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“Best Friend Marriage” – Exploring How Labels May Limit Our Relationships

Is this fad of labeling relationships as a Best Friend Marriage is causing more harm than good.?Across the media, you’ll see famous couples, the ones that stay together, saying they’re married to their “best friend.” I’ve even said it myself. But I think it would be beneficial to delve deeper into this present fad of labeling relationships and see how close, lasting relationships are made and maintained.

Perhaps the confusion stems from there being so many types of love or relationships that have a sexual element…marriage, living together, life partners, committed relationships, best friends with benefits, hooking up or one night stands.  People are trying to describe their secure relationship as one that works. So they’ve hit upon the idea that being “best friends” is the highest form of praise. However, it wasn’t that many years ago when a dog was man’s “best friend.” Surely we can do better than that.

When you met your life partner, it was sexual attraction that brought down the barriers, so that you let this new person get close to you. However, relationships based solely on sexual attraction rarely stand the test of time. That expectation is unrealistic. There’s just nothing sexy about discussing bills or hanging out in the bathroom because you have the flu.

It’s only natural this highly charged sexual euphoria evolves. We should welcome this new phase in our lives. Because in its wake, (if you’ve been mindfully attending to yourself and your partner) you will discover a richer relationship based on trust that allows each of you to self-actualize.

One problem I see is that people become consumed by being what their partner wants them to be. Eventually you don’t know who you are any more. If you view your mate as your best friend, it may even make you think there’s no need to find friendships outside the marriage. Or you unrealistically expect your partner to fulfill ALL of your emotional and spiritual needs. Conversely, other people start to question what’s wrong because they have a happy marriage, but they consider someone else to be their best friend.

Another problem I see is that people think a best friend should accept you as you are unconditionally. In my mind, marriage is about bringing the best out of the person you marry. You push each other. You challenge each other. You encourage each other. You change each other.

Because not every spouse provides that kind of close relationship, you may not feel it’s enough to say “my husband” or “my wife”. You want the world to know that this person truly is the best, so you say, “He’s my best friend” in order to differentiate him from the deadbeats. I get it.

Rather than getting hung up on labeling your relationship as a “best friend marriage”, let’s focus on mindfully crafting a relationship that allows each to grow, explore, and become the best version of you possible.

A deep sense of security leads us to describe our life partners as our “best friend”. Yet this term “best friend” seems to be too limiting. There still needs to be a sexual component that maintains physical closeness and attachment. Yes, like friends you love doing things together; you love talking with each other intimately; you depend on each other. But there’s a closeness that transcends being friends. You have shared history, shared lives and shared dreams. You fill each other’s most intimate needs and desires.

Does that mean marriage, for you? I’ll leave that for you to decide. The key characteristics of any close relationship are mutual giving, mutual valuing, mutual respecting and mutual joy. Did you notice the word “mutual”? A close relationship has to be a two way-street. That’s how you get through life’s storms. You have each other’s back.

A lot of people don’t think they’re ready for the responsibilities of a long-term, loving relationship. The commitment of marriage scares them. This awareness means you’re open to achieving greater personal growth. I’d love to help you on this journey. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

How to be a Good Partner in a Relationship – Time-Tested Tips That Work

These time-tested tips for how to be a good partner in a relationship will work for you and your partner as you work together to build a life-long, loving relationship.“A healthy relationship will never require you to sacrifice your friends, your dreams, or your dignity.” ~ Dinkar Kalotra 

Happy Anniversary to me and my sweetie! Today, August 22nd, is our 26th. It hasn’t always been easy. On the contrary, we’ve had our share of challenges, because neither of us knew how to be a good partner in a relationship. At times, we didn’t even know if we were going to make it. It has taken courage, vulnerability and a lot of mindful determination to cultivate a healthy, lasting relationship.

We both come from emotionally impoverished homes, so we started with unhealthy ways of getting our needs met. Today, we share a loving relationship mostly because we have worked persistently to understand and appreciate each other and fight fairly. It will continue to be a daily effort and a life-long journey.

One very significant thing I’ve learned is that I can only change me – I can’t change my sweetie. Nor do I want to. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that irritate me, but I’ve discovered how to be a good partner in a relationship. Rather than waiting for your partner to initiate change, start with yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily your partner follows. Let me share some other discoveries…

Practice acceptance not judgment. Your partner is who he or she is. When you truly value your partner’s unique qualities and gifts, you build your partner up. Being overly critical really hurts, so that’s something to be avoided.

Look for the positive. The more you focus on something, the larger it becomes in your mind. If you focus on positive things, you’ll have fewer irritations. If you do need to call attention to a negative aspect, do it in a positive way. Commend first, and then state the source of friction as a shared problem, looking for how both of you can contribute toward a solution.

Be more giver than taker. People who give are happier. And it encourages your partner to reciprocate in kind.

Show appreciation and gratitude. Gratitude is more than a feeling. It needs to be expressed in thankful words and actions. “I appreciate this about you” or “I’m so glad you…” are phrases that need to be spoken often.

Work as a team of “we.” “Me, you, I, yours, mine” are words that create division and an adversarial atmosphere. But when you speak and act as “we,” you’re a team, working toward a common goal. It’s important to have shared goals and routines. Regularly eating and talking together helps create a happy relationship. And look for ways to help each other every day.

Apologize often. If you’re always trying to be right, you’re going to lose your loving relationship. Apologizing is a way of acknowledging that you understand the way your partner feels. “I’m sorry I made you feel…” can solve a world of problems.

Be realistic about the ups and downs. You want your partner to be there for you, so look for ways you can always be there for your partner. Celebrate the good times and work together to get through the hard times.

Practice vulnerability. This one is hard, because we’re so afraid of rejection. To achieve real intimacy, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. Successful communication with your partner involves picking the right time and the right words. A quiet, relaxed time allows you to open up slowly to your partner. In that way you can test the waters. If your initial revelation is met with acceptance and love, then you’ll feel like you can open up further. Set the stage with comments like, “I really need to tell you how I’m feeling about something, and it’s not easy for me. So I don’t need you to “fix” anything, I just need you to let me get it all out. Okay?”

Keep the playfulness and novelty alive. You may think you know each other well, but let me assure you there’s plenty left to discover. And nothing brings that out like making time to play together. Try new and exciting activities together. Keep your sense of humor and don’t take life too seriously.

Show affection. Humans thrive on touch, and communication is improved when we incorporate the power of touch. Daily hugging, kissing, or hand holding are important. Look for ways to perform little acts of kindness.

Give your partner space. Find that sweet spot where you both feel close, without feeling smothered.

Fight fair. Set boundaries of when and how you’ll discuss disagreements. Yelling, hitting, name-calling or character assassination has no place in a loving relationship. Practice active listening and be willing to compromise.

To be a good partner in a relationship takes being a good communicator. Most of us have not been taught how to do that. If you’d like to learn how to express your feelings in ways that build strong relationships, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Stop Letting Other People’s Opinions Control Your Happiness

Learn how you might be sending “Control Me” signals and find three ways to care about other people’s opinions, without caring too much.“I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things.” ― Amy Poehler

Recently I spent some time in Italy, my country of origin, visiting family. I love Italy! It has an amazing history, great food and incredible sightseeing. My family is really tight; we care for one another and watch out for each other. Sometimes though, this profound care becomes advice-giving, unbridled criticism and blatant control.

I think it’s cultural, not just a family trait. I remember my mom gossiping with her friends, passing her time talking about others and even trying to tell others how to live their lives. As a kid, I vowed to live my own life and let others live theirs. Even with that strong declaration, it has taken some time to shed the guilt and shame for not following other people wishes for me. Now, I help other women reconnect with their deeper wisdom, find their own way, and create the life they really want!

The truth is…you can’t change a controlling person. You can only change the way they interact with you, by giving them a different YOU to respond to – someone who refuses to let other people’s opinions control your happiness.

If you feel like you’re controlled by other people’s opinions, how do you stop it? Firstly, it’s important to discern: are you sending “Control Me” signals to others? Unwittingly you might be telling others to take over. For example, you can do this by…

Neglecting yourself. By not taking care of yourself, you’re subconsciously telling others that you need them to nag you and make you “eat better, get more exercise, etc.”

Rebelling, to get more attention. By needlessly challenging genuine authority, you’ll get attention, but not the kind of attention that makes you feel better about yourself.

Failing to meet obligations. By not doing what you agree to do, you invite others to step in and get it done.

Asking for help when you don’t need it. By being afraid to make mistakes, because you don’t want to be held accountable, you’re inviting others to take control.

Saying yes to everything. By overextending yourself, you create a situation where others will always be on your case to fulfill your promises.

Choosing to remain silent. By not being in touch with your feelings, you may not have a clear idea of what your values are or where you stand.

Self-sabotaging behaviors like these invite controlling people to take over your life. How do you stop letting other people’s opinions control you? Consciously make yourself believe that their opinions don’t matter, in the sense that they don’t make you disown your true self. (Because you care about other people, of course their opinions will matter, in the sense of understanding them and remaining connected to them.) Here are three other key areas to work on…

  1. Take responsibility for yourself. It takes effort to be a person of integrity, whose word means something. Avoid mental and physical laziness. If you don’t want people to nag or control you, don’t put yourself in a situation that allows it. Strive to always keep your word. If you can’t fulfill a request, or you don’t really want to, then don’t agree to it. This is key: learn to control yourself, so others aren’t forced to do it for you.
  2. Resolve internal conflicts. Most of the time, when you’re worried about what other people think, you’re projecting your own fear, embarrassment, or self-judgment based on comparisons between your life and that of others. Learn to listen to this internal talk and create harmony between your Parts. My Tea Time Exercise can help you settle this internal conflict.
  3. Increase self-esteem. Self-esteem is just that – esteem, worth, love, honor, respect and value you give yourself. Others simply can’t give you self-esteem. So start feeling great about yourself!

Ultimately this is YOUR life, your journey. You’re the one who has to be happy and satisfied with how it’s lived. As Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

If you’re ready to put other people’s opinions where they belong and make a commitment to your own happiness, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). Together, we can work through the issues that may be holding you back.

Setting Personal Boundaries – 5 Ways to Build Strong and Supportive Relationships

Setting personal boundaries takes courage, but in the long run, you’ll be happier and the people in your life will love, respect and appreciate you more.“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.” ~ Brené Brown

Have you ever been in a relationship where you’re the one who does all the giving while the other one does all the taking? It can make you feel like you’re ready to explode, right? Perhaps you have a boss, coworker, “friend”, or family member who always leaves you feeling drained, exhausted and tense every time you’re around them.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. You do have the power to change it. And it doesn’t involve avoiding them. You do it by clearly defining and setting personal boundaries.

When you’re uncertain of your own boundaries or you don’t clearly communicate them, you’ll cave in and say “yes” to things that make you unhappy and uncomfortable. It can even make you take on everyone else’s “stuff” to the point you don’t know who you are any more.

If you’re not used to setting personal boundaries, it can be difficult at first. It requires honesty and integrity to gain the clarity of who you are and what you need. Then little by little this self-knowledge will give you the inner strength to tell people, with conviction, respect and tact, what you need from your relationship with them.

Setting personal boundaries is a life long process. Here are five ways to accelerate that process…

  1. Give yourself permission to set personal boundaries. You have a right to your feelings and you need to honor your present preferences and limitations. It’s okay to say, “No”. You owe it to others to be honest with them, because a relationship built on self-deception can’t be sustained. Don’t take everything upon your own shoulders or let in baggage that isn’t yours. Remember that when you set a limit with others, the way they react or respond is information about them, not you.
  1. Build personal boundaries based on how you truly feel. Discomfort and resentment are two emotions that signal that your boundaries are being trampled on. Identify exactly how your boundaries are being crossed. Consider whether it’s the overall experience that you resent, or whether it’s how something was phrased or presented. Reframe negativity into a positive perspective.
  1. Be specific about your boundary limits. Where do you draw the line in the sand? What are your values, preferences, and needs – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually? Remember that having identified these once long ago isn’t going to serve you now. You’ll want to revisit this often, since you change and update as you grow and gain more insight or information.
  1. Practice mindful self-awareness so your personal boundaries really support you. Most people set boundaries out of frustration because they are “fed up” with a situation or a behavior instead of basing their boundaries on their own preferences, needs or values. It’s important to decide on our personal boundaries during meditation or introspection time not in a time of crisis. When you’re firmly grounded and centered, you’ll have self-confidence and won’t be plagued with guilt.
  1. Communicate your personal boundaries clearly. People don’t know your boundaries unless you tell them. You can’t expect them to be mind readers or to intuitively know what you need. In a respectful manner, share your limits with others often so they know where they stand with you. They’ll respect you more and like you better for it.

Setting personal boundaries takes strength and courage. But in the long run, you’ll be happier and the people in your life will respect and appreciate you more. If you could use help setting boundaries why not schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me so we can explore your options? I’m happy to meet in-person, by phone or via Skype.

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