How To: Correct Controlling Behaviors

As a marriage and family counselor, I work with many individuals struggling with the controlling nature of their partner. In some cases, one partner is more controlling but most often, both people are exerting an unhealthy level of control in their relationship. The one doing the controlling usually doesn’t see it as an issue, he or she views control as being “right.”

“If she’d just do what I tell her to do, everything would be okay.”

“If he’d just listen to me, we’d be better off.”

“He just doesn’t want to admit that I’m right.”

However, gone unnoticed and unchecked, controlling behavior can lead to feelings of disrespect, hurt and anger. We all want to have our way sometimes but when our way becomes the only way at the expense of our partner’s feelings, we are doing our partnership a disservice. Not to mention setting ourselves up to live a very lonely existence.

My goal as a counselor is to help couples end the “control-conflict-anger-resentment” cycle, stop justifying their behavior during this cycle and learn how to communicate better with a healthy dose of give and take.

The first step is understanding the root cause of control.

The Illusion of Control

Control is a seductive illusion. When we think it’s working, it encourages us to exert more of it. Even when it comes from the best of intentions, trying to control your partner can damage a relationship. The one being controlled is agreeing to the demands put on them and the controller is then responsible for the outcome of every situation. This cycle should be avoided early on in your relationship.

What causes controlling behavior?

Fear is the most common cause for controlling behavior. We tend to tighten our grip when we’re acting on fear – think of the death grip you give the handlebar at the top of the rollercoaster, right before it takes off over the edge! When fear kicks in, we think tightening our grip can stop bad things from happening. In relationships, one person is saying, “Stop trying to control me.” while the other person sees that protest as completely unjustified. The more one protests, the tighter the other’s grip becomes and they both end up in a cycle that’s hard to break.

Fear can also come from childhood experiences – Not being able to control your life or environment, the feeling that things were spinning out of control, general chaos in your household or family dynamic, having a controlling parent or guardian.

Where Does All This Fear Come from in the First Place?

Most the time, fear comes from childhood experiences such as:

  • Not being able to control your life or your environment;

  • The feeling that things were spinning out of control;

  • Chaos in the house or the family.

Growing up with a domineering parent can create the feeling that he or she is getting a need met while our needs go unsatisfied. We can become afraid that we’ll never get our needs met if we aren’t assertive, which is a lot to take on for a child, and as we drive forward for what we want, we steamroll others around us. We grow up practicing the same behaviors we hated.

How to Correct Controlling Behaviors

1.     Be aware of your behavior.

Reflect on your behaviors and actions at the end of each day, when things are still fresh on your mind. When might you have been controlling? Whom did you try to control? What situations did you try to control? What were you feeling when you were in control mode? Awareness is the first step in making a change. When we can label and confront our feelings, we can see patterns in our behaviors that are not effective in our relationship.

2.     Connect with your fear.

What is the underlying fear that’s driving your behavior? Are you afraid of not being able to control your life or your environment? Maybe you’re afraid that things were spinning out of control? Maybe you’re still feeling that there will be some kind of chaos in the house or the family if you don’t control everything? Acknowledge that fear is driving you. Be honest and identify that fear and resolve to bring it out in the open.

3.     Take responsibility for your actions

You may have stepped on a lot of toes with your controlling behavior. That’s okay. People are generally forgiving when you apologize and take full responsibility for your actions. Don’t place blame on your partner. Instead, tell him or her that you needed some time to reflect on your actions in order to do better in the future.

4.     Loosen your grip.

Consciously adjust the power dynamic in your relationships by giving control to others. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to this new normal. Over time you’ll notice that the control you thought you had is no more real than the control others are placing on you. You can let your partner take the lead in some areas of your life. In fact, this is essential to a healthy relationship.

Relationships are about give and take with the power dynamic constantly shifting. Trying to control your partner throws that dynamic off balance and can damage a relationship over time. You can correct your controlling behaviors by first addressing the fear behind them. If you need professional guidance, click here to schedule your complimentary initial consultation with me.

Navigating Difficult Conversations With Your Partner

As a life and performance coach, I know a few things about having difficult conversations. Mine have included topics that would make most people cringe. To be honest, I’d like to put off difficult conversations as much as everyone else, but I’m sought out to help clients resolve problems that can’t happen if I avoid putting the issues right out there on the table.

The thing that gives me courage is my belief that even though the conversation will be difficult and bring up painful emotions, the results will make it all worthwhile. Maybe you can relate? Having difficult conversations is part of any relationship.

The alternative is what I call the ‘Avoiding-Lingering-Blindsiding’ paradigm. We avoid having a necessary conversation. Meanwhile the consequences of the lingering issues cause festering. When the lingering issue becomes too much to bear, we finally feel pushed into the conversation. But now, our emotions are cranked up and we’re not as effective in maintaining our calm and presenting the issues in a way that doesn’t seem attacking or condemning. Meanwhile, the person on the receiving end feels completely blindsided and ambushed by the whole thing. Think about it for a moment. Whatever the challenge is, it’s probably been going on for some time and it was never brought up. Now you want to talk about it!

The issue won’t go away by itself and putting them on the bottom of your to-do list while you continue to let the consequences linger does no one any good. Having difficult conversations is a basic skill in all relationships; they are a part of growth as a couple. When I teach Team Building for Greatness to government and private sector clients, we explore the stages on building a team which include (1) Forming (2) Storming (3) Norming and (4) Performing. The team grows and increases attachment as it progresses through those stages, especially the Storming stage.

Consider these points as you navigate your next difficult conversation:

1. Avoid the “Now” and “Later” Approach

How many times have you wanted to have a conversation and you reached out to someone saying, “We need to talk later?” When exactly is later? Is it later today, later this week or later this month? While they wait, the other person becomes more defensive, anxious and worried not knowing what the conversation is about or when it’s going to happen. A better approach is saying, “I’d like to talk about {fill-in-the-blank}. Does later today work for you?”

Stating the issue and proposing a timeframe gives the other person a chance to get his/her thoughts together ahead of time. You can avoid potentially explosive reactions or worse yet, silence, when you give the other person time to prepare for your conversation.

2. Pick a neutral location.

It’s impossible to cut all the emotion out of a difficult conversation, but the location you pick can add or lessen stress and intensity. Picking the bedroom is sure to add heat but talking in the living room may lessen the emotions. I never coach clients in their homes unless they have a health concern as the feelings brought up in the conversations we have in their living room, kitchen, dining room, etc. will linger long after I leave. My office is a neutral safe space for coaching. You don’t have to leave your house for every conversation but try to find a neutral location where emotions can flow freely.

3. Be direct and clear.

As a cadet, I remember being taught, “Never give a command that can be understood. Give a command that cannot possibly be misunderstood.” The same thing works when having difficult relationship conversations. Ask questions along the way to make sure your message was understood.

4. Focus on results rather than blame.

It’s easy to launch into generalizations and blame when you’re upset, putting the other person on the defensive. Defensive people are often resistant to change, which has you both back to square one. Instead, focus on the results you hope to gain from the conversation. Notice the difference in the statements below.

“You never call when you’re going to be late! It’s like you leave the house and forget all about me!”

“I worry about you when you don’t call and you come home late. Can you please give me a call or a quick text the next time you’re running late?”

To lower their defenses even more, try saying, “I’ve been meaning to bring this up, but I wanted to see if things would change. I will let you know sooner the next time something is bugging me.”

5. Practice active listening.

Listen to what he/she has to say instead of positioning yourself for a comeback. He might have a valid point that pushes the conversation further. She might present some new information that changes your position. Quiet your inner voice long enough to really hear what is being said.

6. Anticipate future conversations.

I rarely have clients who only book one session because most issues require a series of difficult conversations to iron things out. We often try to unload every emotion in one conversation. Understand that the first conversation will be the first of many.

Below are the 5 stages you might experience in your difficult conversations –

1.     Clearly defining the issue

2.     Discovering the challenges and many sides of the issue

3.     Envisioning the possible outcome of the issue

4.     Developing solutions

5.     Implementing the solutions

If you push too hard in the first conversation, you will have a hard time getting through the stages above. And each stage is vital to resolving conflict in a healthy way.

7. Be willing to compromise.

All relationships take compromise. There is your position on an issue, there is his/her position and somewhere in the middle is something you both can live with. If you’re so focused on having things your way, you may set yourself up for future resistance. Be willing to compromise for the benefit of a healthy, long-term relationship.

The Decisions You Make and The Actions You Take

I recently watched an episode of Dr. Phil where he ended the show with an interesting proposition for the audience. He had them take out their cell phones, scroll forward one year and mark the date. His proposition – depending on the decisions they make on the day of the show forward, their lives would either be the same, better or worse on the date one year into the future. I love that concept! However, I can attest from life experience that it’s not simply the decisions we make but also the actions we take after the decisions. Let’s dig into that concept a little.

Think about it, 364 days from right now, your life will be the same, better or worse. If it’s the same, then there is a strong possibility that you have underutilized 364 days. You either didn’t make any life-changing decisions or you didn’t act on those decisions. That may not sound like much, but when we combine a few years of indecisiveness coupled with inaction, it’s not long before we notice there is more life behind us than in front of us. It’s a gradual shift.

If your life is worse in one year, then you might be experiencing a setback. Maybe, circumstances and situations got in the way; it happens to everyone at some point. Maybe you made ineffective choices or great decisions, but failed to follow through on them. Now you’re not only further behind than you were previously, you’ll have to put in extra effort to get back to where you started. That’s not very inviting is it?

Quite often we avoid making wrong decisions by making no decisions at all. In effect, no decision and no action, is a decision. Most people avoid making decisions due to a fear of making the wrong ones. They end up reacting to things that come their way. Remember, it is better to make the wrong decision than no decision at all!

Honestly, most of the time our decisions will not be spot on. However, an incorrect decision and the results that follow provide the opportunity to adjust.

Another point to consider; sometimes you make the right decision - other times you have to make the decision right. Making the right decision is often a matter of luck. Making the decision right is a matter of effectively adjusting your actions. Check the results of the decisions you make and the actions that follow, then adjust.

Look at the upside of a wrong decision - you’ll learn from it and learning is always a good thing. Indecision and inaction are due to a lot of things, but most often it’s fear of the results and/or failure. The best course of action is to determine in advance to make a decision and deal with the results. You may miss your target more often than you’ll hit it, but even a missed shot is better than no shot at all!

As a cadet, I trained in mortar fire. When you fire that first round, you get one of two results:

Result Number 1 – You hit the target on the first round. Congratulations! Luck just smiled on you. It doesn’t happen very often, so enjoy it as much as possible when it does! A first round good decision is not very likely. Don’t get upset with yourself because you missed; take it and get on with life.

Result Number 2 – You miss. Your round went left, right or stopped short of the target. Don’t worry; notice where it lands, adjust, fire and shoot again. You might not hit the target with the second round, but if you continue to adjust, sooner or later you’ll hit it. Each missed shot is an opportunity to gather more information to influence your next shot. That’s a metaphor for life, too!

As life gets more complicated, you’re sure to start missing those first round hits. Don’t concentrate on getting good at first round hits. Instead, concentrate on mastering adjusting your fire. Make sure you observe your results, adjust and take another shot.

Hold onto this as a life rule: Sometimes we make the right decision. Sometimes we have to adjust and make the decision right.

The Step-By-Step Process – Simple steps to increase the odds that 364 days from now your life will be better:

Step 1 – Decide what you want your life to look like one year from now. That’s developing your vision.

Step 2 – Make some decisions that will move you in that direction.

Step 3 – Develop a list of actions based on the decisions you’ve made. And one by one, take those actions.

Step 4 – Observe your results. This will lay a foundation for adjusting your actions.

Step 5 – Ask yourself the question “Did I make the right decision or do I need to make the decision right?”

Take out your cell phone, scroll forward one year and mark the date. I guarantee that on that day your life will either be the same, better or worse. It all depends on the decisions you make and the actions you take from this day forward.

 What’s your first move?

Wish you would just focus on me...

The other morning, I was completing an article about the benefits of intentional focus in relationships. And as fate would have it, a music video came on (I often use them for background noise when I’m writing – Don’t judge me!). This particular one caught my attention. It was by the artist H.E.R. The lyrics are:

Me
Can you focus on me?
Baby, can you focus on me? Babe

Hands in the soap
Have the faucet's running and I keep looking at you
Stuck on your phone and you're stuck in your zone
You don't have a clue

But I don't wanna give up
Baby, I just want you to get up
Lately I've been a little fed up

Wish you would just focus on

Me

The words made me question how many people in relationships wonder what it would take to get their partner to focus on them? If you don’t focus on the house plants, eventually they die. If you don’t focus on the car, sooner or later it’s going to leave you high and dry along the side of the road. If you never pay attention to the house, you can expect trouble in the very near future.

But for some reason, we have the expectation that we can live in the same house with someone else and things should just keep moving in a positive direction. If you don’t intentionally focus on your partner and the things that are important to him or her, at least some of the time, he or she is going to put all your stuff in the box to the left (another video came on).

I’m not talking about being perpetually under foot or the “watching every move you make” type of behavior. I’m talking about intentionally focusing on what makes her happy, what makes him feel loved. We sometimes find it easier to focus when there are dates on the calendar – birthdays, holidays and anniversaries – but what about all the time in between these special occasions?

There’s an observable cycle that happens in even the closest relationships. Dr. Steven Covey calls it ‘The Tyranny of the Urgent.’

1. We start off really focused on our partner. We need to do that to get him or her focused on us, right? Things are urgent in the early stages.

2. Life shows up and a whole bunch of urgent stuff that we need to get done as quickly as possible. Focusing on our partner is still important to us; however, it’s just not urgent anymore – he or she fades to the background.

3. Our significant other (SO) gets upset because she feels forgotten, he feels invisible. We love our partner, showing him or her is urgent, so we start that process all over again – back to number 1.

We all go through this cycle because life happens. It’s when it becomes a habit and your SO always feels on the back burner that it becomes a problem. So, how do you break the cycle and start to put more focus on your partner? Consider these questions -

  1. Do you have an intentional program/process to impress your SO that is ‘urgent stuff resistant’?

  2. Do you go out of your way to intentionally try to touch their heart on a regular basis?

  3. Do you make plans to surprise them on a regular basis?

To break it down further, work through this 3-step process -

First, determine what exactly ‘focus’ means to you. You might read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman for ideas. Does focusing on her mean having a weekly pre-scheduled date night? Could you focus on him daily by cozying up on the couch before bed to talk about the day? Maybe focusing on her means listening more (and giving less advice) and focusing on him means letting him teach you about his newest hobby?

Second, schedule that intentional appointment. I mean actually put it on a calendar. That makes it ‘urgent stuff resistant.’ Plan those date nights and block off time that’s about the two of you – put it on your calendar. Don’t leave it to memory or you will forget…there’s just something about a scheduled appointment that automatically makes it appear that much more important. You have birthdays, anniversaries, meeting days, etc. on there already, right?

Third, keep track of your partner’s needs, new interests, wants, likes, etc. Take note of what she’s been talking about a lot lately and what he’s interested in these days. Get specific so you can plan events your SO will actually enjoy. My wife loves being in nature so I plan day trips for us to take a bike ride to the Shenandoah. I love seafood so she’s always scouting out new seafood restaurants for us to try.

If you try something  he or she loves, do it again – if it flopped, give something else a try. Being together and going through those ‘flops’ together will only make your bond stronger, right? Have fun with it and make it urgent.

Do these things and your SO might not be thinking:

You don't have a clue

But I don't wanna give up
Baby, I just want you to get up
Lately I've been a little fed up

Wish you would just focus … on Me

 

Will This Last? Part 5 of 6

If you’re new to this series and haven’t read part 1, I suggest you stop here and start from the beginning. We’ve been focusing on the age-old relationship question, “Will this last?” by breaking down the answer into a series of more questions for you to draw that conclusion for yourself.

You might find that your answers aren’t as black and white as you’d hoped. But, is any relationship ever so straight forward? In my decades of coaching, I’ve helped clients answer this question enough to know that there may be some gray areas. However, be mindful of the majority of your answers to help you better determine, “Will this last?”

Here in part 5, we will examine the issue of trust.

***

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who didn’t trust you? Can you remember constantly walking on egg shells? It seemed like no matter what you did to reassure them, they still had suspicions!

The reason for this is that your partner is looking for evidence to support the idea that you can’t be trusted. And a lot of times, whatever we look for we find. If I’m looking for evidence of committed love, everything that comes to my attention will validate my belief that my partner is committed and in love with me. But just the opposite is also true. If I’m looking for evidence of dirty dealings, everything that comes to my attention will bear that out.

Both trust and distrust develop and increase over time. If your relationship started on a foundation of distrust (maybe caused by their last or last few relationships) you might be better off cutting things short until your partner can deal with it, rather than spending your time working to gain a base level of trust that might not ever show up.

How do you know whether your partner really trusts you? Here are some easy questions you can use to determine if they ‘trust’ you:

1. Does he/she respect your boundaries? Believe it or not, your cell phone, your emails and your texts are just that; yours! They are your private property. You are not compelled to share what your receiving from anyone else.

And don’t ever fall for the old, “Well if you had nothing to hide, you would let me have complete access to all your communications with everyone else.” My wife has complete access to my cell phone all the time and she has never asked for it.

If your partner is overstepping boundaries on a hunt for evidence against you, your relationship probably won’t last.

2. Does he/she constantly question you about your activities? All you did was go out with your friends just like you’ve done a hundred other times. And the next day, you have to give a blow by blow of everything that occurred. Who did you talk to? Where did you go? Who ate what? What time did you get home? Who did you dance with? Did anyone hit on you? When are you going out with them again?

Having a relationship that requires all these questions will become tiring very quickly. After a while you’ll find yourself not wanting to go out simply to avoid the post-event questions. If you’re starting to feel like you’re in a relationship with the FBI, it probably won’t last.

3. Is he/she controlling? All good relationships have elements of both interdependence and independence. You don’t give up one for the other. Interdependence is a mutual reliance that exists between two independent people. Interdependence cannot exist when one is controlling, and the other is controlled.

Does your SO (significant other) put forth effort to manipulate and handle your money, your social life, your friends and family? Does her or she get angry when you have the audacity to make plans, even when he or she is invited? As your relationship develops, there will be some mutual dependence on each other, but when control takes over, that’s when you start to experience interdependence without independence. If you starting to feel as if rather than being with them you’d rather try to escape, it probably won’t last.

4. Do they try to smother you and your time? I have found that time away from my SO generates a longing for when we can be together. That’s probably because I have a pretty good degree of confidence that she feels the same way. I love those times when we can have some ‘Us’ time. But I wouldn’t want to give me my ‘Me’ time. It’s part of how I enjoy life. If you can’t remember the last time you enjoyed ‘Me’ time and feel as if they’re smothering you, it probably won’t last.

Distrust in a relationship plays itself out in a lot of ways. If your significant other has behaviors that include:

·      Not respecting your boundaries

·      Constantly questioning you about your activities

·      Being overly controlling

·      Trying to smother you and your time

·      Putting down others that are a part of your life

I’m sorry to say it…It simply won’t last!

Stay tuned for updates on Part 6. If you need a relationship check-up based on these questions, schedule your initial consultation with me here.

Will This Last? Part 4 of 6

If you haven’t read parts 1 through 3 of this series, take a moment to read them here –

1. Goal and ambitions – do you share similar life goals and ambitions?

2. Getting along with others – how your partner interacts with your circle of family, friends, strangers, etc.

3. Time and money – how you manage your time as a couple, how to handle money matters

Here in part 4, we explore a simple topic that has many layers – whether your significant other (SO) has a focus on you, including what’s important to you. And no, this isn’t about your SO watching every move you make and wanting to be joined at the hip. But you do enter their sense of curiosity some of the time? Do they ever curtail their personal interests to engage with you because you are now one of their personal interests? Or, are all your discussions about the children, work and the bills?

How do you know your partner is thinking about you? Below are some easy questions you can use to determine whether they have a focus on you.

1. Do you have a title?

Out of nowhere they have a title for you that they use around others. You have become ‘My man,’ ‘My woman,’ ‘My boo,’ ‘My bae.’ And remember; it’s not enough for them to have a name for you when you’re all alone. Do they use that same name when they’re around people they care about? It’s okay to be their ‘Boo’ when you’re alone. But it’s another thing all together when they call you ‘Boo’ in front of their best friends and family members. Have you gotten a title yet?

2. Does your partner make an effort to understand you?

Understanding comes by study. You want to be in a relationship with someone who cares enough about you to study you. The person that has a focus on you actually takes the time to contemplate everything about you. They really think about what’s important to you and then use that information to engage with you. Does your SO try to exist with you in an understanding way?

3. Does your SO find ways to make you happy?

You’ll start to experience little surprises. She got you something in your favorite color or made plans and tried to surprise you. He recalls something you said in conversation and asks you more about it. These little surprises don’t have to cost a thing – a thoughtful gesture, a handwritten note or cozy night for just the two of you. Is your SO trying to see that smile on your face?

It really is the ‘little things’ that help relationships endure. Now that you have read and answered questions for 1/2 of this series, how would you rate your relationship thus far?

I would love to hear from you! Comment below or email me directly at hiddenruleshq@gmail.com

7 Self-Care Tips

You've probably been hearing a lot about self-care lately. It might seem like the next trendy buzzword, but it’s a concept that many of us could stand to practice more often. Self-care is the practice of deliberately taking care of our mind, body and spirit with activities, mindset shifts and rituals that nourish us from the inside out.  

We seem to believe that taking care of others means they will also take care of us. Or, that helping more people means more people showing up to help us. I still have moments where I put so many things on the front burner of my life that the only place for me is the back burner. It doesn’t take long to burn out and have nothing left for yourself.

Now is the perfect time to reexamine your self-care routine. Below are my top 7 self-care practices.

1. Embrace the fact that self-care is not selfish. This is first important step in practicing self-care. Taking care of yourself is an absolute necessity because you can’t serve from any empty vessel. We all need regularly scheduled “me time,” so carve out the time and stick with it. If you think, I’ll take care of myself once I get everything else done…think back on a time when you actually got everything else done. It’s been a while, right? So, you might as well take time out for yourself now.

2. Get comfortable loving yourself as you are.  Strengths and flaws! Remind yourself daily of what’s great about you, and limit your focus on what’s not so good. Go out of your way to limit comparing yourself to others. They came into the world on a different mission than yours. Figure out what you have, what you want and start living a life that is aligned with that. There’s nothing wrong with changing, but learn to enjoy who you are before you make any changes.

3. Seek joy. What brings you joy? Joy is different than happiness because happiness is based on what’s happening around you in the given moment. Joy is deeper. Once you’ve found your joy, pursue it!

4. Speak your truth. When you speak your truth - your passions, values, feelings and aspirations - you give others the chance to know the real you. And once you show the world the real you, like-hearted people will show up to be part of your circle. Speaking your truth helps build your community of people you can share with and learn from along your self-care journey.

5. Create calming rituals. Rituals are things you do over and over in the same way, often around the same time of day. Creating a calming ritual can signal to your brain and body that all is well – there are blue skies after the storms. Some rituals include deep breathing exercises or visualization. My personal favorite is lighting a candle and reading while the candle slowly burns and fills the room with its sweet scent. Find what calms you and create a ritual around it - practice doesn’t always make perfect but it always makes for improvement.

6. Develop your spiritual practice. Many of us want to be more spiritual but don’t know where to begin. We equate spirituality with sitting in silence or chanting mantras. But the truth is, developing your spiritual practice can be as simple as listening to music that calms you, spending time alone, moving your body, saying a prayer or being out in nature. Spending time on your spiritual practice can help you feel grounded to move through your day putting your needs first.

7. Show yourself some grace. We are all a work in progress; be gentle with yourself because you’re still learning. Show yourself some grace for things you may have done that you’re not proud of and move forward making better decisions.

Self-care is more than spa days and “retail therapy,” it’s a series of activities and best practices that nurture yourself from the inside out. Seeking joy, speaking your truth and showing yourself some grace are all big parts of taking care of yourself. Self-care doesn’t cost us anything and the benefits are priceless.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. And the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)”

Will This Last? Part 3 of 6

If you haven’t read parts 1 and 2 of this 6-part Will This Last series, take a moment to read them here –

Part 1 – Goals and ambitions

Part 2 – Getting along with others

Here in part 3, we dive a little deeper into two topics at the core of most relationship issues – time and money. It’s difficult to see your significant other as ‘significant’ when the lights just got cut off, the car got repossessed, the bank just sent another pink slip and you haven’t had any quality time for months. That might sound extreme but the reality is, many of my counseling sessions are spent working through a variety of issues that all link back to time and money.  

If you’re facing issues with time and money in your relationships, consider the following questions when you ask, “Will this last?”

1. Does your significant other believe, “What’s yours is mine?”

How you handle money – how it’s divided, who pays for what, etc. – largely depends on how long you’ve been together. However, there are some common things to consider when it comes to your relationship finances. First, does your significant other believe, “What’s yours is mine,” while also believing, “What’s mine is mine?”

Who picks up the tab and how do you feel about that? What are his spending habits? How does she view saving money? Does he have any limiting beliefs on his ability to make money? Dose she frivolously spend your money but hoard hers?  

2. How does your partner spend most of his or her time? Regardless of their work schedule, how does your partner spend the majority of his or her time? Are you the one working hard and making moves while your partner is plopped in from of the TV for hours at a time? If you’re always coming in from getting something done and they’re waiting for you to get there so you can do something for them, that’s guaranteed to get on your already busy nerves.

If he has dreams for the future but isn’t putting in the work in the present, things might not last. If she monopolizes all of your time because she’s not doing much with her own, things might not last very long.

3. How well does your partner balance your quality time?

Let’s agree that there will never be enough time in the day to check off every item on your to-do list. However, does your partner act as if their productivity is better with you in the picture? How well does he or she balance work and quality time with you? If quality time is your love language, your relationship might not last if it’s at a premium.

The balance comes in making time for each other and having space for you both to enjoy some “me time” (alone time). Time apart is important to stay connected with your goals and dreams. Just because “you” became an “us,” doesn’t mean all of your time has to be spent together.  

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Money and time should be considered treasures in any relationship. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke 12:34).” Issues with time and money often come down to your position on the priorities list. Do you want to be with someone who treats you as an option and not the priority?

Will This Last? Part 2 of 6

If you haven’t read part 1 of this 6-part Will This Last series, take a moment to read it here. In part 1, we explored questions about your partner’s goals and ambitions. When you and your partner have similar goals and ambitions from the start, you’re more likely to remain strong and committed when that initial “lust phase” wears off. That’s because your relationship is built on a bond that’s deeper than physical attraction and butterflies.

In part 2, we will review a series of questions about your partner’s interactions with others, specifically how he or she gets along with others. Your partner’s ability to get along with others is a clear indication of how they’ll get along with you long-term. If he struggles with his family relationships, he’ll likely have a hard time getting along with yours. If she is rude to your friends, how do you plan to blend your lives for social gatherings and fun?

So, just like in part 1, let’s explore questions to help you assess how well your partner gets along with others. This section is short and sweet with only 3 questions to consider.

1. Does your partner get along with members of his or her own family?

Have you ever dated that one member of the family that didn’t seem to get along well with anyone else in the family? Of course, the family could be “off,” but what if the real problem was your significant other? One of my former clients had been in a committed relationship for several years with a man who had a difficult time controlling his temper. Then came his family reunion.

There was no real blowup at the family reunion, but she did notice that other family members seemed to enjoy each other’s company while keeping their distance from him. Also, when he wasn’t around her, she got along well with his family members and everyone seemed to feel more at ease. It put her in a tough position because he got along great when it was just the two of them, but with this family, there was a clear challenge. She asked whether I thought the two of them would last. Here’s the thing, if your partner doesn’t get along well with biological family members, that might be a major indicator of their ability to get along with you for the long haul.

2. Does he or she get along with your friends and family?

In the movie Hitch, “Date Doctor,” Will Smith gave the best advice about getting along with your partner’s friends. He said, “This first date is about how you get along with her friends, not about how you get along with her.” Your friends are people you’ve known for years and you trust them. However, they have no skin in the game when it comes to your dating life because they’re not as emotionally attached to your partner as you are. That means you can get fairly unbiased feedback from your friends and you can watch the interactions of your partner and your friends.

Does your partner try to actively participate in conversations with your family and friends? Does she ask you things about your friends in order to get to know them better? Does he try to find things in common with your family members? Can your partner be him or herself around your friends and family?

3. How well does he or she get along with people…in general?

I’m safely assuming you’re dating someone friendly but you may be surprised to see, the more time you spend together, how they really treat people in general. I’m not referring to whether she’s an introvert or whether he’s the life of the party but more about common decency. Things like saying, “please,” and, “thank you” to wait staff, being kind to those in the service industry, holding doors for strangers whenever possible and not speaking ill of people for fun. This is about common decency and showing respect to people outside their immediate circle...and to you, long-term.  

If you are able to honestly answer, ‘Yes’ or affirm all of these, then congratulations, you may be in a relationship that will stand the test of time. Don’t worry if your answer to some of these questions was, “No,” or, “I don’t know…” but do keep these questions in mind as you move forward in your relationship. Uncertainty isn’t a reason to quit now but it is a great reason to pause and review where you are right now. In the next article, we’ll discuss time and money.

Will This Last? Part 1 of 6

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Three of the most common questions I’ve been asked over more than a decade of relationship coaching are,

  1. “How do I know if this person is really my soul mate?”
  2. “Are we meant for each other?”
  3. “Will this relationship last?”

That last question keeps people awake at night. I totally understand their fear because I had similar doubts before I got married, even knowing all that I know about how to build and maintain a healthy relationship. I actually asked my mom, “How do I know I’m really in love?” She gave me an answer that I’ll never forget, but that didn’t help me one bit. She said, “You’ll just know.”

All 3 of these questions and the feelings they stir up are warranted. Choosing a life partner is a huge decision you only want to make once. It’s scary because the beginning of a relationship is always perfect because you both are on your best behavior. Soon you stop seeing it as being each other’s best behavior and you start thinking it’s your real behavior because your emotions are clouding your judgment. Over time you realize that those best behaviors have faded and the real person is standing right in front of you.

As Dr. Phil says, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior,” so if you’re seeing some behaviors you don’t like, take note. You can find a quick relationship quiz online to tell you whether you two are meant to last but those quizzes don’t factor in the behaviors that are unique to your relationship. To help you answer that question and feel settled in your final answer, I’ve developed that 1 question into these 6 key areas -

1.     Goals and Ambitions

2.     Getting Along with Others

3.     Time and Money

4.     A Focus on You

5.     Trust

6.     Fun and Work

When you and your partner have similar goals and ambitions from the start, you’re more likely to remain strong and committed when that initial “lust phase” wears off. That’s because your relationship is built on a bond that’s deeper than physical attraction and butterflies. If you’re not sure whether you have similar goals and ambitions, consider these questions -

1. Do you have similar life goals and ambitions? Are you going in the same direction? Do you both want children and if so, are you open to adoption or foster care? What are your career goals and aspirations? Compromise is required in a relationship; however, if you have to give up all your goals and ambitions to help with someone else’s goals and ambitions, in the future you may feel you paid too great a price. Compromise is important but compromise isn’t giving up everything you want to help your partner get everything he or she wants.

2. Are they interested in you and the things you care about? When you discuss what you care about do they try to get more information so they know what you’re trying to do? Even better, do they spend time trying to understand how they can be of support? Or do you get comments that discredit and minimize the things you care about?

3. How similar are your value systems? Values will affect everything from how you train your first puppy together to how you raise your children and conduct yourselves throughout the ups and downs. Do you have the same fundamental spiritual practices? What is his/her moral code? How does he/she treat others in the service industry?

If you are able to honestly answer, ‘Yes’ or affirm all of these, then congratulations, you may be in a relationship that will stand the test of time. Don’t worry if your answer to some of these questions was, “No,” or, “I don’t know…” but do keep these questions in mind as you move forward in your relationship. Uncertainty isn’t a reason to quit now but it is a great reason to pause and review where you are right now. In the next article, we’ll discuss getting along with others.