that holds the key to the difficulty.  It feels bad to fight with the person you love.  No one feels good about it.

Often the fights are just the mechanism to get what we need.  If we feel alone, neglected or taken advantaged of in the relationship, if we are not aware of the feelings that are associated with those states we might just lash out against our mate when we feel them.  If we feel pushed beyond our limit we might snap because we are just too overwhelmed.  Maybe we are just tired of not being understood. These circumstances don’t feel good.  No one wants to stay in them.  One way to change the way we feel is to complain, criticize, stay silent or yell.  All these actions will change the energy between you and your partner.

You may get what you want short term, but if these are your methods to get your needs met you are probably exhausted.  Your life is probably hard and you are tired a lot.  I want you to get your needs met.  I want both partners to be happy and content in a relationship.  I also know there are peaceful ways to accomplish this, and that’s what I get to help couples learn.

Sometimes couples feel that a perfect relationship doesn’t have any fighting.  I’ve worked with a lot of couples, and I’ve been around a lot of couples as most of us have in our lives.  Can you recall any couple that has a perfect relationship?  I can’t.  I’m not saying get used to the difficulty.  I want you to be difficulty free.  What I am saying is learn how to be easy with each other.  Learn how to understand your partner and help him or her be happy.  Learn what makes you happy.  Get good at asking for what you want.  When you are happy, your partner will be happy.  Happiness is a funny thing, it multiplies.

I talked to a lady recently that I had worked with a few months ago and she tells me she and her husband are doing great.  I asked her how she accomplished this.  She said she just stopped expecting things to be a certain way, and accepted life as it comes.  She also said she was starting to take care of herself and do things for herself, and that’s made her happier too.  It sounded so simple when she spoke.  I know she worked hard to get where she is, and she feels good, in fact, better than ever.

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