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Can You Totally Trust Your Partner?

Morning After Christmas Party

I often receive emails on the topic of trust so I think this might be a good time to talk about it. This is especially so as the Christmas season is upon us and for so many organisations this is also the time of the office Christmas party with potentially lots of alcohol and sometimes a little too much “merry”.

Trust, as defined in the dictionary, is the reliance of one person on another for honesty and sincerity in their relationship. Everything is open for discussion and, as a committed couple there is an expectation that as no subject is taboo then also there is an expectation that both of the couple will say what the truth is for them even when this might be hard to say.

So when we feel we cannot trust our partner, is that saying more about us or is it saying more about them?

My hunch is that maybe it says something about both of you.

Our distrust of another may well be about our own insecurities. While we might say we expect truthfulness from another we actually might find it difficult to be truthful ourselves and consequently not really believe that it is possible to get that from the other.

Alternatively it might be that if I have grown up with dishonesty, either between my parents or from my parents to me, then it is also more likely that I will be unsure about the ability of someone else to be totally truthful in their conversations with me.

The alternative of course is that your partner has already done something which was less than honest leaving you suspicious of their every word and action. If your relationship has come to this then you are in serious danger of losing your relationship unless you do something about it and quickly.

Where these two possibilities might intersect is at the place where, if you already have a distrust of your mate, then they actually might act upon it as they feel that they’re dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t.

What can you do about it?

If you feel that the issue is more about you then go and speak with a professional about it. You might benefit from doing some personal psychotherapy. In this case the therapist may explore some of your early life history to discover the past experience of your distrust.

The process would be similar if you are the one struggling to stay honest. The reason for this might also be discovered in exploring your past.

Once you know where it came from you can then do something about it.

If on the other hand you are married to someone who has behaved in such a way that no longer deserves your trust then you need to talk about it as quickly as possible either with your spouse or with a Couple’s Counsellor.

The Couple’s Counsellor will help both of you in articulating what your concerns are about hearing or telling the truth assisting you to communicate this to each other. This is because it is only in the truth that you will find true happiness and a promise that your relationship really can make it to become a long-term committed relationship.

If you don’t have access to a Counsellor try this exercise:

Make a time with each other to sit and talk. Choose one of you to have the entire stage first. You are “The Speaker”. That means that for whatever time you have chosen you get to speak without interruption other than for the other person clarifying what you are saying or to ask questions to help both of you get as clear a picture as possible about what it is “The Speaker” has chosen to speak about.

The other of you is “The Listener”. Your job is simply to listen. This must be without judgement or response in defence of yourself. That means that the other person can say whatever they want while you remind yourself that this is only their opinion even if you don’t agree with it.

And whatever you do, and whatever it is they say, just keep listening. And when I say listen I mean really listen: with your head, hour heart and your spirit as you just might be surprised at what there is to learn.

Try it one way and then next time you come together it will be the listeners turn to become “The Speaker” and the speakers turn to become “The Listener”.

This is what a real conversation is. As we speak and listen we will come to hear the truth and maybe even rediscover the trust that might have been lost making it once again the glue for a truly healthy, loving relationship.

Remember you were designed with two ears and one mouth for a reason!

So until next time – Relate with Love

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Is This Really The End?

Is This Really The End?

Reflecting back to a previous article I posed three questions for you to answer to help you decide whether it really is time to say goodbye. Here they are again for a reminder.

  1. Do you feel that you still love your partner and do you feel that your partner still loves you?
  2. If you had your time again would you still go into this relationship?
  3. If you could leave your partner right now without there being any cost, trouble or ramifications of any kind would you?

If in answering these questions you come to the conclusion that this really is the end then you now have some challenging times ahead of you. This topic will be covered in greater detail in another of my upcoming books but for now let me just say this; while there will be lots of things to take care of legally to separate yourselves from each other financially there will also be lots of things to take care of to separate yourselves socially and emotionally as well.

Of course the biggest hurdle of all will be managing how you are going to continue to be parents to your children. This is sometimes overlooked in the emotion of the day.

While you contemplate finally removing the person that was your partner from your life, you can forget that while there are children to be taken care of the likelihood that you will need to continue to find a way to communicate with each other is more likely than not and may only happen in the event that one of you decides to divorce yourself from your children as well.

It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but separation doesn’t have to be the end of the world if you do it with grace and dignity and respect, even if it feels that there is no love left.

Many couples I work with know that their relationship is over but have still come into counselling to find some understanding and/or some peace and forgiveness of themselves as well as of each other so that they can move on from this.

A Healing Separation

A Program I work with with couples contemplating separation is called “A Healing Separation”. The essence of it is for each of the couple to take some time to figure out what they need to learn from the situation to ensure that they don’t end up in the same place again.

This generally includes counselling each of the couple separately as well as together. And it doesn’t matter if they have kids or not. As the name of the program implies it is about healing and finding forgiveness as it is only through forgiveness that you can truly move on. Maybe this can even be to enter into another relationship that is much more fulfilling than the one you left.

So if you are struggling with a separation maybe you could benefit from some counselling. Alternatively you will find an exercise to help you with this on my website under quizzes and questionnaires titled: “The Unfinished Business Letter”. Try it out it’s free.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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Is This About You Or Is It More About Me?

Is This About You Or Is It More About Me?When your relationship begins to falter, and there will be times it will, you may want to find something or someone to blame. You may even be left wondering if this was something that you did or said or something that they did or said.

The answer to these questions is that it is equally about both of you. As I am towards you will impact on how you are towards me and the way you are towards me will impact on how I am towards you.

“Can couples counselling work when my partner won’t come to counselling with me?”

Based on the above assumption, the answer is “absolutely yes!” The reason is that if you change, then your partner will have to change too. Of course, this may not always be easy, but if you can sustain the change, no matter what, then something will happen.

And, as with most things, the best treatment is prevention. So long before you get to that point of no return talk often and honestly your partner to work through those small things before they get to be overwhelming and relationship destroying.

An exercise I often give to my couple’s clients is to make a list of the goals and objectives for you, as individuals, as well as for yourselves as a couple.

Better still, make a picture, a collage or a painting, of what your relationship would look like in terms of individual qualities, characteristics and interactions, your communication patterns, and as you would want each other to be for you in this relationship.

Be what you want the other to be.

Live it full-out for yourself and for each other. This won’t be an easy task. There may be some trade offs and some tough choices.

The first trade-off will be about time and how you use it. The truth of it is: it takes time to create a relationship that endures; time to be together and time to play, time to plan, and time to just BE.

The second trade-off is comfort. You may experience and have to work through unfamiliar thoughts and feelings as you change some of your behaviors and work to better understand yourself and what you can contribute to your relationship.

On the other hand; if you are willing to live full-out for you and your partner and keep in mind the goals you have set for yourselves and the picture you have created of yourselves as a couple you will find it: That I am confident to guarantee indisputably.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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How to Find Unconditional Love in Your Relationships?

Unconditional LoveI’ve already addressed in another article what is unconditional love but let’s review. Put simply, and as the words would imply, unconditional love is love that is given without the expectation of anything in return.

Conditional love, on the other hand, is the love that is given in response to love received and generally has attached to it something like… “I will love you as long as ….”. The conclusion to this phrase might be about something I get from you or something you do for me, so might end with “… you take care of me.” or “ … you give me what I want.”

In that article the question I was addressing was whether unconditional love actually exists. My conclusion was – ‘absolutely’ and not just in the form of a mother’s love for a child but of one person towards another whether that person is a partner, a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or just someone you pass on the street that you don’t know or might never pass by again.

So in this article I want to take this notion one step further to discuss how to find unconditional love in your relationships as they can be in all the above circumstances.

And here it is – the answer pure and simple lies in your capacity to forgive. That might be a small word but upon its shoulders lays the salvation of the world.

And here’s the most critical factor in this notion – it’s not the world that we need to focus on here but on what we do in our most private moments with those most close to us.

When I was little I was taught to admit to and then say ‘sorry’ when I committed an offence. I was told that this was the way to my salvation. I have never, and still don’t, doubt the truth of this. And while this was and still can be a hard task to complete, I have come to realize that forgiving myself and/or another may even be a harder ask. And, as I have already stated, may actually be even more important for our world’s survival.

So here is my strategy to offering forgiveness and finding unconditional love in our relationships, even if the other hasn’t asked for it, or I don’t believe that they, or I, deserve it.

The 7 Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Identify your emotions and at least express them to yourself
  2. Take responsibility for your part in the conflict
  3. Accept the other person, and yourself, as they and you are and let go of any need or want for revenge
  4. Forgive yourself as you take your learning from the situation to ensure you don’t repeat it
  5. Have the desire to express forgiveness either out loud if appropriate or at least in your mind
  6. Meet with the person involved if possible or imagine them being with you
  7. Make a connection with a past event that might have been similar and ensure that there is nothing residual there that needs forgiveness as well.

Try the exercise and if you need help with it there are more details of the exercise at my website under the heading of ‘quizzes and questionnaires’. And if you are really stuck speak with someone professionally.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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Love is Being Able to Say – “I’m Sorry!”

Sorry honey!

“Sorry” – this simple five letter word can work magic. And while it is sometimes the hardest word to say, it can change so many things; the way people think about us, and even how much they care for us as well as how close to us they feel.

Even after knowing the magic this word can do, there are certain times when we do not want to say – “I’m Sorry”. Sometime our ego stops us from saying sorry. We can feel like if we would say sorry, we would lose our value.

This is not to say that you should just say sorry every time something comes up for you and your partner. The really important thing to remember here is that it takes two to make a relationship and two to break it. Therefore, no matter what the situation is, there is going to be fault on both parts.

The task here then is to figure out what part of the issue is yours and what your responsibility is to that and to be willing to say sorry for that regardless of whether the other person is willing to take responsibility for their part and/or is willing to say sorry for that or not.

If you feel that you should be saying sorry but are not able to then there is some other issue that may be stopping you which may need to be explored first.

I strongly agree with the statement often said that, “in a relationship you should not hesitate to say sorry even if it is their mistake”.

The important thing to remember here is really about what are you saying sorry for and to express that to yourself and your partner. Your partner then will be compelled to look at their part in the issue and will then make up their own minds. They may then, or may not, say that they are equally sorry for their part.

Keep in mind though that whether they say sorry or not should not be what makes you decide to say it. Your sorry should be offered openly and honestly, without condition or expectation of something coming back.

Finding A Way from Being Mad To Saying Sorry Test:

There is a simple “saying sorry test” you can take to discover if you are ready to say sorry or not.

Answer each of the following questions as honestly as possible. It may even be helpful to write down your answers:

1 What is the truth about the issue? It can still only be your perspective, and your partner will have their own perspective, but somewhere in that you should be able to find a way to trace the events that led to the issue and ascertain your part in that.
2 What does the other person in the event mean to you? If they are very important to you and you think that losing them would be a great loss for you, then do not hesitate to initiate the apology. Even if you think the mistake is theirs remember that you are a part of it and can take responsibility for that.
3 What do you mean to them? Do they really love you? Are you willing to let a potentially unresolved issue get in the way of your long-term relationship? The truth here is that any issue left unresolved will not go away on its own; it will become an irritant until one day it finds a way out through via some other issue.

If in answering these questions you are able to get clear about what there is to be sorry about, don’t hesitate to express it. Even if you conclude from this that it really isn’t for you to say sorry you should be able to at least say sorry for the difficult situation you both find yourselves in.

From sorry then comes forgiveness and I’ll address this concept further in another article.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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How to Forgive the Unforgivable

Forgive the Unforgivable

Has your partner made an error that has hurt you? Have you made errors that have hurt your partner?

The closer you are to someone, the more likely you are to ‘step on their toes’. And being in a relationship with someone certainly puts you where this is fairly likely to happen. Relationships are a bit like ballroom dancing really! The chances are even pretty high that you and your partner could have pretty sore toes.

The point here is that it’s normal for you and your partner to make mistakes and to inadvertently step on each others toes. And as long as this is not intentional it is repairable. Like ballroom dancing, once you get the steps right the dance will flow naturally all by itself.

And, except in the case of physical abuse, (I addressed that in my blog of a couple of weeks ago) you can move on from anything. In fact, your marriage can end up even better!

I know…you’re probably thinking, ‘Better? How could it be better than before we messed it up?’

It can be better, but you have to do one thing first. You have to forgive.

What does it really mean to forgive?

Many people say, ‘I forgive you’, but continue to hold anger and resentment in their hearts. Some people even say the words, but their actions show that nothing’s changed for them at all.

Other people will say ‘I forgive you’ but what they really mean is, ‘I can’t deal with it. I don’t want to talk about it any more.’ And so the 3 magic words come out and form a wall that shuts out their partner. True, they may not be angry any more, but that’s because they’ve shut down all emotion and refuse to reconnect.

Saying ‘I forgive you!’ is an entirely different ball game from truly forgiving.

Let’s take a closer look at the word and where it comes from. The root of the word ‘forgive’ is the Latin word ‘perdonare’ meaning: ‘to give completely without reservation’. This is also the source of our English ‘pardon’.

When the Latin ‘perdonare’ was adopted into the Germanic ancestor of English, it was translated piece-by-piece: ‘Per’ was replaced by ‘for’, a prefix that in this case means ‘thoroughly’ and ‘donare’ with ‘giefan’ (to give). The result, ‘forgiefan’, appeared in Old English meaning ‘to give up’ or ‘allow’ as well as ‘to give in marriage’.

In modern English, ‘forgive’ has also taken on the meanings of ‘to pardon for an offence’, ‘renounce anger at’ (I truly forgive you for stepping on my toes) and ‘to abandon a claim on’ (as in ‘forgive a debt’).

What then is true forgiveness? It’s when you stand as close to your partner as you stood the day your feet got stepped on. It’s when you give of yourself like you did before you were hurt.

Forgiveness might also need to be of self as well as of the other. That might sound surprising but for your partner to have stepped on your toes your toes needed to have been there to be stepped on. As the old adage says: ‘It takes two to tango!’

And, by the way, forgiveness may not be easy to do. But it is possible. You can forgive each other and move on.

And once you forgive, you’ll see that your marriage can be better than it was before.
You could even be happy that the mistake was made (in a strange way) because it allows you to realize that you might never have achieved the love you finally have without that error as your catalyst.

Did you know that when a broken bone heals it’s stronger than it was before it was broken? You too can be stronger than before things broke down between you.

Did you ever make love after a big fight? Did you ever think after you made-up, ‘Hey, this is great? We should fight more often.’ Sometimes, while not an excuse to fight, the highest-highs can follow the lowest-lows. This is because in the forgiving you have come to an even more intimate place with each other.

If you are holding onto old hurts maybe it’s time for you to forgive. Give it a go it can be so liberating for you personally as well as for you as a couple.

And if you need help with this check out the ‘Quizzes and Questionnaires’ page at my site www.acouplesjourney.com. You will discover an exercise there to help you in finding forgiveness. Alternatively, if you need further assistance in this, please find a good Counselor. The effort will reap the reward.

So until next time – Relate with Love

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