When disagreements occur, are you quick to jump in and say “I am sorry”? Even when you might not really be sorry. Maybe you don’t even think you did anything wrong, or maybe you were upset by something the other person said or did but rather than addressing it, you say “sorry.”
It is possible to say “sorry” too much. It can be a quick way to get out of conflict, to avoid the disagreement from extending into another. It is avoidant and it is not healthy.
Conflict isn’t bad.
Every relationship has some kind of conflict. It is healthy and helps your relationship to grow and strengthen when handled in a constructive way. By constantly apologizing, even when you don’t really mean it, you are creating unhealthy boundaries. You are not addressing things that might be a problem for you. You are not airing your grievances and in turn are likely building resentment. And, you are showing the person you are in conflict with that you can be walked on because you won’t stand up for yourself.
By immediately saying “sorry” you are closing the door to the discussion. You are eliminating the space to make changes that could help you feel happier and help your relationship.
It is common for people who are not confident in conflict-resolution skills to apologize too much. It becomes a knee-jerk reaction. But, the best way to improve those skills is to try them out and gain confidence. Not only will discussion help to strengthen and grow your relationships, but it will also help you to feel better about yourself.
The first step to ending the cycle of the chronic apologizer is to first recognize and acknowledge it is a problem. Then next time you are faced with conflict don’t jump to the apology, instead take the time to share your side, express your needs and your feelings. You won’t regret it, and even if it doesn’t go as well as you would have hoped at least you are making strides in the right direction.
John (a fictional client) speaks up during a couples therapy session, saying Maria (a fictional client) is not respecting him. He says he feels exposed, embarrassed. I ask him why he has such feelings. He explains to me that he found out Maria was talking to her girlfriends about his sexual issues.
Unfortunately, John is not the first client that has expressed concern over his, or her, significant other talking about sexual issues to friends or family. The bottom line when it comes to maintaining integrity, respect, trust in a relationship is you have to keep the private stuff private. There is an intimacy in relationships—that is what makes them so special—and as the partner in that relationship it is important to keep whatever happens in the bedroom to yourself.
Sexual issues go to the core of our being. They have the ability to unravel us. They are sensitive, and so very personal. Respect that. If something is happening in the bedroom that you feel is a problem, speak to a counselor about it. They will keep it a secret. They will maintain that integrity and keep that information safe. They will help you process it without the backlash. When you talk to friends of family about sexual issues it completely exposes that person in a way they may never come back. It is almost like walking into a room completely naked. How would you feel?
We expect our friends and family to keep a secret, but the truth is we are all human. Things come up. We talk about things that we find “juicy” or revealing. Maybe we do it in a way where we think no one is harmed but usually, eventually, that information goes full circle. And the result can be a lot of pain. It is hurtful to feel like someone you don’t want to know, knows some of your most private information. It makes the person feel judged. It makes them feel just plain awful.
When John told me his story, I asked Maria how she felt. She told me she didn’t think he would find out, that she was just gabbing with the girls. There is information that is ok to gab about —like that argument over how his clothes were folded or him staying out with his friends late — but the stuff that happens sexually needs to stay personal, private, and hold the upmost respect. While it can be hard to do in a social situation, I encourage clients to always think about how the other person might feel if they found out before they share the information.
Susan (a fictional client) tells me she is not feeling in love with her husband anymore. She tells me she feels like he does not want to be around her, they don’t spend time together, he doesn’t show her affection anymore, she is worried the spark is gone. She wants to work though things in counseling, and she feels she is reaching a “tipping point.” She asks her husband to attend counseling with her, and he refuses. He won’t give it a second thought. I hear it all the time as a counselor.
Why do guys do this?
Men may believe the therapist and spouse are going to gang up on them, especially in the case where a therapist is a woman. While an understandable concern, this is the opposite of what counseling is about. In couples counseling, we work to honor both partners and to foster a bridge in communication. We work on communicating in a healthy way—both couples have a chance to share and be heard.
Couples counseling benefits both parties, and it can only work if the guy is present too. It takes both sides to repair the relationship. Despite what some might be concerned about, couples counseling is about leveling the playing field. It is about giving the relationship a safe space to air concerns and help the couple to come up with effective solutions. Couples counseling is separate from individual counseling, so if the wife is already seeing a counselor at the office she will see a different one with her spouse. This way there is for sure a level field.
Counseling can be a great resource for couples. It helps them to gain insight into why they might be acting in a certain way. It helps to open the doors of communication—which in many cases has been bolted shut. It helps to guide couples to solutions they can both accept, and to decide what their future together looks like. Ultimately in situations where both couples are invested in improving the atmosphere of their home, counseling helps to grow their bond.
It is ok to need help, the first step is admitting that you could use a little guidance and the rest will come in time.
We are here to help.
You can read more about our couples counseling services at http://womenstherapyinstitute.com/couples-counseling/
It might sound funny—fighting well. I mean, isn’t fighting something you just shouldn’t do, something that should be avoided, how do you do it “well?”
Fighting in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is an effort to make yourself heard, to voice your unhappiness at a situation, and it can be a time to grow and learn. But there are good ways to approach fighting, and ways that are hurtful and harmful to your relationship. You have the ability to build a bridge through communication, or you could build a wall.
THE WALL OR THE BRIDGE
A bridge is built when both parties have a level playing field. They each have a chance to contribute to the situation, and the argument is not all about one person putting the other person down. When you build a bridge, you uplift each other, you work as a team in the midst of your argument. For example, a husband and wife are fighting over all the housework and not being able to get it done. The wife wants more help from the husband and the husband doesn’t think the wife notices what he is doing to help. In most arguments, both parties have contributed, in some way, to the problem. Maybe the husband needs some thanks and appreciation from the wife to feel like his efforts are being noticed, and the wife needs the husband to acknowledge that he should be stepping in to help. The key to building a bridge is being able to disagree and come back together as a team. No one gets along all the time, and people are not supposed to. By working together to correct the problem, you will strengthen your bond.
On the other side of the spectrum, a bridge cannot be built when one side is higher than the other. This creates a wall. If arguments, or fights, frequently turn into one person putting the other person down or having a “I did not nothing wrong” approach, a wall is being established. When a wall is built communication is cut off. The person who feels “lower” than the other will likely stop trying to communicate, they won’t want to come to an agreement because they feel they are in a hostile environment. Chances are that person will want to get away from the situation altogether because who wants to feel like they are on an uneven playing field. If you find yourself in the process of building a wall, take a step back. That might mean it is a good time to take a walk and continue the argument later. Think things through and come back to the table when you are ready to open your ears to both sides of the story.
Fighting is part of human nature. It can be good and healthy for a relationship if done fairly. It is not easy but if you focus your energy on building a bridge—instead of a wall—you will strengthen your relationship.
With the rise of the digital age “cheating” has taken on a new form. Now more than ever husbands and wives are catching their spouses having romantic interactions online. Cyber cheating has many forms including chatting with an ex through social media, watching porn, sexual or romantic online chatting with a stranger, using dating apps to chat with others but not hooking up outside of the app, and sexting.
To the guilty party it might not seem like they are actually cheating because they aren’t meeting up with the people they are interacting with online, but to the one being affected, it still hurts. Cyber cheating is still a form of betrayal, dishonesty, and still has the ability to ruin a marriage. It is common for the cheating person to deny what they are doing as cheating, and to come up with excuses such as “if life wasn’t so stressful,” “if I got enough sex,” “I am only flirting,” or “it means nothing.”
What do you do if you catch your spouse cyber cheating?
No matter how you discovered your spouse cheating, the first thing you need to do is talk to he/she about it. If there are kids in the house, choose a time when they are asleep or get a sitter and go somewhere where you can be uninterrupted. Talk to your spouse. Tell them what you saw and ask them to explain. Tell them how it makes you feel. You need to lay out the details, and then take some time to think. You need to decide if there is a way to go on. What do you want? What would make you feel better?
There is no easy fix. Recovering from an affair is a major hurdle for any couple. The intense feelings of betrayal, hurt, and distrust can linger long after the affair has ended. This is a great time to seek the help of a licensed counselor to help talk things out and determine what works emotionally for each of you. A counselor can help you to evaluate your relationship with a clearer lense.
Frequently I have clients ask me how to be in a happy relationship. Usually, after much discussion, we come up with the solution to a happy relationship as not being “obliviously comfortable.” The idea is you need to be your authentic self, comfortable in your skin, having the freedom to truly and deeply be you, but you also need to tune-in to your partner.
A relationship is typically composed of two people, not just one. So you can’t be happy if you are not thinking about the other person. It is just not possible. That means being mindful, not oblivious, to their thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, and who they are as an authentic self. You can’t expect them to change to conform to you, although some of being in-tuned to your partner is making sacrifices. There is a difference between sacrificing and making adjustments for your significant other, and changing who you are.
Being in-tune with your partner
You need to be comfortable to be happy, but that does not mean you will never be uncomfortable…if you get my drift. You need to be able to be you, to feel safe to be you, to not have to hide your inner being, but that does not mean never adjusting to please your significant other. It takes work from both sides to be happy. For example, a wife dislikes sports and a husband dislikes going to concerts but the two of them would like to start doing things together more often. They aren’t getting the quality time they need. So, they make a deal. The wife will go to a sports game or watch a game on TV with her spouse so they can have time together, and the husband will agree to attend a concert with the wife. It is a small sacrifice for the good of the relationship.
Another example might be the wife gets up early every day to run while the husband chooses to hit the snooze button a 1000 times before rolling out of bed. Instead of making a lot of racket when getting out of bed, the wife gets out quietly and is respectful of the husband. It is about being in-tune with her husband’s need to get more sleep. There are many many examples, but the bottom line is you can’t be happy in a relationship without effort from both sides. You need to open your eyes, your ears, and your senses. No one is the exact same, we all do things a little differently.
We get it. It is earth shattering when your wife tells you something is wrong with your marriage. You might have thought everything was good and bam! You are blind-sighted.
Rome doesn’t take one day to build. Things may have lost connection long before you noticed. Somewhere along the way, things got lost, and your wife doesn’t feel like she wants to—or can—open up to you. Resentment may have built along the way. Maybe you were too busy to notice she was acting different, more distant from you.
Repairing what is broken
Take a deep breath, and consider these five tips:
1.)Don’t try to fix it. Fixing it is more about your own anxiety about what is happening with your spouse than your relationship with your spouse. Listen.
2.)Stop being defensive. Both parties had a role in the unfolding of this relationship. This is not one-sided and it does not help anything to think or act like it is. Accept and understand there are things both of you need to improve if you want to make this work.
3.) Don’t ambush her. Every time you see her in the hallway or the kitchen don’t turn it into an in-depth conversation about the state of your relationship. It is no doubt a stressful time but there is a time and a place to talk. Find a time when you are both ready to sit down, and not feel pressured or rushed. Don’t make it constant.
4.)Don’t expect, or try, to jump right into the lovey-dovey stuff like before. Try for liking each other first. Things are not going to go from 0-60 in an instant. This stuff takes time. Instead take it slow.
5.) Don’t try to dig out alone. A qualified couples counselor can help you through it. A counseling office can provide neutral territory and a counselor can make sure the right questions are being asked.
This is a difficult time, but marriage isn’t supposed to be easy. This stuff takes work and effort from both parties. Take the time. Talk. Listen. Open your mind to understanding. Come up with a plan. Call a qualified counselor, such as Women’s Therapy Institute where we can help.